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Applying to college in a digital world

BC high's counseling center first area public school to go paperless

For high school students, the college application process is a long and taxing affair, as teens make a major life decision they've been preparing for much of their lives.

At Bethlehem Central High School, that harrowing trial has been a little bit easier this year on students, families and the staff at the school's counseling center. Beginning in 2010, most students used an Internet system called Naviance to do all of their application work electronically.

It's a monumental shift for counselors, who are used to wading through seas of school summaries, essays, letters of recommendation and transcripts.

Registrar Mary Dugas said she'd spend weeks buried in paperwork, but now does most of her work at a computer terminal.

We literally would have somebody hired to stand at the photocopy machine during the busy time, she said. "This year, we didn't have to hire anyone."

Since the school adopted the system in 2007, the counseling center had come to rely more and more on Naviance, to the point where this year all students are completing their applications entirely electronically, with minor exceptions. For these seniors, paper applications are part of a world they never knew, but they said the convenience of having all the information about schools in one place is a major convenience.

"You can just see where you are and how hard it would be to get into the program," said Anna Miroff, who has made the early decision to attend Columbia University.

Students said most of their peers complete about half a dozen applications, with some filling out 10 or more. Naviance makes that easier because many schools now accept a standard application or resume, then ask for their own supplemental materials. Not only that, but like an online dating service Naviance can take information about a student, including grades, test scores and even a personality profile, and make suggestions to students about what schools fit their criteria.

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