Countdown to College
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Essays, applications and deadlines, oh my!
It’s October, which means college application season is already underway. As the class of 2013 slugs through personal statement essay revisions, while buried under a mountain of SAT vocabulary flashcards, we’d like to offer a few words to the wise. We’ve consulted the experts and compiled a list of tips to help your family navigate the often-murky waters of the college admissions process, in hopes of providing some stress-reduction along the way.
1. DON’T PROCRASTINATE
The California State University application opened October 1, and the University of California online application opens November 1. “Last year during this time, I set alarms on my cell phone to give myself a schedule of when I should have certain parts of my application done. That gave me enough time to double-check all parts before submitting my apps,” Joshua Offenstein, Sacramento State freshman, says. Time management is key. Start today.
2. APPLY BROADLY
Joe Fisher, admissions and outreach counselor at Sacramento State, says, “I like to recommend students apply to their dream school, an attainable choice, and a fallback. You never know how competitive a campus will be from year to year.” If the $40-$65 price tag per application is making you cringe, check out porcelina.net/freeapps for a list of U.S. colleges and universities that don’t charge application fees under certain circumstances.
3. AFTER APPLYING, CHECK YOUR EMAIL AND WRITE DOWN PASSWORDS!
“It’s incredible how often I see really bright, college-bound students who are puzzled because they haven’t heard back from a school to which they’ve applied,” says Kara McGuire, head counselor at Casa Roble High School in Orangevale. “Nine times out of 10, they aren’t checking their emails or Web portals.” Fisher concurs. “Most (if not all) communication from universities will be through email.” Check it! And while we’re on the subject of email, we suggest using a simple, professional email address. You’re applying to college; time to retire the cutesy one you made back in fourth grade.
4. KEEP YOUR KID ORGANIZED
Putting deadlines on a family calendar is helpful, as well as a special file folder with all college-related paperwork. Fisher says, “Thousands of students per year have their applications withdrawn from consideration for not meeting deadlines, such as sending in their SAT/ACT scores or their transcripts on time.” Offenstein agrees. “I don’t know how many times I called to have the receipt of something confirmed. To think if I didn’t follow-up and didn’t know I was missing something – well, let’s not go there.”
5. PROVIDE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
This might seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t it YOU who needs support with the empty-nest syndrome approaching? Yes. But for now, the most stressful time isn’t filing the applications; rather, it’s waiting for the admissions decisions. “You might notice you and your student are fighting way more than usual,” McGuire explains. “This is normal. As parents, we want to keep our babies with us, while our seniors are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of childhood. It’s a transition. Be gentle with each other.”
5 ESSENTIAL COLLEGE ADMISSIONS WEB SITES
californiacolleges.edu: features a side-by-side comparison tool for all schools in California
commonapp.org: for hundreds of independent colleges’ applications, nationwide
csumentor.edu: for all California State University schools’ applications
porcelina.net/freeapps: for a list of free college applications
universityofcalifornia.edu: for all University of California schools’ applications