Recapping the College Apps: Part I

One of the things I’m thankful for this weekend is that Valerie, our high school senior, has completed her college applications. When she clicked on the “Submit” button on the online app for the last school, there was a huge sense of relief that this time-consuming and often tedious task was behind us. She has done the work and now whether or not she gets accepted is in the hands of the admissions committees. She’ll keep saying her prayers and wait to see what the mail brings in January.

So thinking back on the process, what did we learn? While it’s still fresh in my mind, I thought that for my blog this week and next, I would record some of our thoughts. Although none of these bits of advice are groundbreaking, they may be helpful to parents who have yet to go through the process”¦and reminders for me when we go through this again in four years with Valerie’s younger sister.

Start early. That sounds obvious. But a friend told me the story of her daughter frantically trying to finish her application on an uncle’s computer after Thanksgiving dinner. No one wants to spend the last weekend in November cramming to complete the applications by the end-of-the-month deadline. And given the quantity of information required by most schools, such as essays, lists of classes and grades, letters of recommendations and transcripts, it would probably be impossible to do it anyway. However, I’ll bet there’s a high school counselor or two with stories about getting panicked calls at home from seniors begging them to give them a printout of their high school record.

Valerie was fortunate to have a teacher who knew how overwhelming college applications could be so she got the process started last year. In her honors junior English class, her teacher assigned the two UC essays as the final writing exercise for the year. So even though Valerie had at least six essays she needed to do for the various schools and departments, she already had two of them done when she started the process. This gave her more time to refine the syntax and correct any elusive typos.

Starting early also allows time for the technological glitches. There were a couple of times when Valerie was ready to complete her application for a particular school but she wasn’t able to log on. We figured that every other student was also trying to check this school off their list and the websites were jammed to the point of not being functional. We were glad that she had a cushion of another 10 days before the deadline.

And I’m sure teachers who are writing letters of recommendation appreciate it when the student doesn’t ask for a letter and then say, “Oh, by the way, I need it tomorrow.” Of course, the student hopes the teacher will enumerate all their wonderful qualities. I think a teacher would be much more predisposed to do that if the student shows some common courtesy and gives them plenty of advance notice.

That’s my thoughts on the applications themselves. Next week I’ll share what we learned about how to get organized to manage the application process.

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