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With over one and one-half million students applying for admission to colleges every year, officials have been attempting to streamline the entry process. This includes a number of methods to reduce paperwork.

The Internet

To drastically reduce application headaches, the College Board has developed a web site so that several parts of the admissions process can now be completed online: the following items can be done:
· Register for the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).
· Obtain information on Advance Placement exams.
· Obtain information on specific colleges and universities nationwide, including applications for many of these.
· Download applications, work on them, and for some institutions, upload the app to the admissions office. Other schools make the application available on line, but still want it mailed.
· Obtain detailed information on financial aid.
· Tap into discussion groups for parents, students and professionals.

There is even a standard application called a Common Application that students can complete and submit copies of the same form, with the same essay question, to any of the nearly 200 participating colleges and universities. Some prestigious institutions, such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Pomona, accept these. Some, Harvard included, also require additional information. The Common Application and a list of universities that accept it can be obtained from the National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1904 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091.

Applying Early
If the student knows for certain which college he or she wants to attend, many institutions will accept an early application if made by November 1 of the senior year in high school, and will return an "early decision" acceptance by mid-December. Nearly one-third of the students who apply early are accepted early. The remainder may still be admitted as part of the regular admissions process.

It is important to note that most schools that offer early admissions have a "binding decision" policy. This means that, if accepted early, the student agrees to attend regardless of what other institutions he or she has applied to. Other schools offer a non-binding program referred to as "early action" because many students prefer not to be bound too early.

An advantage of early admissions can be in the area of finances. With rising tuition costs and limited amounts of financial aid, colleges may award their financial aid early, leaving little left for those accepted later.

Scholastic Assessment Test
While many colleges no longer place as much weight on this three-hour test of verbal and mathematical ability that they once did, it is still an important criterion for college admissions. It has become so important that there has been a significant rise in the number of SAT preparation classes.

While score averages seem higher, the reason for this is because the College Board recentered the average in 1995. This moved the national average up 75 points on the verbal section and up 20 points on the math. However, according to test officials, the test's level of difficulty did not change, nor did it have any affect on the student's performance or the ability of schools to track score trends or standards used in admissions or scholarship decisions. Therefore, the need to do well is still important.

To summarize, the best formula for less painful college admission is to score high, apply early, and use the Internet.