In the wake of anthrax-related scares that have delayed mail shipments across the country, some colleges are urging high school seniors to apply online to meet application deadlines.

Bowdoin College, for example, said students seeking early acceptance could avoid anthrax-related mail delays by filing applications by computer or fax machine.

The early-decision process, adopted by many elite private colleges, guarantees accepted students a spot in the incoming class. In some cases, colleges require students to accept or reject the decision immediately.

Students at Bowdoin, a liberal arts college in Brunswick, Maine, have been able to apply online for three years. About 10 percent of last year’s 4,500 applicants applied that way.

But with the first-round early-decision deadline Nov. 15, officials used the college’s web site to remind students of the electronic option.

“It’s something we wanted to bring people’s attention to, in light of the fact that the regular mail has been affected,” said Sue Danforth, college spokeswoman.

The message encouraged students who had not yet mailed their early-decision applications “to apply electronically through our online application.”

Those who had mailed their applications but were concerned the paperwork might not arrive on time were encouraged to fax copies to admissions.

Bowdoin’s reminder came after Princeton University in New Jersey, which does not accept online applications, urged applicants facing a Nov. 1 early-decision deadline to fax in their applications. Princeton acted after anthrax was discovered in a post office that serves the university, causing that mail center to shut down.

At Colby College in Waterville, Maine, admissions director Steve Thomas said one mail-related concern is with prospective international students.

He said some application packages mailed to Colby from abroad can fit the description of packages the FBI has warned Americans to be wary of.

“You know, they’re kind of thick and bulky,” Thomas said. They also can have too much postage and carry no return address.

To avoid such packages getting held up in the postal system, Colby recently sent out an eMail message to 2,000 prospective international students advising them of the correct way to send mail to this country. Better yet, the college suggested, would be applying online.

Students also can apply electronically at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, where a recent anthrax scare at a local post office disrupted mail delivery to the college for a day.

Wylie Mitchell, the dean of admissions, said Bates stopped short of urging applicants to use the online option. “We were kind of in that spot of not wanting to overdramatize what’s happened,” he said.

He urges students using the regular mail to be early, but says that if a disruption in mail service occurs, “we’ll make allowances” as long as applications are postmarked in time.


Bowdoin College

Princeton University

Colby College

Bates College