- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 11, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Credit card and mortgage companies promise customers an answer “while you wait” on loan applications. Now, colleges are doing the same — visiting high schools and letting applicants know their admission fate right on the spot.

At Barrington and Deerfield high schools in suburban Chicago, 45 colleges came to campus for two days this fall.

More than the typical college fair information session, school representatives settled behind tables in the gym and met with applicants whose transcripts and test scores already had been reviewed. In many cases, the colleges made conditional admission offers on the spot, sparing students the nervous trips to the mailbox that will be the fate of many other seniors who are completing more traditional applications this month.

“It was just a major relief — one of those pressures of senior year just lifted off your chest right away,” said Kari Blanas, a Deerfield student who received word that she had been accepted to the University of Iowa, University of Kansas and, her top choice, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Not every high school could pull off an on-site admission fair like this. Deerfield sends lots of students to lots of schools — 98 percent attend college — and has the pull to persuade institutions that on-site admissions are worth their time. It also has a large counseling staff and dedicated parent group that handles the logistics.

Still, various forms of on-site admissions, which are common for community colleges, have become increasingly popular for four-year schools. A growing number of high schools from Maine to New Mexico have a few such instant decision visits scattered through the year, if not one big fair.

For colleges with straightforward admission standards, on-site admissions can save time when handling their big feeder schools. Many also see it as a way to recruit hard-to-reach groups. Among the 70 high schools where Michigan State University conducts on-site admissions each year are city schools, in places like Detroit and Flint, with lots of first-generation college students and few guidance counselors. Even some private colleges are using the method to expand their base.

“I think it’s a win-win situation,” said Carol Descak, interim director of admissions at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, which has been doing on-site admissions at about 10 area high schools and this year expanded the practice to schools in nearby Pittsburgh. “Being a small school, we always provide that personal touch.”

Marybeth Kravets, Deerfield’s college counselor, enjoys seeing students when they hear the words “you’re in” and celebrate with friends.

Miss Kravets, a past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, acknowledged the process has caused some tension. But she insists the event — part of a larger program to get students excited about the application process — is good for her students.

Of 384 seniors this fall, 89 percent made at least one application through the process. Of the 967 applications those students submitted, 82 percent resulted in admissions. Last year, about half attended a college that had told them they were accepted at the event.

“There are a lot of high schools that do not understand or condone or agree with instant gratification,” she said. “But for us, it works.”

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