Universities are turning to computers to make the application process less time-wasting and less expensive in the United States.
Students like applying "on-line" because it makes their applications look so professional, and universities find it more convenient.
"Colleges are looking hard for ways to cut costs and this is one way. After the initial investment it provides pure saving," said Wayne Becraft, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, which has approved a set of standards for electronic transfer of applications.
Most colleges and universities that have gone on-line have done so by sending out floppy disks - either developed commercially or by the institutions themselves. The students fill in applications on disk and return them.
But colleges are also using the Internet. George Mason University, a state institition in Virginia, expects to have an on-line applications system up and running this autumn. Students would access the World-wide Web on the Internet, tap into George Mason's home page, fill out an application and send it to the university's database.
George Mason is also working with one of the commercial software companies in this field, ExPAN, to set up a system for Fairfax county schools, the university's catchment area in Northern Virginia. Under this system, students would fill out an application form on computer at high school, and that information would be zapped to the university's database.
Officials at the 34-campus State University of New York began offering electronic admissions in January this year. Students who want to apply by this method must specify what software they use, DOS, Windows or MacIntosh, and are posted a floppy disk to return application completed.
The private University of Southern California was one of the first to have gone electronic in its admissions. Almost 40 per cent of the 15,000 applications for admission this autumn were filed on disk.
Georgia Tech had more than a quarter of applicants last academic year filing from home computers via a modem. They logged on to a telephone number which put them in direct contact with an admissions database.
Some colleges are waiving the application fee if students apply electronically, according to Wayne Becraft. It is a great advantage to have no human "interference"that takes time and may create errors.
"The computer will show what a student has credit for and what remains to be taken," he explained. "All this can be done automatically. It has the potential to save an enormous amount of money."