Do colleges view online applications the same as paper applications?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Do colleges view online applications the same as paper applications?

Rod Bugarin
Former Admissions Officer Columbia, Brown, and Wesleyan University

Do colleges view online applications the same as paper applications?

Here is my video response to the question.

Eric Furda
Dean of Admissions University of Pennsylvania

Do colleges view online applications the same as paper applications?

Here is my video response to the question.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Applications on Paper

Colleges have said for the last few years that they prefer online applications to paper. This allows them a consistent way to organize and format information for processing and review. However, there are cases where students lack Internet access or for whatever reason need to mail in a copy. That's why most, but not all, colleges allow students to download a copy if they prefer. Students should check on a school-by-school basis and if there are extraordinary circumstances contact the college directly or through a counselor. We've come a long way from the days of handwritten applications!

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

It's What Inside That Counts!

While the vast majority of students apply to college online, there are a few here and there who apply using paper applications. If you do decide to use paper applications, you should remember to give yourself a bit more time to gather your teacher recommendations and school reports -- as your recommenders and counselors will have to use snail mail for their components as well. Whatever mode you choose, remember that it's what on the INSIDE of the application that matters rather than how the information is presented!

Michelle Green
Admissions Consultant My College Admissions Coach

Most schools prefer the online applications.

If you don't have access to a computer, then it is okay to send in a paper copy. It will speed up the processing of your application if you submit it electronically. You don't have a computer? Perhaps you can use one at the library or in your teacher's classroom, guidance counseling office, friend's house. It's just better to submit this online. Way back in the day when dinosaurs roamed the land, there wasn't an internet and cell phones, I applied to college. Weeks went by and I didn't hear anything from them, even when my friends who were applying were getting things in the mail. I called them. They never received/lost my application. I had to send in a new copy, which delayed my acceptance - and financial aid. Send it in electronically!

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

Colleges prefer online applications

Having students apply online saves admissions offices both time and money. A paper application needs to either be scanned into their system or have the data uploaded. If a student does not have access to a computer, they would not be faulted and online and paper application will be considered exactly the same way. In other words, it will not disadvantage a student to submit a paper application.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Online vs. Paper Applications

I think that they actually prefer paperless applications for the greater ease in handling the immense amount of information ending up at the Admissions Office. However, you will not be penalized for completing paper applications.

Susan Weber


If anything, online applications are more convenient.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Online vs. Paper

Unless stated otherwise, I believe schools will treat applications the same, whether done online or paper. The colleges realize that it may not always be an option to apply using the internet, thus they can't penalize someone for turning in a paper application. At the same time, it is not uncommon for the schools to encourage students to apply online by offering to wave the administrative fee, if they do.

Jill Karatkewicz
Counselor East Hampton High School

Do colleges view online applications the same as paper applications?

These days, the majority of applications are submitted online. However, unless the college tells you otherwise, there is no difference between an online and paper application. The benefit of an online application is that as soon as you hit "Submit" it is instantaneously received by the college (soon to be joined by your supplemental documents like transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc). The other possible benefit of an online application (to the student) is that some colleges will waive the application fee if it is submitted online versus paper format.