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Watch Your Language in Online Applications

Senior Consultant Nancy Peterson notes that on-line college applications have made the college application process much easier. There's much less paper to keep track of now, and much less need to enter and re-enter the same information into different forms. Applicants can be grateful for that.

But they need to be careful, too, says Nancy. The very convenience of online applications can lure students into making potentially deadly mistakes.

"The majority of students applying to undergraduate colleges are now taking advantage of the opportunity to apply online," she says. "That's great, because it means applicants avoid the hassle of collecting the right papers into the right envelopes to meet a deadline.

"They also benefit from knowing that their applications are received instantly.

"They can even benefit financially – many colleges waive the application processing fee for students who apply online, because it's easier for them to handle electronic applications.

"But here's a word of caution," she adds. "Some admissions deans say that the online format leads students to be too casual in their responses, especially in replies to short-answer questions.

"Students may unintentionally fall into using an overly-familiar, almost 'instant messaging' writing style, simply because they are writing online. It sends the wrong message. Online applicants should be sure to complete every item on their forms as thoroughly and seriously as they would if they were writing out responses on paper!"

– Nancy Peterson has over 15 years of college admissions committee experience and is the former Associate Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Southern Methodist University.

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