Applying to College isn’t for Amateurs

It was about a year ago at this time, that our son began the application process to transfer from the junior college to a four-year school. I remember standing behind him watching him fill out the Common App online. He flew through it as if filling in the answers demanded the same fast-twitch reflexes as a first-person shooter. He hit the “Submit” button while I was still stuttering to say, “Are you sure you don’t want to check your essay for typos one more time?”

It’s hard for me to argue that he should have taken a more considered approach; he got accepted at his first two choices.

Then I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about parents who quit their jobs so they could devote themselves completely to helping their child through the college application process. Based on my experience with our son, this seemed like the higher education version of parents doing their kid’s fourth grade science fair project. Shouldn’t the students be filling out their own applications?

Fast forward a year to our driven, type A(+)daughter’s college application process. After selecting nine potential schools, she created an Excel grid of their due dates, essay requirements, contact info, etc and posted it on her wall. Then the process seemed to come to a halt.

When we would ask her, she said that she wanted to do some more “art” for her college app portfolio. After a couple of weeks of this we realized that she was probably over-whelmed and was using adding to her portfolio as an excuse to put off tackling the immense amount of work to apply. No two schools have exactly the same requirements and navigating her way through complex websites to figure the details was certainly daunting.

Then there are applications themselves”¦supplemental applications and departmental supplements to the supplemental apps”¦and all of them require specific essays. And don’t try and take any shortcuts because as the University of Southern California website warns, “We can tell when a recycled essay has been changed only slightly to fit one of the topics.”

With the early action deadline for some of the candidate schools fast approaching, we sat her down and after two hours of “whatevers” and moping, we extracted an admission that she needed our help.

Since that conversation, any time that Valerie isn’t doing homework, has been spent sitting in front of the computer with her as she slogs her way through this tedious process. She’s still the one doing all the work; I just proofread her essays and encourage her as she clicks “Submit” that her hard work will be rewarded.

And here’s good news, she doesn’t even have to wait to find out where she’s been accepted to reap her reward because another two weeks and she’ll mostly be done ““ after which I’ve promised Valerie and myself a shopping trip to Nordstrom Rack.

Wherever Valerie eventually enrolls, I have now an appreciation for that mom who quit her job to get her daughter into a good school. Applying to college may not be a full-time job, but it certainly feels like it.



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