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Law school admission goes high-tech

July 26, 2000

Nick Marinello

For Susan Krinsky a pixel may be worth a thousand words. After years of publishing a massive, text-intensive catalogue to attract students to Tulane Law School, the school's associate dean of admissions is taking a giant leap of faith in technology by trading the familiar printed piece for an interactive, multimedia CD-ROM.

"The primary reason for doing this is that we are in the 21st century, and it is time to rethink how people get information," said Krinsky.

By relying on new technology, she hopes to better reach prospective students, 90 percent of whom she estimates now correspond with the law school through e-mail.

"I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into this because I prefer to hold something that I can page through," she said, "but I was increasingly persuaded that this is how people that age now get information."

Starting with this recruiting cycle, which began last month, Krinsky is sending potential students a CD-ROM filled with useful information about the law school, as well as conventional and online application material. She will also have at her disposal a 24-page "viewbook" of the law school and other succinct printed material to supplement the CD-ROM.

The 132-page "mammoth book" that she has relied on in the past, however, will not be reprinted. Krinsky began to understand that the amount of material in the catalog was actually prohibiting the school from getting out its message.

"Our catalog had turned into a yearbook for the law school," she said. "There was no fact that was not in it." The amount of information was overwhelming to many applicants. "They would pull out and send in the application material and then ask me questions like, 'Where do you hold your summer school programs.' Well, we had a whole section on our summer programs!"

According to Krinsky, the CD-ROM is the product of six months of research by Brightline Media, a firm based in Washington, D.C. She says she was delighted by Brightline's commitment to do sufficient background research to arrive at a substantive understanding of the law school.

"They conducted focus groups and surveyed more than 70 percent of our students," said Krinsky. "So they really learned what was on the minds of students in terms of what they liked about Tulane."

During the spring, Brightline sent a video crew to New Orleans to capture images of the campus and city, as well as record interviews with law school faculty, students and administrators. The images are interactively integrated into the text, said Krinsky. Beyond its multimedia capabilities, the CD-ROM holds another advantages over the old catalog.

One "big difference," said Krinsky, is that the CD-ROM will touch on several critical message points-the school's unique academic program, its international legal training, its emphasis on public interest, the available legal resources in New Orleans and the city's relatively low cost of living.

"These message points permeate the CD and are embodied throughout its design." The fact that an admission catalog encoded onto a CD-ROM is significantly more cost effective has not escaped Krinsky, either. She estimates that each copy of the old catalog had cost approximately $7.50 to print and mail to a potential student.

"Sometimes the piece didn't get to where it was supposed to go or it would take three days longer than the person wanted and they would call me and ask for another copy. So I was sending from two to three copies of this thing to the same person."

Krinsky said that each CD-ROM costs a dollar to replicate and 55 cents to mail with first-class postage. The new technology also presents a more flexible medium, she said. While she would typically print 25,000 copies of the catalogue for a recruitment season, Krinsky is initially pressing only 10,000 copies of the CD-ROM.

"In four or six months from now I can make any necessary changes to it and replicate another 10,000. I'm not locked into a publication schedule."

Prospective students also will enjoy a good deal more flexibility in the ways they can respond to the law school. They may fill out an application form, and then print and mail it. Or they may send a completed application form from their computer desktop to the law school via the Internet.

For students who are looking for still more information about Tulane Law School, the CD-ROM provides an Internet link to the law school's Web site (http://www.law.tulane.edu). The site is currently being redesigned by Brightline Media and should be updated by fall.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu