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Helping Your Teen Apply to College

by Louise | September 1st, 2011 | Teen Perspective

Applying to college is a stressful process, for children and parents alike. It’s time-consuming and can be expensive. As a sophomore in college, I feel as though it all happened yesterday. There are really only three steps to the college application process. Unfortunately, those steps aren’t so easy. In no particular order (because they all seem to overlap), they are the following:

Choosing schools. It’s pretty hard nowadays to come across a college student who didn’t use College Board at some point during his or her application process. Become familiar with the Web site, but let your teen come up with a list. A typical student might apply to six colleges, but this can vary. Visiting schools can help narrow down a long list. A school guidance counselor can often make suggestions for a short list. Feel free to make your own suggestions, but don’t expect immediate interest from your teen; we assume that the schools which you like are probably not the ones we would like.

Filling out the application. With the rise of the Common Application, it is possible to apply to many colleges at once without much additional effort (for a fee). Your teen should be the only person filling out this application. It is essential that your teen honestly represent his or her own work. I cannot stress this enough: this is your teen’s application. Of course, you can provide the necessary biographical or financial information. You can double check that all the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed, though the process is electronic for most schools today. Concerning essays, if your teen needs help getting started, provide ideas, not sentences. Likewise, when proofreading, the help should be limited to grammatical and structural edits, or more general ideas.

Visiting colleges. College visits are critical in the college application process. Seeing a college’s statistics is one thing, but actually being on campus can change a teen’s mind, immediately. You don’t want this to be after deadlines have passed and final decisions have been made. As a parent, you should try to facilitate a good number of visits. Visits before applying to schools can help narrow down the list of potential candidates, but visits after help determine the ultimate decision. It can be helpful to weigh out the cost of visiting vs. the cost of applying. I recommend making local visits before applying to schools, and saving a long distance visit for after the verdicts have been given. (For better or worse, it might save you a trip.) Or, try to visit several faraway colleges on the same trip. In all situations, visit at least once before letting your child say yes.

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