Question: I'm a rising senior nervously waiting for the college-application season to begin. I read a book that says that "some colleges encourage online applications...[to make] their well-publicized rejections seem higher." I was wondering if this means that there is a disadvantage to applying colleges online. Is it true that applying online will lower one's likelihood of acceptance, especially at the most competitive colleges?
There's no disadvantage to applying online for the reason you cite. The book you read was simply suggesting that, by making applying easier, more students are apt to apply, and then the colleges can issue a larger number rejections, thus appearing more "selective." It DOESN'T mean that students who apply online stand a greater chance of being turned away.
However, since I'm something of an old-fashioned girl myself, I usually recommend applying online only when:
The college Web site (or other application materials) specifically state that online applications are preferred
The college waives or reduces its fee for online applicants
But, if neither of the above is true, my preferred route is to use a paper application. Typically, you can print it out when you visit the college's Web site, and print extra copies if you mess up. Often the Common Application is an option, too, and that can be printed from the Web site or you can get a hard copy at your school guidance office.
When using a paper application, you don't need to type. No one has typewriters anymore, and--even if you do--those nasty lines and small spaces pose a challenge for even the most skilled typists. Instead, you can neatly hand-write your responses and attach separate computer-generated sheets for essays, activities lists, short-answer questions, etc., as needed.
I feel that seeing a student's printing (assuming it's not abysmal) personalizes the process at least a tiny bit. However, it's not something I feel strongly about, and if you prefer to complete your forms online, don't worry that this will make you a second-class citizen at decision time.