Pitt uses Web to reach prospectives


Some people may feel more at home surfing the Internet for college information, but not… Some people may feel more at home surfing the Internet for college information, but not everybody — particularly parents and prospective students without computer access.

That’s the reason why Pitt is trying to balance the information available to students by presenting it online and on paper to ensure that no one is put at a disadvantage, according to Ron Jankowski, associate director of admissions and financial aid at Pitt.

“While many students have access to the Internet, not everyone does,” he said. “We use [the Internet] as much as we can when we are able to.”

Pitt offers a “virtual tour” of campus on its Web site, where potential students can look at pictures of the University and control cameras mounted in the Hillman Library and on the Cathedral of Learning.

According to Jankowski, 55 percent of students applied to Pitt online last year, and he expects that number to be higher for the current year. Admitted students are given much more information through mailings.

Pitt continues to search for new ways to improve the Web site and uses schools such as the University of Michigan and the Pennsylvania State University as models.

Patrick Smith, the director of communications for undergraduate admissions at Penn State, appreciates the flexibility of the Internet. Penn State’s Web site can be updated and new content added in a timely way.

“We are running in a way like a magazine since we are updating it periodically,” Smith said. “It means we can get a lot of extra content out there.”

Penn State’s Web site offers visitors a series of essays written by current students as well as pictures of campus and a Web cam. Penn State allows prospective students to check the status of their applications.

According to Smith and the Penn State Web site, 70 percent of applicants to the university apply online.

Both Pitt and Penn State allow students who apply to check their application status online. Academic information regarding classes and departments is available on both Web sites.

Smith stressed that the Internet has not become the single source of college information because parents are more likely to consult paper sources rather than the Internet, though he hopes that someday the Internet will be a user-friendly tool for both parents and students.

Smith revealed plans to add more features to the Penn State admissions site, with content modeled after the sites of the University of Michigan, Purdue University and Pitt. Current ideas include a special section for potential students and video clips to highlight text information.

Michael Trella, a 17-year-old senior from Ephrata High School in Ephrata, Pa., decided to visit Pitt’s campus after using the Web site. He used the Internet to look up the courses offered at the engineering school and to check out the residence halls.

“Besides coming here and seeing it for yourself it’s very useful,” he said.

Michael has also looked at Drexel University, Penn State and Villanova.

He came with his father Paul Trella, a Penn State alumnus, who said that Pitt’s Web site “was one of the better ones [he] looked at” since some sites require a lot of time to navigate.

“I’ll give you an unbiased opinion,” he said, comparing Pitt’s site to his alma mater’s, “Pitt’s Web site is a little better.”