Should You Submit the Online or Paper Application?
Learn about both types of college applications to help you decide which to fill out.
When you’re looking to find a college for your undergraduate education, you’ll need to fill out a college application. For most colleges and universities, you will have the choice between an online or paper application. Deciding which form is best for you has a lot to do with the type of information you’ll be conveying and how fast you want to convey it.
As long as your college application is professional and thorough, either an online or paper application can serve its purpose of helping you stand out to the admissions departments of the colleges and universities you apply to. However, since you have this choice during your college search, here are some tips on how to make the right one.
Online vs. Paper Applications
The online application is usually available on the college’s website; a quick college search on Campus Explorer will help you find a link to the college’s website. With the online application, you can complete the entire form, usually including the essay, directly through the college or university’s website. Because of the speed, efficiency and ease of use, the majority of applications are now completed online, whether you’re seeking an online degree or attending a campus school.
A paper application can be filled out with a pen or a typewriter, but it’s more advisable to download the application and fill it out on your computer, then print it out and mail it. However, if you choose to complete it by hand, you can find paper applications at your high school, request that colleges send them to you, or download them from the college’s website.
The main benefit of the online application is that it is more convenient and faster to fill out. The primary reason to fill out a paper application is to provide additional or unique information about yourself that you cannot fit into the online application template. This could mean AP scores, various awards, commendations or community service achievements. A paper application affords you more room for these types of extras.
Steps for Filling Out Online Applications
- Before starting, make sure you have all of your pertinent admissions information ready to be uploaded or cut-and-pasted. This includes your high school transcript, test scores, current class schedule, GPA, number of years in core courses, high school CEEB number and all your additional activities, awards and community work.
- Find the college, university, community college or online school website and create a user account.
- Get comfortable. Be prepared to complete your college online application in one sitting. Some colleges won’t let you save an incomplete application and return to it later.
- Upon completion and submission of the application, make note of your confirmation number and print this out for your records. You’ll need this number to submit your high school records directly from your school. These records may include your transcripts, SAT or ACT scores and school profile.
Steps for Filling Out Paper Applications
- Make copies of the paper application to practice on so you don’t make mistakes on the official form. If possible, fill out the application on your computer and print it out, so you’re able to type your answers and make any necessary changes as you go.
- Have someone else proofread the practice and final applications.
- Keep an additional final copy for your records.
- Snail-mail the application to the address provided by the college, or scan the application and e-mail it to the college.
College Application Tips & Tactics
- Find out if the colleges and universities you’re applying to accept the common application. Apply using this application to save time, but keep in mind that some participating colleges may require supplemental forms and essays, so be sure to check the official websites before submitting your application.
- Before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, think through your overall approach. What is going to stand out on your application? What will make it memorable?
- Need help submitting your online application? Ask your guidance counselor or school registrar for assistance.
- Check and then double-check your deadlines. Mark a calendar with these dates so you don’t miss them.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to fill out the applications. Getting into a competitive college can set you on the right path to getting advanced degrees, such as an MBA, and open the doors to more careers.
- Double-check all your data, and ask a family member or friend to read over your final application before you submit it.
- Review your transcripts for any possible errors.
- Make sure you’ve listed all of your extracurricular activities, jobs, community service responsibilities and other personal accomplishments that enhance your application, especially those that relate to the majors you’re most interested in.
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