3 Ways to Assist Your Student With College Applications

Resist the temptation

As a high school counselor, I often ask students to log into their Common Application account or college specific application portal. This is usually because they have a question or need clarification on an item.  It is commonplace for students to tell me that they do not know their login information or that their parents completed the application on their behalf.  In that awkward moment, the student may feel inadequate or ashamed, and their confidence has been shaken. I realize that  convenience, your own nervous energy, or your student’s lack of motivation may fuel your desire to start their applications. However, I urge you to resist the temptation to complete applications for your child.  There is a better way to approach this.

Senior year is tough

Senior year of high school is a time of transition.  Students are acutely aware that their whole lives will soon change.  Up until this point in their existence, almost everything has been structured for them.  They will no longer be able to count on their 5:30 pm band practice or their 6:00 am weight lifting.  They know what to expect from high school, their sports teams, their friendships and relationships.  The thought of it all changing evokes a very real sense of fear.  Some students may be undecided on their plans, and not even be certain about the idea of college at all. Many of these students have not made many adult-like decisions, which is overwhelming.  You are likely to notice changes in this year – some of which may be scary for you too. If your student starts to “check out” of high school early, it  may also be a natural part of their transition to college.

Not a lack of motivation

For many parents, their student’s hesitancy to start or complete college applications and essays is stress inducing.  Keep in mind that this is a completely new experience for them.  They are likely very nervous about the process and not even sure how to begin.  I like to recommend that students begin to create accounts for the application portals and complete the basic information portions for their applications in the summer, just before their senior year classes resume.  Have them complete as much information as they are able to without assistance.  This way, they will have a head start on the task and they will not have to face this mountain while they are also adjusting to their senior classes.  Encourage them to see their high school counselor upon return to school so that they can ensure that the information about their high school is accurate and that transcripts are sent.  To make the most out of the students’ appointment with their counselor, have your student prepare a list of questions, even if directed by you.

How you can support

  • Set up a time to sit down with your student and review the websites, databases, and logins your student will need to get started. Have them make decisions on Early Action or Early Decision schools.
  • Sit with them only for the first application. Guide them through it, but do not hover. Wait for them to ask you a question, rather than dictating the experience.
  • Help them set a goal of completion and break down the entire task into smaller, more manageable parts.

Completing their applications on their own is a rite of passage.  It is one of the first adult steps they get to take.  Doing so will give them a sense of ownership and accomplishment, and empower them to begin their collegiate experience on their own.   As difficult as it is to take a step back as a parent, it is truly important for them to take it themselves.  This is a time for you to trust all of the efforts you have made as  parents.  The counselors at My College Planning Team can help lift this burden for you and help your student throughout the entire process.



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