The school year is beginning, and if you’re the parent of a teen applying to college this season, you know there’s a lot more to think about this fall beyond the usual back-to-school fare.
Applying to college is a complex process, and it can feel overwhelming as your student also navigates school and extracurricular activities. With some careful planning and support, however, your family can balance college application season with the rest of life.
An essential part of balancing the application process is planning ahead, ideally as early as possible. Once your student has made their college list, sit down with them and look at each college’s application deadlines, and write them all down on a calendar. Take advantage of tools like shared Google calendars!
Is your teen planning on applying Early Decision or Early Action to their top-choice school? If so, include those early application deadlines on your timeline. Just knowing when things are due can take a huge amount of stress out of the process.
Once you and your student have application deadlines down, it’s a great idea to look at the requirements for each application. Now is the time to gather transcripts and make sure your letters of recommendation are ready to go. The planning process should include a conversation about your student’s standardized test scores, and where they’ll submit them if any of their schools are test-optional.
If your student is applying using the Common Application, they’ll need to write a 650-word personal statement (you can read our tips on helping your student with this essay here). Many colleges also require supplemental essays as part of their application.
The Common App makes it fairly easy to find the essay requirements, including prompts and word counts, for each school your student is applying to. Work together with your student to make a regular schedule for writing their essays. Keep in mind that writing takes time, and they’ll probably need to go through multiple drafts of some essays. Planning ahead and blocking off regularly scheduled time to write and revise the essays will ensure that your student will be prepared when those deadlines arrive.
It’s important for your teen to keep their grades up and get the most out of school their senior year. Planning the college application process around your student’s school schedule can be tricky, but it can be done!
As you’re helping create your teen’s application schedule, look for blocks of time that can work around their school and extracurricular commitments. Don’t neglect times like lunch breaks and quiet weekend mornings, remembering that even one hour working on an essay can make a big difference.
Applying to college can be stressful, especially for your student. Anxiety about being admitted to the right school can take a toll on students’ wellbeing, causing them to lose sleep and sacrifice self-care.
You can support your student during application season by helping them build conscious downtime into the schedule–time to relax, walk the dog, hang out with friends, or simply rest and recharge. Exercise and eating well are also essential for your student to thrive during this busy time. Encouraging your teen to take care of themselves will make the whole process better for them (and you!).
You can also support your teen by being a listening ear. Make yourself available to your student as a sounding board for questions about college, frustrations with the application process, and the challenges of balancing everything.
Knowing that you’re in this process together can ease a lot of the tension associated with this very busy time. Encourage your student to take deep breaths, and maybe even chat with them about everything they have to look forward to once this process is finished (how will they decorate their dorm room?). With planning and support, your family can manage application season and have some fun along the way.