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VOL. 23, NO. 4September 26, 1997

OLA: The Division of Special Programs Establishes On-Line Application Process

Frank Wolf

By Kim Brockway

The Division of Special Programs (DSP) has joined the vanguard of colleges and universities that are integrating new technology into the admissions process. For the first time ever, applicants to Special Programs can now complete and submit their applications entirely on-line.

  Until now, DSP applicants seeking an alternative to the traditional paper application found inside the annual bulletin could download the application from the Division's website and send the completed documents through the U.S. mail. The OLA (On-Line Admissions) Program now allows prospective students to complete the necessary forms displayed onscreen, provide a credit card account number to cover the application or enrollment fee, include a writing sample if required by the area of study, and submit the entire package electronically—and encrypted to ensure security—to the Division of Special Programs. The only piece of the application package that follows under separate cover is an applicant's transcript.

  "Our mission at Special Programs," said Dean Frank Wolf, "is to bring the best that Columbia has to offer to the widest possible audience. I expect that the on-line application will contribute to expanding further our applicant pools for all our programs, but especially for our study abroad programs in Paris, Berlin, Beijing, and Italy, since virtually all undergraduates now have Web access.

  "To the extent that the 'medium is the message,' it also seemed important that our applicants to the Computer Technology and Applications Program be able to complete applications on-line."

  Although the OLA Program has been in existence for only a little more than a week, a number of completed applications have already been received.

  Administrators expect to see a significant increase in applications in December, as students apply for the spring semester.

  The on-line application can be found at the Division of Special Programs' website, located at www.columbia.edu/cu/ssp.

  Instrumental in its creation were Julia Hess, who developed the project for the division; Associate Dean Paul McNeil, and Steve van Leeuwen and Ariel Glenn of ACIS.

  "I can't deny being delighted to be the first Columbia school fully on-line," said Wolf, "and owe much to Julia Hess, our Publications Manager (and Web guru), and a number of colleagues at ACIS who did a lot of hard work to make it happen."

  While Steve van Leeuwen, editor-in-chief of ACIS, confirms that the Division of Special Programs is the first school or division at Columbia to offer a complete interactive application, he expects other divisions and schools to follow suit.

  The first part of the University's general on-line admissions program will be available later this fall. Applicants will be able to use the World Wide Web to confirm that all relevant application information, such as transcripts, references and SAT and GRE scores have arrived at the appropriate admissions office, said Bill Valentine, manager of user services, Student Information Systems (SIS).