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PDF goes to College

December 03, 2003

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It's that time of year in the U.S. for many high school seniors and juniors and their families to be contemplating educational life after graduation.

For 11th graders interested in pursuing higher education, the first step is registering for and taking one or more of the college pre-admission examinations which many be required as part of an eventual admission application. For 12th-grade students who have most likely completed such exams, the current focus is choosing and applying to universities and colleges. In either pursuit, the preparation process will be enhanced by having at least a familiarity with the free Adobe Reader (if not with the commercial Acrobat product.

For example, students gearing up for the SAT examination -- measuring verbal and mathematical reasoning skills -- can obtain from the host Collegeboard.com site all necessary information about registering and taking the test, and can download in PDF sample questions, a full-length practice test and a scoring guide.

SAT sample test

Those who score well can enhance their chances of getting into top schools when the application period commences in their final year of high school. Many universities and colleges now provide PDF-based application forms, although based on some random Web site visits, the use of the PDF version for electronic submission still seems rare. Most offer either versions to download, print and complete, while a growing number are now offering electronically fillable PDF applications that can be mailed after printing. Not surprisingly, most electronic applications at universities and colleges are Web-based rather than PDF-based.

Some schools offer not only a wealth of application-related forms, such as those available from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Web site, but also provide above-and-beyond applications of PDF, such as U-Minnesota's Custom Viewbook service, which delivers via email within 15 minutes of submitting your electronic request a customized PDF about a chosen program or department.

An assortment of 241 post-high school institutions allow the use of a standardized application form called the Common Application, which can be downloaded in PDF. The CommonApp.org site includes a disclaimer in red letters stating "You cannot save data using this version," forgetting to add that the warning is true ONLY *if you are using the free Adobe Reader.* The best and brightest who are using the full version of Acrobat will of course be able to save data they enter in the form, which can be very handy considering that the lengthy application form(s) may require more than one sit-down session at the computer to complete.

Common Application form

That said, investing in Acrobat before one begins the college application process may prove to be wise.

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