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!

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!

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.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Equitable Review of Online and Paper Applications Ensures Equal Access

Colleges and universities prefer to receive applications online. Speed and accuracy are improved with online processing. However, universities that still offer paper submission of applications do so to ensure accessibility. Some students may have limited access to high speed internet which is required for online application completion. Admission offices review paper and online applications with exactly the same process to ensure equal access.

็Ž‹ๆ–‡ๅ› June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

Not the same a few years ago

colleges perfer the online application for better data base management. paper applications has its advantages and not used very often those days. I believe if you prefer to use paper applications, you can provide more information and add more materials.

Kiersten Murphy
Executive Director and Founder Murphy College Consultants LLC

Follow a College's Directions

Most colleges today offer an online version of their application, and sometimes it is the only way to apply to that college. Be mindful of each school's requirements and if they give no preference to online vs. paper, decide which is best for you.