With so much at stake when college applications are due, it's not
surprising that students often feel overwhelmed. Faced with increasing pressure
on their college-bound student and a mountain of paperwork for themselves,
it can be hard for parents to know their role in the application process.
in mind that it's your child who's applying for college -- not you. It might
also help to remember that many of the rules have changed since you faced
college applications, so be sure to read any instructions carefully if you
are involved in helping with applications.
Your exact role in the
application process will depend a lot on your student and their plans. Often,
parents are asked to provide information for financial aid forms. You might
also find yourself offering moral support and assisting with application organization
-- there's a lot to keep track of when a student is applying for college!
To help your child ensure all the bases have been covered, here's an overview
of the college application process.
general, schools will look at the following factors: high school courses,
grade point average (GPA), class ranking, test scores (SAT/ACT), personal
essays, extracurricular activities, other personal or special skills, and
letters of recommendation. Sometimes a school will conduct an entrance interview.
said that, every college is going to weigh these factors differently and some
schools may not require all of them. Your best bet is to read the college
material and try to get a feel for a particular school's philosophy. It might
be explicitly stated in the college's application calendar, but if you want
clarification, look at last year's freshman records or discuss it with an
step is to gather the information required for the application. Entrance requirements
can differ for every college, so pay close attention to the application forms
to make sure your student has everything they need. The earlier they know
the requirements of each school, the better.
They might want to start
by printing off a copy of each application form which they will fill in as
a draft. They can also create a file folder for each school to store copies
of all materials sent to that school. They should put the date on everything
so you'll both know when each application was mailed out.
all the admissions deadlines on a calendar or in a date book -- and check
it often. You may want to record the deadline dates on the outside of each
folder as well.
Applications should be
proofread carefully by someone other than the person who filled them out in
order to double-check spelling, grammar, the name of the school and any numbers
the student had to enter. Sloppiness or inaccuracies make for a bad first
impression, and a second set of eyes -- maybe yours -- can help avoid unnecessary
errors. Catch the errors in the practice copy, so the real application can
be filled in neatly.
be requested from high schools early, at least a few weeks before the college
needs the transcript.
Most of the time, transcripts will be sent directly
to the college, so your student won't have to worry about sending it themselves
unless they're directed to do so. Make sure they know what the school prefers.
colleges don't need letters of recommendation. Some only require the letters
for scholarship applications.
Check how many your student will need
and who they should be from. (For example, are they looking for any teacher
or a particular subject teacher?) Once the student knows exactly what they
need, make a list of possible names. The best references will know your child
well -- as a student and as a person -- and will be willing to write a unique
and positive assessment of their abilities and attributes.
should approach potential references early in their senior year, to allow
lots of time for a thoughtful letter to be composed. Therefore, they'll want
to tackle this now if they haven't already.
Finally, the letters of
recommendation should be enclosed in sealed envelopes with the application
materials, or sent directly to the college by the letter writer if that's
what the school wants.
Not all colleges
require an essay. But if they do ask for one, consider it a blessing. Think
of it this way: an essay offers a chance for the real student to shine through
to the admissions board.
Contrary to popular belief, schools aren't
looking for studying machines -- they're looking for bright, well-rounded
people. The best essays are often personal, revealing the person behind the
Once again, it's important to proofread. If you feel confident
in your proofreading, help your child read through for things like redundancies
(repeating the same words or ideas), sentence fragments and incorrect punctuation.
Not many undergraduate programs require an interview,
except some selective programs such as engineering or nursing. For private,
independent colleges, however, interviews are often necessary. If your child
is facing an interview, you might want to help them rehearse before the big
Submitting the Applications
Be sure your child prints
copies of all applications to keep for their own records. They may also want
to update the colleges concerning any subsequent important events. For example,
if they take the SAT or ACT again and do better, or receive any awards, send
the new information along.