Even though Halloween was nearly a month ago, I’ve just had another spooky experience that was way more terrifying that I could have ever imagined.
It was surviving the college application process.
My eldest is a high school senior who is applying to college this fall. Although I’ve been trying to patiently lend my support while she navigates her way through this daunting process, it’s been so complicated and convoluted that I’ve sweated out my edges and started biting my nails.
When we haven’t been stressing over essays, resumes and transcripts, we’ve been haggling over the merit of SAT subject tests or fretting over a sundry list of other application woes.
Back in the dark ages when I applied to college, I had to type out each application individually on my parents’ faithful IBM Selectric.
Today, there’s the Common Application. It’s like the Amazon of the online college application process. The Common App allows kids to apply to multiple colleges and universities of their choice online, in one fail swoop. (I’m still trying to figure out if there’s such a thing as Common App Prime so I can get a break on these registration fees).
Then there’s the choice of applying Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Action, or Early Decision II, and it the list seems to go on. I’m surprised there’s not an option for the You Gotta Be Kidding Decision for those students who have procrastinated way past the application deadline.
Turns out the difference in terminology is whether you want your student to enter into binding agreement with a university (Early Decision), apply early without a commitment to attend (Early Action), or simply wait to apply with the unwashed masses in January (Regular Action).
Oh, and did I mention the application fees alone can add up to the gross national product of a small developing nation, never mind the cost of actually attending college?
This whole process may make some parents want to put their heads in a dry cleaning bag, while others may be tempted to send their kids off to a Tibetan monastery instead of a four-year institution.
Here are a few parent survival tips that will turn the scary college application process into a Walk in the Park, instead of a frightening episode of The Walking Dead.
Limit your list: Over the past few years, your student has probably created a long list of schools in which they might be interested. Well, it is time to narrow that list down! Encourage your kid to make sure their list has a good mix of target, safety, and reach schools that they are genuinely interested in attending.
Also, your student should only want to keep schools that offer their intended major, or that provide a large variety of programs.
Make a connection: There is still plenty of time to make a connection with schools that your teen is interested in so tell them to not be shy! There are many opportunities to connect, like registering for an on-campus tour and information session, taking a virtual tour and connecting with a school over social media.
Be aware of application deadlines. Let’s face it, most schools have deadlines. The problem is that every school has a different application deadline, and it is easy to get confused. Make sure your student stays organized so she meets all of the appropriate deadlines her schools may have. For example, many of the early deadlines were Nov. 1, but don’t freak out. Most have final deadlines in January 2018.
Keep after those scholarships: Many scholarships have rolling deadlines. So be sure that you keep abreast of ones that your student might qualify for by using scholarship-finder sites like Scholly or using tools by Marianne Ragins author of Winning Scholarships for College and winner of more than $400,000 in scholarship money.
It’s their deal: Even though it’s hard not to get caught up in the anxiety, as parents we’ve just got to chill. The ultimate responsibility for the whole college application process rests with your kid. Although you can be supportive, know when to back off and let them manage this experience. Once they learn that the effort they put in is direct correlation to the end result, it helps them grow and excel in other areas of life. That will prove to be a valuable lesson once they leave the nest.
Finally, if you need decorating ideas for that new spare bedroom that you’re about to inherit – call me.