8 top tips for applying to collegeMarlene Kern Fischer
If your high school senior was accepted to college Early Decision or Early Action, or has other plans for next year, you may be sailing through this winter (well, in some places wading through blizzards and slip-sliding on ice) with a sparkle in your eye and lots of energy to finally spend on your own life and goals.
However, if you are anything like me (the mother of a 17-year-old boy who finished submitting his final application hours before the February 1st deadline), you may need some moral support right now — not to mention a playbook for the next few weeks and months.
Even the parents of students who are “in” (having been accepted to one or more schools on their list) may be dealing with a serious case of “Senioritis” in our offspring.
First and foremost, we can help our seniors stay calm and grounded. Parents and kids alike need to keep perspective. (It’s hard to tune out the noise coming from other parents and their kids, in real life and on social media, but worth trying.) When you talk about college, remember that what matters isn’t the prestige of a school where they may (or may not) be admitted, but having options for next year to feel excited about. Not getting into a top choice school will hurt; we can help them acknowledge their disappointment and move on.
After receiving an application, colleges and universities typically contact the applicant by email. Sometimes they email parents as well about financial aid, honors opportunities, etc. This doesn’t mean your student is “in” but they should definitely open all emails from the school. If their application is incomplete, they should take care of this ASAP.
Be sure all financial aid application materials have been submitted. This may just mean submitting the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) but many schools also require the CSS Profile and sending tax returns via IDOC. Priority financial aid deadlines may have passed, but it is still worth applying to be considered for both need-based aid from the government and/or merit aid from the school.
That’s when many schools host admitted student programs (day or overnight). Unless your student’s choice is crystal clear, you may want to visit or revisit a few campuses as time and money allows.
On a related note, if your student has a school break right around the time notifications will arrive by mail or be available online (late March), you may want to get out of town for a few days or plan a fun day trip or two. Distractions are good.
Should your student consider submitting another application? Only if they’re unsure they’ll have options they feel good about (for example, if they have already received disappointing news from schools with early or rolling admissions). Many universities — mostly public, but a few privates, too — have rolling/late deadlines, some as late as May 1.
Meanwhile, we have to live with young people who have an ocean of swirling emotion under the surface (sometimes erupting in a geyser). They may also be testing their limits, a little or a lot. A friend of mine described it as being like "living with a bad roommate."
His dad and I remind our son stay focused on school; we get that he's a bit burned out, plus keen to have fun with his friends, but being a student is still his job. I'm trying to stay alert for those moments when unexpectedly he might share something important about how he's feeling. I honestly never know when it will happen.
What I do know: the finish line is in sight. Our high school seniors will get there, and so will we. In fact, maybe we shouldn't be in such a rush. Can we slow down a bit, walk the last lap? There’s much to enjoy about senior spring, for them and for us. Graduation will be here soon enough.