Law school admissions goes green

The School of Law is leading the way in green admissions practices by committing to a paperless application process.

“We receive close to 4,000 applications a year, and they used to all come in paper form,” said Janet Bolin, associate dean of admissions and student services.

“Not only did that mean a lot of paper was being used, but somebody in our office had to file it all,” she said. “We would have stacks and stacks of paper that all had to be processed. With our new online system, it’s done so much more easily.”

The law school is using admissions software accessed through the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) Web site. Instead of mailing an application, students now upload their material online, including their completed application, personal statement, application fee and resume.

LSAC uploads the applicants LSAT scores, transcripts and letters of recommendation. The admissions office staff then reviews the candidates’ files on their computers without having to print any paperwork. Once the file is deemed complete, it is ready to be evaluated by an Admissions Committee member.

“I am very proud of the law school admissions team members for their commitment to reducing the impact of their work on the environment,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Changes to their admissions process maximize the benefits of current technologies while reducing paper waste.”

By going paperless, the law school’s admissions office also saved a major portion of its budget in 2008-09 and is experiencing ongoing savings in the current budget.

The law school is among the 35 (roughly 15 percent) LSAC member law schools that went paperless last year. The process also creates cost savings and environmentally friendly practices at LSAC, since LSAC previously would print any material that was submitted online through the common application and mail it to the appropriate schools.

In rare instances, paper applications are still available upon request at the law school. These applications are scanned into the computer and then shredded, with the shreds being recycled.

Although the change from paper to paperless took getting used to, it was not a difficult transition, said Mary Ann Clifford, assistant dean of admissions.

“Once we began the process, the advantages far outweighed any disadvantage of not having paper files,” Clifford said. “It is great to have quick access to the application documents and be able to review the files from anywhere at anytime.”

The acceptance process is also green. Correspondence with the applicants is initially done by e-mail, and the acceptance packet is considerably downsized from the previous year’s acceptance binders.

Admitted students now receive a “Washington University in St. Louis School of Law” inscribed flash drive in the mail. Although the law school still sends a small amount of mail to candidates, any brochures that were previously sent are now in PDF form on the storage device.

The flash drive also includes admissions videos and provides space for the applicant to save further correspondence with the law school.

“Going paperless coincides nicely with the fact that it’s a very technology-driven age, especially among students coming straight from undergraduate schools,” said Anna Donovan, admissions/communications assistant. “Most have multiple e-mail accounts, and they’re on their BlackBerrys, cell phones and laptops all the time. They really seem to like the speed with which everything flows in the admissions process.”