April 1 is a fateful day for high school seniors across the country (myself included). At 5 p.m. today, hundreds of top colleges will be releasing their admissions decisions. However, instead of the tension that accompanies waiting for the mail to arrive, students now experience a few moments of adrenaline waiting for the computer screen to load.
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the number of colleges that release their decisions over the internet has increased 61 percent over the past five years, and now over one-third of all colleges follow the practice. Institutions cite a number of reasons for choosing the send e-mails instead of envelopes. The foremost is that the internet is the way in which modern students communicate. Students, for their part, seem to appreciate the speed with which they can know their decision.
Most colleges supplement these online decisions with mailed letters. For example, of the seven schools to which I applied that post their decisions online, five are also sending traditional envelopes. But the two outliers — Brown and Columbia — are not mailing any decision letters whatsoever this year, as all communication will be purely conducted over the internet.
The tree hugger in me loves this decision. With over 30,000 applicants this year, Brown will save about 1.1 tons of carbon dioxide by ditching the paper. (According to Carbon Rally
, the production of one pound of paper — or 100 sheets — emits 7.1 lbs of carbon dioxide.) Yet the cynic in me side knows that this is probably not the universities' motivation. It is a recession, after all, and abstaining from all those reams of paper and postage stamps must save at least a little money. But "Go green, save green" certainly isn't a bad motto.
My only qualm with Brown and Columbia's decision is what's lost: the idealized moment of running to the mailbox and ripping open a (hopefully) large envelope. I guess the plus side is that if not accepted, at least no trees were harmed in the process.