Saturday, February 4, 2012

College Applications: 5 Tips for Applicants and Parents

As second semester is sailing into spring, juniors are now prepping for their SATs, ACTs and looking at colleges.  This summer many are planning their trips to visit colleges they would like to attend for their next step in education.  A special guest post by Debbie Lawrence from has some very good tips for both parents and students to take advantage of.

5 Easy Ways to Help Prepare Your Kid(s) for College Applications

The end of junior year of high school is a time for both celebration and organization. While the end of the year allows students to breathe a collective sigh of relief, they don’t get to relax for too long before being submerged into the deep waters of the college application process. It can be an exciting time for students, who can finally see college on the horizon, but for many it can also be a daunting experience. This is why it’s important that parents play a supporting role in the college application process, whether their son/daughter likes it or not. While many students think that parental advice and encouragement is akin to nagging, students usually come to appreciate all of the help they received.

As a parent, you play a pivotal role in helping your student streamline the applications process and while it can be time-consuming, it is also worthwhile. There is an easy way to approach this nerve-wracking
experience though – it’s called thinking ahead.

Here are five simple ways to help prepare you and your kid(s) for the college application process without the unwanted stress:
  1. Help them make a checklist
College applications usually require a number of different pieces to come together, and that is often difficult for a high school student who has limited experience managing their time, which is where you come in. Don’t make the list for them, but help them make a list of all the different essays and transcripts and recommendations they will need to complete the applications. That way, when it comes time to actually submit the application, your student can refer to their list to ensure they aren’t missing a crucial part of the application.
  1. Research the financial aid possibilities with them
Let’s face it, unless your student is Justin Bieber or Dakota Fanning, the money for college is either going to come from you, from financial aid, or from a combination of the two. Also, most high school students understand the cost of college, but because they aren’t paying the bills themselves, cost is low on their list of priorities.  If you want your student to be fiscally responsible, involve them in the financial aid research and decision-making process, and work with them to guide their decisions.
  1. Use the common application for as many schools as possible.
According to its website, the common application now has 456 member schools in 46 different states as well as France, Germany, Italy, Scotland, and Switzerland. This means the chances are high that, if your student is looking at a bunch of schools, some of those schools are common application members. Gathering all the information that the common application requires is quite the undertaking, and most schools still have additional, school-specific requirements. But once you have collected all of the information, you can use that same information to apply to as many member schools as you want. This will save you and your student countless hours of tedious work and will make the application process more efficient.
  1. Discuss interests and options with your student
This can be tricky because some students will see this as nagging, but it is still important to get your student thinking about their future, especially because high school students tend to live in the present. Trying to push them towards a school or program will undoubtedly backfire, so just listen instead. Let your student decide what programs and extracurriculars he might be interested in, and then present him with some schools that fit his/her interests best. Moreover, this is a great opportunity to find a tutor in order to give them some SAT help or help them improve any weaknesses in subjects that they might be struggling with. 

5.      Always offer your help and be supportive of their decisions.
Some kids don’t want any help from their parents and respond negatively when they try. They want you to trust that they will do their own applications while also offering help if they have questions. Maintaining a positive atmosphere is essential when the deadlines are just a stone’s throw away and your student is experiencing all-time stress levels. Remember, you were there once too, and the same things you wish you had done differently could be the same things your child may regret in the future. We all know you just want the best for them, and they will have it, once this process is all over.

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