Taking cues from politics and business, some colleges are sending applications that cut steps and fees, reports the New York Times. Over the last few years, the tiny College of Saint Rose in Albany has seen applications increase at least 25 percent annually and its standing in the U.S. News and World Report rankings climb more than 20 spots. Its secret? Lifting a page from the marketing playbook of credit card companies. Last fall, the college sent out 30,000 bright red “Exclusive Scholar Applications” to high school seniors that promised to waive the $40 application fee, invited them to skip the dreaded essay, and assured a decision in three weeks. Because the application arrived with the students’ names and other information already filled in, applying required little more than a signature. More than 100 other colleges and universities paid the same marketing company to send out variations of these fast-track applications last fall. Some have spent upwards of $1 million on their application campaigns, and many have seen their applicant pools double or even triple in the last two years. While some guidance counselors say they welcome the elimination of application fees, which can be as much as $50 per college, they worry that the express applications might be short-circuiting a storied process in which students search out the colleges that might be the best fit for them. The counselors also fear that recipients of the applications are being lulled into thinking they have been pre-approved for admittance…

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staff and wire services reports