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On-the-Spot College Admissions

Bard's immediate-decision plan gives students an answer on acceptance after an interview. EDUCATION

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FOR many high school seniors, the mail-watching season has begun. It is a time of unwanted suspense, spent waiting for vaguely understood college admissions offices to process aplications. For students who'd rather not hang on tenterhooks, however, Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., offers an alternative with its Immediate Decision Plan (IDP). Within hours after submitting an application, a student gets a face-to-face interview with an admissions officer, who renders an acceptance decision on the spot. It is an express-lane approach that many participants like.

``I'd rather go through the anxiety in one day than in four months,'' says a relieved Jesse Buckley, a senior at Belmont (Mass.) High School, upon completing an off-campus, immediate-decision day held in the Boston area. Having been accepted means he can be more relaxed as he awaits word from other schools. (Bard doesn't require students to announce their attendance plans until May 1.)

The personal contact is another appealing aspect of the IDP program. ``It's so much nicer than getting a letter that just says you're in or you're not,'' says Dillon Paul of Brookline (Mass.) High School. In the latter case, ``you have no idea why or how the process worked. This way you get a good idea of how they evaluated your application.''

Rachel Martin, also of Brookline, says the immediate-decision format, which kicks off with a classroom-type discussion of assigned readings, at first sounded intimidating. ``But something about meeting other kids who are interested in going to Bard and sharing with them was comforting to me,'' she says. The hardest assignment, she believes, is in the hands of the admissions officers, who must produce a verdict in their one-on-one interviews. ``That's gutsy,'' she says.

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