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Online college applications: Less paper, less stress!

By Sarah Klein

Most of senior year of high school is supposed to be fun—think prom, graduation parties, and senior skip day. But the pressure and stress of the college application process can be a dark cloud for many teens.  

Luckily, the process is becoming infinitely simpler, thanks to online applications. Forget filling out endless forms, worrying about meeting deadlines by snail mail, or a guidance counselor forgetting to slip an extra transcript into the envelope. Instead, the application is on its way with the click of the mouse!

Perhaps the simplest online approach is the Common Application, a standard set of application forms accepted at a majority of colleges and universities in 45 states and Washington D.C. Member schools range from religious institutions, to state colleges, to the Ivy League.

The Common App was first available for applications for the 1998-1999 academic year, when the organization had 191 members, not all of whom accepted the application virtually. By the 2006-2007 academic year, all 298 members were required to accept the Common App online. Today, there are 346 members and the site handles over 1.4 million Common Apps annually!

Even if a school does not accept the Common App, chances are it has its own online application. Some schools even require students to apply online. The first undergraduate program to do so was West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2000. (Before 2000, most schools shied away from such a requirement in the fear that it would discourage applicants without Internet access.)

Today, the majority of schools require online applications, although it is hard to know exactly how many. Some schools no longer offer custom paper applications, but will still accept the paper Common App. Be sure to check each school’s website for its individual application requirements.

And don’t forget that good old pen and paper can still come in handy. Before applying online, it may help your child to print out a copy of the application to draft his or her answers by hand first. After clicking send, you should print out a copy of the confirmation page that the college has received the application to keep on file.

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