College admission enters digital age with online forms

Urbana High School senior Michael Chen wasted no time filling out his application to the University of Illinois last month, The News-Gazette reports.

Officially set to debut Sept. 1, the new online application for the UI’s Urbana-Champaign campus went live ahead of schedule, on Aug. 28. Within two days, Chen was ready to hit “submit.”

Once he did, his application was complete — no more waiting for his transcripts to be sent in.

The application includes a “Self-Reported Academic Record,” in which students fill in their own courses and grades. The campus only requires official transcripts from students who accept its offer of admission.

“It took me about 5 to 10 minutes to finish that part. It’s pretty simple, and convenient,” said Chen, an aspiring pre-med biology major.

This will be the third year the UI uses the Self-Reported Academic Record. So far the process has worked well, with just a handful of students caught fibbing about their grades each year, according to Stacey Kostell, UI director of admissions.

It’s just the latest example of how the college admission process has embraced digital technology.

Online applications are now the norm. And more and more schools are joining the Common Application Consortium, which allows students to apply to numerous universities with one application.

The Urbana campus has resisted so far, as the Common App currently can’t accommodate everything the UI wants to do with its own application, such as the Self-Reported Academic Record. But the UI Chicago joined last year, and the number of schools in the consortium now exceeds 500.

… The types of information collected by the UI hasn’t changed — the two essay questions are still included — but admissions officials hope they’ve made the process easier.

For one thing, the questions are dynamic. If a student answers that he or she has been a resident of Illinois since birth, the application skips additional residency-related questions.

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