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More colleges break the news to would-be students online

Jenna Kress sat down at her computer one recent evening to check the status of her application to the University of Georgia. The 17-year-old senior at Walt Whitman High School in Montgomery County, Md., let out a scream when video fireworks lighted up her screen.

She got in.

The next day she learned, also online, the fate of her bid for the University of Texas at Austin: She was denied.

“Didn’t really hit me that hard,” Kress said. “I was so on my Georgia high that I didn’t care that much.” Kress said she barely scanned the UT letter once she got the gist. “I didn’t need to read the other fluff they put in there to make me feel better.”

April 1 marks the height of decision season for colleges nationwide, a date by which most have told high school seniors whether they made the cut for next year. Like Kress, many students nationwide have learned to cope with the ups and downs of an admissions process utterly changed from the thick-or-thin envelope ritual their parents endured.

While some holdouts continue to rely only on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the news, growing numbers of colleges have migrated to online notification in recent years, via websites or email.

At the same time, more students are applying to more schools in an effort to better their chances. More than 27 percent now apply to at least seven schools, a University of California at Los Angeles survey found, roughly double the share of a decade ago. Five percent now apply to a dozen or more schools, and many elite colleges report record or near-record totals of applications.

The flood of applications means that prestigious colleges are often delivering mass rejection via electronic form letters to several thousand or tens of thousands of students at once.

“The trick is to convey a sense of sympathy, understanding and respect through an online blurb,” said Greg Roberts, dean of admission at the University of Virginia.

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