First there was the brochure, then the colorful booklet, and then the video, as schools and colleges pitched their wares to prospective students with ever more sophistication.
Now the pitch is coming to a computer near you.
Baltimore's Bryn Mawr School is the latest to join a small but growing number of independent schools -- and a larger group of colleges -- that are putting their student recruitment materials on multimedia CD-ROMs that combine video, audio, still photography and text.
With guitar music in the background, prospective Bryn Mawr students take an idealized electronic "journey" through the campus, meeting students and famous alumnae such as basketball star Kisha Ford and Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder of the New York State Supreme Court.
Although students can't apply for admission directly from the Bryn Mawr CD-ROM, online applications are the next step for the North Baltimore girls' school, officials said. The disk does provide information about admissions, faculty, curriculum, college placements and, of course, tuition, which ranges from $11,555 to $12,855.
Rebecca MacMillan Fox, head of the school, said she and others "worried that we were developing something that wasn't accessible to everyone. But we also felt that this approach was in the spirit of the founders of the school, who felt it needed to be on the cutting edge."
In 1996, Bryn Mawr invested more than $2 million in technology. The campus has a network of 300 computers with access to the Internet and an online library catalog. All faculty and upper school students have e-mail addresses.
Before developing the CD-ROM, which runs on Windows 95/98 and Power Macintosh computers, the school conducted a phone survey, Fox said. The "overwhelming majority," she said, liked the idea of a disk and said they either had a CD-ROM player or could easily gain access to one.
Elizabeth Speers, Bryn Mawr's admissions director, said the CD-ROM has been accepted "almost as though it was expected. Nobody said, 'Wow, a CD-ROM!' but no one complained, either." Younger girls consider the disk, developed with the help of the Art & Science Group of Baltimore, as something to play with. One asked her mother if she could turn on the CD and "go play Bryn Mawr," Speers said.
Bryn Mawr's model for the CD was another Maryland independent school, Georgetown Preparatory in Bethesda. "I got the idea about six years ago," said Michael Horsey, admissions director at Georgetown "I figured that most of the kids who could afford to have a CD-ROM drive. At first, my bosses thought I was crazy."
But applications are up at the school, and Horsey attributed the increase partly to the CD-ROM.
Horsey said the development cost of a viewbook and video is about the same as that of a CD-ROM, $30,000 to $40,000, depending on how elaborate the project is. Big savings come in reproduction costs. A printed booklet-and-video package costs $10 to $12 to reproduce and mail, Horsey said, "but the CD-ROM brings it down to under $4, including only 77 cents postage."
Would-be Georgetown students can also apply online by filling out a form and pressing a key to send it by e-mail to the admissions office.
Both Bryn Mawr and Georgetown consulted students in developing their CD-ROMs. "You've got to bounce it off the students," said Horsey. "Adults don't speak the language, and they don't tend to like some of the things we've got in there."
Prospects exploring the Georgetown CD-ROM click on a student's tie to get a student discussion of the dress code. A click on books prompts a description of the homework code. And a click on a girl's face calls up a discussion of dating and social life at the all-boys' high school.
"We found a bunch of photos of noncopyrighted girls," said Horsey, referring to photographs in the public domain. "Then we had the students vote on the one they'd rather see in the CD-ROM."
Pub Date: 03/15/99