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Step 1 for Seniors: Compose the College List

Posted on 10/16/2017, by Dr. Ellen Fithian to Parents of 12th Graders (0 comments)


I have a recurring nightmare in which I’m back at college, strolling across the quad, when I suddenly come to the heart-stopping realization that I have a final exam looming in an hour. Somehow I’ve completely neglected to study for it - and now that I think about it, I haven’t even attended class for the last several weeks! How on earth, my dreaming self wonders, did I let that happen?!!

Parents of countless high school seniors are asking themselves the same question as the college application process rears up in front of them. Why, they ask themselves, didn’t they spend more time researching colleges and making campus visits before now? Why didn’t they pry the TV remote, computer, and iphone out of Junior’s hands and force him to start working on his Common Application and essays over the summer, as they intended?

Meanwhile, Junior is experiencing his own angst. He spent the month of August reading Crime and Punishment and slogging through review packets for AP chemistry, calculus, and French. Now that school is back in session he’s climbed back onto his hamster wheel schedule of classes, homework, band practice, and tutoring for Key Club. Somehow, in the midst of all this, he also needs to find time to take a few more standardized tests, send scores to colleges, complete applications, request letters of recommendation, and write several inspired essays.

What do you do now?

When I have a lineup of household duties to dispatch - say paying bills, doing laundry, shopping for food, and so on, I typically just jump in and start with the least disagreeable one. Completing it and crossing it off my list energizes me to tackle the next item. Many students approach their college applications in just such a manner; choosing one or two to start, completing those and then moving on to the next batch.

Unfortunately, this is not the best strategy. Unlike the list of unrelated household chores just described, college application tasks are both interrelated and time-sensitive, so taking an integrated approach is far more efficient than working on one or two applications at a time.

Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for twelve provides a more useful analogy for managing the college application process.The best approach to the Thanksgiving challenge would be to decide on all your menu items first, then make a list of the ingredients you need from the grocery and go to the store once - a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. The haphazard method, preparing one or two items at a time and freezing them for later, would result in your consulting menus, making grocery lists, and running to the supermarket several times. Furthermore, if you postponed buying a turkey until a few days before Thanksgiving, you might end up having to serve a big chicken instead.

Similarly, if you begin the college application process by composing a list of all the colleges to which your teen will apply, you can check the testing requirements, types of early application plans, and deadlines for applications and scholarships for all the schools in one sitting. Your teen will also be able to send her test scores once instead of several times. Finally, by collecting information early you'll avoid discovering in December that she's missed a deadline for merit scholarship consideration at the most expensive school.

Applying to college is hard enough when it’s done right, but becomes downright hair-pulling when approached haphazardly. So work with your teen to compose the list of colleges as the first step.

Need help creating the list? If your son has already compiled a list of contenders and just needs to narrow it down, read Compose the List.  If he hasn't even gotten that far,begin here: Start the Search.


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Posted on 10/16/2017, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)

 

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