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Welcome! You've got Yale!

Yale takes admission notices into the 21st century

BY XIAONING WU
LEO SHKLOVSKII/YH
Is the envelope thick or thin? Neither, its digital!

This December, instead of running toward the mailbox with hopes of finding that fat welcome envelope, thousands of Early Decision applicants will be running toward the computer to access Yale's new online acceptance site.

Although the technical details of what exactly applicants will see on the website are currently shrouded in secrecy, Alexander Clark, PC '04, head of Yalestation.org and a web-designer working on the project, promised that "[it's] going to defy expectations. This isn't going to be a simple site that everyone imagines it to be."

Yet some have expressed concern over the impersonal feel that may be conveyed by putting acceptance decisions on the web. "There's definitely something about the printed word that makes it unique and much more personal," Natalya Sukhonos, TD '04, explained. Perhaps it is the tangibility of a letter-or, conversely, the numb efficiency of electronic communication-that makes the former seem a more appropriate medium for such life-changing correspondences.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the designers working on the acceptance site have taken such concerns into account, and hope to tailor the online notifications to each individual applicant. Numerous students and admissions officers are now gathering data about applicant interests, intended courses of studies, and general likes and dislikes, in their efforts to customize the site before the launch date of Dec.15. Links to major programs, art programs and athletic programs will very likely be offered to prospective students for their perusal. Clark argued that incorporating flash animation and other forms of multimedia would make the process more personal. "There's something very typewritten about an acceptance letter, even with a message written at the bottom. We're trying to put personalization back into the process."

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Richard Shaw points out that the online acceptance site is supplemental, as students will still be receiving packets in the mail. While accepted students will receive that thick envelope, the site is a way of normalizing the timeline in which decisions to enroll and travel plans are made. Instead of relying on snail mail, students from California and New York will know at the same time whether or not they have been accepted. In previous years, it has, ironically, often been those who receive the packets last who need the most time to make travel arrangements.

"There's no harm [in the site]; there is actually a lot of good," Clark said, "Students are given more time to consider, and deferred students are given more time to think about their options. It's a courtesy, a positive thing."

Many have expressed appreciation at this extra time promised to consider their options. "I think the online acceptance website is a great idea," Wenjie Hu, an applicant from San Diego, California, said. "If you know for sure that you're accepted somewhere then you'll definitely give more consideration to that school." Columbia undergrad Tienmu Ma confirmed this sentiment: "If you hear from a college one week before you hear from anyone else, you will have a week to think about going to that college. You won't have other offers on your mind because you won't have [received] them yet. It lets you get used to the idea that you might be going to that college."

The site promises to be the first of its kind amongst the Ivies. Dartmouth College recently proposed online notification of admissions through email, but Clark dismissed the projects as too dissimilar for comparison. Still, this move toward online correspondence may be seen in institutes of higher learning across the nation. A few years ago, schools accepting online applications saw an upsurge in the number of applications they received. Registering for classes online is already deeply instituted many universities, including those in the University of California system. Such technology allows large universities like Berkeley and UC San Diego to reduce paperwork and streamline the process of registration. At Yale, Branford and Timothy Dwight colleges experimented with a similar online registration procedure this fall semester, with the hope of expanding the program to all the residential colleges in the near future.

In a world where even spouses may be found online, finding out admissions decisions via the Internet does not seem strange at all. Certainly efficiency is improved and a more egalitarian timetable may be established. Perhaps most importantly, the form of the acceptance letter certainly does not change the concern at the forefront of the minds of students like Wenjie Hu: whether by letter or website, she just hopes that the acceptance comes.

 

 


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