Different children take different approaches to managing the college application process
Having been through the college application process three times, one would think that I would be able to do the fourth child without any hassles. Not true. Each child has their own method of applying and unfortunately, I had to find a way to adapt.
My first child needed constant needling. When her applications were completed, her essays were beautifully written and the application was done to perfection.
- Determine which CLASSROOM teachers can write the best recommendation. These should be teachers who truly know your child. Let’s face it; your child could be completing applications during the first few months of the year, too soon for senior year teachers to evaluate your students’ work ethic. If your student is planning on majoring in a performing or visual art, or sports-related fields, these teachers and coaches could be the best choice for a recommendation. Plan to ask the teacher at least two weeks ahead of the deadline; supply the teacher with all required forms and a stamped envelope addressed to the college. Let the teacher know if you would like him/her to do recommendations for multiple colleges so he/she can retain the recommendation on a computer and tailor it to each university’s requirements.
- Have your child make an appointment with the guidance counselor. Most applications require both a transcript from the school and a recommendation by the guidance counselor. The more selective the school, the more important this recommendation can be. If the department does not usually meet with each junior for a “recommendation interview” it would be helpful for your student to make such an appointment. With hundreds of students under their wing, most counselors cannot be experts on each child and his, or her, accomplishments. Complete the forms to have transcripts sent to each college and pay the fee, (usually $2 each) to cover the cost of copying and postage.
- Create a resume of activities. Your child may have already done so as an assignment for English class. Unlike a work-related resume, this resume lists school activities, honors, offices held and volunteer work as well as work experience. It will be an invaluable source of information for applications for admission, for scholarships and for honorary organizations, such as National Honor Society.
- Start early and keep copies! Most colleges allow students to apply online. 300 colleges now use the Common Application; students complete one application online and list the schools who should receive it. There is usually an additional essay or short form to complete for each school.
- Keep a record of everything! This might involve more than nagging as you may need to create the organizational plan.
My second child required little assistance. He met with his high school counselor and determined what schools were the “safe” schools and which would be the “reach” schools. He completed the applications without difficulty, made a list of the colleges that he applied to and we waited for his acceptance letters.
My third child was very similar to the second one. Both of those children attended the same school, so I was very familiar with the process, the counselors and deadlines.
My fourth child, a girl, has made this process quite challenging. I have never been so scattered with information than ever before. She has applied to approximately 10 schools. For the most part she has gotten her required documentation in on time such as SAT scores, high school transcripts, recommendations and essays. Where she has been lacking is her inability to express to us exactly which colleges she has applied to and any special requirements that may be needed. Rather than discuss the schools she is applying to with a team approach, we often hear about a new school that she is applying to only by way of a problem. For example, no SAT scores were submitted. I thought this process would be as similar as my previous experiences, but I was wrong. I should never assume anything! Although she had done the necessary paperwork, her organization skills were weak. I tried sharing with her experiences from her siblings and some of my own to help her organize her applications.
- List of colleges; which ones did you apply to?
- Early action, early decision or regular decision? We did not apply early decision to any college. It was either early action or regular decision.
- Any supplements due? Some colleges required additional applications for scholarships.
- Did we pay the correct fee? Some application fees can be waived.
- Is the application complete? Are all the necessary documents sent to the college and which ones are pending?
This table was a wonderful addition. We refer to it constantly and now that the application process is complete, all we have to do is wait for the acceptance letters. Every child is different and mine was no exception. I should have had the foresight to realize that she had never been through anything like this before. Although her siblings had, she had not. Developing a plan of action that was individualized enabled us to transition through the process more smoothly.