Could mobile forms play a pivotal role in higher education?

One of the most important steps in anyone's life is that of applying to, and enrolling in, college. With higher education on their side, people can achieve anything, from making long-lasting personal connections to advancing their academic and professional goals. The sky's the limit.

There's just one problem, though. For anyone who wants to go to school and get a two- or four-year degree of any kind, there's a major obstacle standing in the way: paperwork. To get into college, not to mention to apply for scholarships or for need-based financial aid, there are countless forms to be filled out, and this process can be extremely time-consuming and emotionally draining. Even if you're only applying to one school, it can be agonizing. If you're looking at a half-dozen or more? God help you.

There is optimism, however, that mobile form software can make a difference. Perhaps by using tablet-based technologies to speed up the process, educational institutions can remove some headaches and make it easier to get kids into school.

Organizing the process
One of the hardest things about applying to college is taking a wide variety of pieces of information, pooling them all together and not losing anything. According to the Cleveland Jewish News, managing all the little bits of data is a significant challenge. Renee Bischoff, interim director of college counseling at Hawken School, makes a full-time job of it.

"I work with students to organize their information ahead of time so that filling out the forms is easier than hunting for specific information - like when did Dad graduate from college?" Bischoff explained. "Once that information is in one place, then the student has a much easier time doing the busy work of filling out forms."

Imagine, though, if all that importing of data could be automated by a mobile app. Everyone would benefit - students would be spared some paperwork, and colleges would get a deep pool of strong applicants.

Helping with financing
In addition, students need to apply for financial aid. Paying for college is expensive, and a great many kids need help with it, but it's impossible to get that help without - you guessed it - filling out a whole lot of forms.

"The big issue with need-based aid is keeping track of deadlines and making sure documents and forms are submitted on time," said Bischoff. "As college costs continue to go up, the amount of financial support can be limited."

There's an obvious way to improve this process of managing and submitting paper documents. Using forms for iPad and other handheld devices would be a huge step in the right direction.

Cal Brown