We'll take that application by fax

Applying to college puts the executive skills of high school seniors to a serious test. Forget for a moment the literary pressure of the infamous essay; there's also understanding just how late you can arrive at the post office and still get the postmark that will match your deadline. Not to mention requesting transcripts on time, making travel plans to visit top picks - and perhaps most important, knowing who will deliver mail on decision day.

In the best of times, it's a job that can be elevated to a high art. But this year, students are facing some unusual new pressures.

For those who dutifully mailed early action applications - due Nov. 1 - in a timely manner, the usual preoccupations took on a new edge as mail facilities on the East Coast shut down amid anthrax scares. That left many applicants wondering just where those tomes documenting 18 years of achievement might be languishing - and colleges rushing to offer kids their very first extension on a paper.

Princeton University in New Jersey, served by a facility that was closed, said it would accept applications postmarked by the due date. It also asked students to fax in part of their application. Rutgers University, also in New Jersey, is encouraging online applications. And the officials that administers the SAT are reassuring families that while there may be delays, they don't see major problems.

For other students, how they'll get to college is the issue. No longer does crossing the country mean only that parents will miss them more; it also puts regular air travel in the picture. For some, that's not a concern. But regional colleges are increasing their marketing nonetheless. As you'll see in Mark Clayton's story on page 12, the conversation about where to study has changed.


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