Windows of Opportunity

By Patti Martin
Family Writer

HERE IT is, your senior year of high school, and the living is supposed to be easy.

The Angst of SATs is a rapidly fading memory. Everything should be a piece of cake, right?

Think again.

Think cramped forms.

Think endless demands for essays.

Think of handwriting that is the victim of the computer age.

Think college admission forms.

Between now and the end of the year, seniors in the nearly 25,000 high schools throughout the country will be faced with completing the dreaded forms: name, home address, nickname, test scores, extracurricular activities, favorite courses and all the rest.

It’s time to get out the old typewriter (if one can be found), line up the application (hopefully correctly) and hunt and peck your way through the application (with a suitable amount of Wite-Out on hand, of course).

Or better yet, complete the onerous task by hand, much like 12th-century monks: slowly, slowly, slowly.

It’s seems that for a generation being raised to do their banking through ATMs and who entertains themselves with interactive video games, there ought to be a better way.

And increasingly, (thankfully, many parents and students might say), there is.

Technology, it seems, is taking some of the trepidation out of the college application process. In a variety of ways, would-be college freshmen are turning to computers to end the countless hours of application drudgery.

When 17-year-old Brad Stratton of Tinton Falls began filling out his application to Penn State University, he didn’t sit down in front of a typewriter and try to align the form. Instead, he sat in front of his home computer, inserted a diskette and quickly began answering questions.

“I had never heard of applying using the computer before,” the Monmouth Regional High School senior said, “but I liked the idea from the start.”

Stratton, who has a home computer and who has been taking a computer course at the high school, immediately felt comfortable filling out the form electronically.

“It was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” Stratton said. “And, in some ways, it was fun. You just type in the information and you’re done. It was definitely a positive experience.”

The only drawback, Stratton said, was that the other colleges he’s applying to — Trenton State, New York University and Seton Hall — don’t offer the same admissions-form choice.

“Filing on disk has really spoiled me,” he said. “Now it’s going to be back to handwriting and typing, and I don’t look forward to that.”

Although Stratton is in the minority, now, there’s no denying that applying to colleges electronically is the wave of the future.

“You have to remember that there are 1.5 million kids a year, in general, between transfers and graduating high school seniors, who go through this admission process,” pointed out Enrollment Technologies Inc. founder Jerry Paxton, whose company has created CollegeLink, a electronic college application program.

Paxton estimates that about five percent of the 1.5 million college applicants apply electronically.

“And the number is growing as students and parents, as well as college admissions offices, become more familiar and comfortable with the technology,” Paxton said. “Filing electronically is a time-saver for students and their parents, who recognize that time is at a premium.”

When he was applying to colleges two years ago, 20-year-old Nelson Adler came across the CollegeLink software.

“I had heard horror stories from my older brothers and their friends about how daunting it was to fill out the forms,” the New Brunswick resident recalled. “I’m not really good at typing and my handwriting is even worse, so I knew I was in for a long and painful process.”

Adler, though, happened to come across a story about CollegeLink and sent away for the software.

“It was a cinch,” said Adler, now at sophomore at Rutgers University. “I inserted the disk, filled out the questions, wrote an essay and sent the disk back.”

Within several weeks, he received back six admissions applications, all laser printed in the formats of the colleges he selected. All that was needed was Adler’s signature and the required college application fees.

“It was the best $35 (the cost of the software and laser printing up to eight applications) I’ve spent,” he said. “It took away a lot of the anxiety and made the process more student-friendly. The only worry I had was where I was going to be accepted.”

Although software can’t relieve acceptance anxiety, it goes a long way to making the application process less stress-ridden for students and their parents.

“Face it, applications take a long time to complete,” Paxton said. “And at the same time kids are supposed to be filling out these applications, it’s also the time when kids are beginning to sever the tight child-parent bonds, exercising more independence.”

In other words, kids hate to be harped on, bugged and nagged to finish their applications.

The creation of CollegeLink, in fact, came out of Paxton’s personal experience when his son was applying to colleges in 1990.

“It was frustrating, to say the least,” Paxton recalled. “I began thinking that there had to be a better way to get through the application process, especially when you are applying to more than one school.”

The result, after a year of work, was CollegeLink.

The going was tough at first. The first software was only able to provide an application that was semi-customized, not an exact duplicate. Then there was the resistance of the colleges, which did not immediately embrace the idea.

Slowly, though, the idea caught on at colleges and universities throughout the country.

Rutgers University in New Brunswick, was one of the first dozen or so institutions of higher education that began accepting the CollegeLink applications.

“We knew that these (electronic applications) were the wave of the future,” said Deborah Epting, associate director of university undergraduate admissions, “and we wanted to give it a try. There are students sophisticated enough to use the computer for this and we thought it would give us some broader exposure. We wanted to run with it and see what the interest was.”

Epting, though, admitted that the university has not aggressively pushed the electronic medium, and applying by computer is not even mentioned in the admission application package sent out to prospective students.

“We’ve been cautious because, as a state institution, we strive to enroll a population that is geographically, socio-economically and ethnically diverse as the state of New Jersey,” Epting said. “We realize that there are students who don’t have access to computers and we don’t want to make it appear that we favor one type of application over another. I think what you’ll be seeing is colleges dealing with applications coming in through a variety of ways.”

Dealing with the various ways may be challenging, but it’s also exciting, said Nancy Hazelgrove, director of admissions at Georgian Court College, Lakewood.

“The technology is amazing,” said Hazelgrove. “Students are increasingly turning to computers in their everyday tasks, so it makes sense for colleges and universities to offer their programs electronically was well.”

The college is in the process of developing a home page, where prospective students can surf the Internet and learn more about the Ocean County college. The college accepts CollegeLink generated applications and ExPan applications.

“Computers are not just great for students and high school guidance counselors but also for adults who are coming back to school,” Hazelgrove said. “The older adults don’t have time to go to the library and sift through the college catalogs. With computers, everything is easier and more consumer friendly. And that’s really what it should be.”

Asbury Park Press – October 18, 1995

I did not write this article. It is an article from 1995 that I was quoted in. Enjoy!