As soon as Joseph Wiesenberg of Poway, Calif., knew that he wanted to attend California State Polytechnic University, he turned his browser to the school’s website and applied online. There, the 18-year-old was able to transfer his high school transcripts, upload personal essays and learn more about his prospective computer science major. He even paid the $55 application fee (with his parent’s credit card). Time elapsed: about one hour.
Online college applications, many of which are due Jan. 1 for the the next school year, are not new. Admissions experts say that more than 75 percent of colleges nationally offer similar online applications. What has changed: Students (and their parents) are now much more comfortable submitting their qualifications online, with almost 60 percent of students applying without paper of any kind. That’s a sharp rise from two years ago, when the journal eSchool News cited a sub-30 percent rate at many schools.
Students tout the technology for its convenience, while academics and admissions officers hail it for streamlining a data-entry laden admissions process that historically cost millions. Some schools have announced that they will require all students to apply online by 2005.
Cal Poly is one of those schools. The online application for the Pomona, Calif.-based institution is the brainchild of programmers at Xap Corp. of Culver City, Calif., which hosts a similar feature for more than 700 schools nationally. Applicants visiting one of these sites enter their applications into pages hosted by the Xap server. Nightly, technologists at each school download the data through a webpage with secure sockets layer encryption, then upload applications directly into their administrative systems. In minutes, they do what formerly took data-entry workers months. And students can visit Xap.com or CollegeNET.com and apply to multiple schools at once.
Some schools have homegrown systems. At the University of California, Senior Online Communications Analyst Hosanna Stevens says she’s spent the past year building Pathways, which enables admissions directors at 10 schools to download data directly into their systems.
“On both sides of the screen, students and admissions people are amazed at what we’ve been able to do,” says Stevens.