When it comes time to choose which schools will receive your college application and when you'll send it, you can also choose how you're going to send it — online or by regular mail. Is one type of application better than the other? Not necessarily, but one may suit your needs better. No college is going to toss your application out the window based on the format you decide to use. They wouldn't offer you options if they didn't want you to use them!
Benefits of applying online
Completing your application for college online makes a lot of sense. It's easier to correct your errors than it used to be, and many people find it faster to type than to write things out by hand. It's certainly not perfect, but most people find that technology makes things easier, even though it has its own unique wrinkles.
But remember that you still have to proofread everything; never rely on spell check to do that for you! But even so, you can switch things around by pressing a few buttons and VOILA! All ready to go.
Not all electronic college applications are created equal
Some can be downloaded, completed, and submitted entirely electronically. Others can be completed online, but need to be printed and mailed. Last but not least, there are others that have to be printed and then filled out and mailed — which is basically the same as completing a paper application.
Ask about college application options
Check out what your colleges offer as far as applying. You don't have to be a computer whiz to take advantage of online options since many sites have direct links to their electronic application (or to the college common application) if they offer one. If you're at all confused about what you need to do, then try calling the school to get the clarification you need.
Obviously, deadlines still apply, as does common sense: read all the directions about submitting paperwork, including letters of recommendation and transcripts — and don't wait until the last minute to get everything turned in.
One-stop application sites
You might prefer to apply via a one-stop-shopping site. The advantage here is that you can save your college applications in mid-stream, keep track of schools where you've applied, and see which applications you still need to finish. The disadvantage is that not all of these sites provide application materials for every college (or certain colleges won't accept their format) and if you're not a good record keeper, you may lose track of forms you haven't finished.
Potential application fee discount
When you apply electronically, you'll probably need to pay your application fees with a credit card or by sending a check in the mail. In some cases, you may even save yourself some money with schools that offer fee discounts or fee waivers when you apply online instead of mailing in a college application form.
Follow up on your application for college
Before you send off your final product, be sure you're happy with the results of your hard work. Once you click the "send" button you probably won't be able to go back in and change anything. Keep a copy of what you send, and keep an eye out for a return receipt in your e-mail — if you don't get one, call and make sure the school has received your application. Once you've got it all taken care of, there's still one thing left to do that even technology can't change — wait for a decision.