When it comes to applying to college, the essay can be the most frightening and daunting part. But the application is equally important. In fact, you can guarantee that no question asked on a college application is not ask without a specific intent or purpose. I remember my high school counselor telling me these exact words and they rang true at the last admissions event I went to a couple of years ago. The college applications and essay are the way in which colleges get to know your child – not just demographics.
Okay, they are demographics too. There are basically only online applications these days, which in my mind is good and bad. That said, they generally are going to fall into one of several types – state college and university applications, private school applications and The Common Application. Yeah there really is an application named The Common Application.
It actually can be somewhat of a time saver. Several schools have agreed to all use one base application to gather basic demographic information – name, parent names, parent addresses, previous education, etc. – but they have separate essay and short answer questions. Each school gets a separate submittal of The Common Application along with their corresponding essays and application fees.
Many state college and university systems use similar formats for their system of schools – using one application for all of their subsidiaries. Some private universities have their own applications.
Children should ALWAYS fill out their own applications but you absolutely want to make sure you review them. Teens are teens and a second pair of eyes are always important. I was surprised that my stepson AND my husband got my email address wrong on the common app – which would have been wrong on about 8 applications then. Also, what a teen thinks is a complete answer is not necessarily a complete answer. Again while you don’t want to do their short answer questions for them, it is definitely important that you or their English teacher review these. Grammar and content are so important as is succinctness.
The biggest advice that I can give when it comes to applications and essays – DO NOT LET THEM PROCRASTINATE. Having a set schedule with check ins on their progress. And I don’t mean, “So are you working on your college applications?” kind of a check in. Physically review what they have done, especially their essays. Don’t let them wait to the last week or weekend. You and/or their teachers will not be happy. If they need the extra “guidance”, set up a schedule with them and an understanding that their priority is applying for college and when they have done what they need to do for that week’s schedule, then they can go have fun. Even the best of kids can benefit from a little parental oversight.
Equally important is follow directions. If a college asks for you to fill out volunteer, extra curricular and job activities on the application, and your child opts to send in a resume instead, they have told the college admissions team far more than they ever intended to. If your child can’t follow simple directions on an admissions application, then what rules are they unwilling to follow when they get to a college. As an extension of this, send only what is asked for. College admissions offices get TONS of paperwork, packages and so much more during application time. Only send what is asked for. Your child, and you, shouldn’t assume the extra will be appreciated. Back to following directions.
When its time to submit the applications, get out your credit card. Each application comes with an application fee AND most require test score reporting, which also requires a fee. These application fees can range in fees as low as $40 to upwards of $90 while the reporting fees are around $15 for each school. A personal suggestion – start saving a little each month starting in their junior year if you can as a set aside for application fees and test reporting fees. Instead of touching college funds, this little set aside should cover the costs.
The last piece to keep in mind when it comes to applications is the deadline itself. Know EXACTLY when these are and make sure the applications AND all of its parts are in before it comes to a close. While most of the applications are online as are all of their submission elements, there are a few that have some hard copy submittal items such as resumes. Make sure that your child notes what these are and gets them in on time.
My next post will take a peek at the dreaded college essay. Until then!