College Applications — Tips from the Trenches

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College applications have a way of taking the fun right out of a holiday week.  It ‘s a cloud dark enough for a Stormchaser. Nine college essays to write.  Four unique college applications to complete.  Seven different supplements to the Common Application to finish.  Plus a lot of housekeeping regarding transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, etc.  But we have nine days of freedom!  WE CAN DO THIS!

So how did our big plan go?  Well…..maybe we were a little over-ambitious.  Week’s tally:  We’ve sent in four applications, have seven left to complete with five essays in various states of completion ranging from topic selected to draft written.  Looks like the Cloud will be over our house through the Christmas holiday.

College Application LESSONS

We learned and relearned a few things over the Thanksgiving break.  Our University of California apps were due Nov. 30 so they were first up.  Two essays done.  Checked, and re-checked and re-re-checked the application and finally hit “SEND” on 11/27.  That took more time than we expected but, hey, it was the first one and the rest are pretty much like it.  We’ll fly through the rest.  Won’t we?  LESSON:  Things take longer than you think.

The common app went pretty smoothly.  But since it goes to seven of our schools we did a lot of re-checking and tweaking.  The first supplement was clicking along when, after completing the 4th of four 100 word answers, the page closed and deleted it all — timed out because the site had a 40 minute time limit.   AAArrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhh!   Unfortunately, most of the applications won’t allow you to save until you have completed a section. LESSON:  Compose all answers in a WORD document and paste into the application!  Does this seem to be an unnecessarily stressful set-up to you?

Getting all test scores sent to the schools was a bit more involved than I had hoped.  I took over and ended up calling the College Planner for some help on finding records of which schools already had the scores (when your student signed up to take the SAT and ACT, they listed some schools to receive the scores) and how to arrange for the other schools to get them.  LESSON:  Have your credit card in hand because they don’t take PAY PAL.

We also realized that one of the schools wants a recommendation from a counselor and, at our high school, those requests must go through the registrar and must be accompanied by the completed application.  Huh?  What if the application isn’t due for another month and will be sent digitally?  LESSON:  Anticipate some senseless hoops to jump at the local level before this is over.

College Applications Doghouse

More than one of our friends is in the doghouse with their child.  The crime:  too much meddling on the ESSAY!  Considering we are about to fork over half our life savings for this whole college deal, it is forgivable that you, the parent, might care about your child’s college essay more than, say, the paper on Hamlet.  After all, you want to get the biggest bang out of those bucks – the best education your money can buy – and that means you have a stake in that college application essay.

Actually, no.  It is your child’s work, their unique expression of who they are and how they think.  Your feedback must be constructive.  That means limited to editing the grammar and suggesting places where their wording could be more clear.  That said, if the damage is done and you’ve overstepped a bit, console yourself that you are in a pretty big club and your best shot at recovery is to acknowledge your error and offer support.

Then leave the vicinity.  Go out and do errands.  You might bump into some friends.

Mary Handfelt and her twelfth grader are doing the college thing in San Diego.  Follow us at imwritehere.

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Avatar of Mary HandfeltAbout the author: Mary Handfelt (55 Posts)

I'm a writer, a teacher, an artist. I'm a wife, and a daughter of an aging parent. I'm the mom of two grown kids who have really taught me almost everything worth knowing. I love them all but they claim I love our dog, Molly, the best. (They could be right !!!! )

 

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