CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Students aspiring to attend one of the country's most prestigious business schools can say farewell to one well-known ritual: the frantic, down-to-the-wire trip to mail an application by the deadline.
Beginning this month, MIT's Sloan School of Management will accept applications only via computer -- apparently becoming the nation's first graduate or undergraduate school to adopt such a policy.
Plenty of the nation's 3,400 colleges and universities have been experimenting with electronic applications, using them as an admission option for the computer-savvy. But the class that will enter Massachusetts Institute of Technology's graduate business school in September 1999 is charting new territory.
"I don't know of anybody who's gone 100 percent that way," said Mark Milroy, chief officer of programs and services with the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
By wiping out paper applications, MIT says it will save thousands of dollars in processing, printing and postage costs -- plus hundreds of hours of staff time.
Using a new Internet site started by the folks who sponsor the Graduate Management Admission Test -- the standardized exam for business school admission -- applicants can fill out the required Sloan School forms, pay the application fees and arrange to have their GMAT scores sent to the university in one electronic package.
The only items that can't be electronically mailed -- at least, not yet -- are college transcripts and outside recommendations.
About two dozen other business schools, including Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Northwestern, the University of Texas, Tulane, Michigan State and the University of California-Davis, will accept electronic applications through the GradAdvantage Web site, which went online Aug. 1.
Participating institutions pay $5,500 a year for the administrative Web site software. Students pay a $12 processing fee for each application.
Only MIT is so far telling its future MBAs to forget about applying if they can't go online. But exemptions will be considered in the first year of the new plan.
Experts said it's unlikely many undergraduate schools will require only online applications anytime soon. After all, it's elitist to assume that every applicant has computer access, said Timothy J. McDonough, a spokesman for the American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges and universities nationwide.
And Sloan is making no changes in the back end of the process: Officials there still plan to send acceptance and rejection letters the old-fashioned way.