How to get your high school senior moving on college applications.
by Anne Vaccaro Brady
Some kids plow through their college applications, while others continue to avoid visiting a college website to start the first one. If yours is the latter, try these tips to get things underway.
Get involved Though I never advocate filling out the applications for your student, I do believe parents need to take an interest in the process and provide assistance where necessary. Don’t leave finding and applying to college solely on your teen’s shoulders.
Find out what’s keeping your student away Ask why they haven’t started or what’s preventing them from finishing. Try to keep the conversation relaxed, otherwise they’re likely to shut you out.
Some kids are afraid of what filling out an application means, you know, taking the next big step in their lives. Others are confused by the whole process, even overwhelmed. Or yours might be the one who’s just not interested in doing the work.
Whatever the issue, you need to find a way to help your student through, or find someone who can. That could be an older sibling, a favorite teacher or coach, the guidance counselor, or a beloved relative like a cousin, aunt or uncle.
Remind your student of your commitment I had to do this with my son who kept delaying filling out the first application. One night I firmly told him that his dad and I had put plenty of time and effort into helping him research majors, visit colleges, talk through a topic for his essay, edit that essay and decide where to apply. Plus, we would be footing the bill for his college tuition. The least he could do was use whatever free time he had to fill out the applications.
He finished his last application two weeks before our planned deadline.
Break down the process into more manageable pieces Some kids just don’t know where to begin. In that case, step in and offer some assistance.
Slice the pieces smaller. Create a new schedule that goes by days rather than weeks. Like one day for filling in the personal information on the application, another for academic info, another for activities, another for uploading the essay, etc. Whatever works.
Start with the Common App Since this one application can work for several colleges, completing the Common App, minus the individual supplements, can give your student a sense of accomplishment and motivate them to keep going and finish up.
Double-check deadlines against your original schedule As long as there’s still time to meet the application deadlines for the colleges on the list, move things around and make a new plan.
Take the lead cautiously Do small things yourself. If your son or daughter still hasn’t signed up for the SAT or ACT exam, then take care of it, as long as you’ve all agreed on a testing date. Call the guidance counselor to check the status of recommendations. These are the little things that will prevent bigger headaches later.
When it comes to the application, DO NOT fill it out on your own. Sit with your student and offer assistance, even type in their responses if they’re a lousy typer. Now is the time for them to learn to take some responsibility for their future.
Negotiate Employ your successful tactics with college applications. If your relationship generally works by bargaining, use that method here. Does restricting cell phone or car use work to get homework done? How about access to video games or television? Work with what your teen’s used to.
Gain a commitment Maybe your student really wants to do all their applications over Thanksgiving or Christmas break. That’s fine, as long as you get a guarantee they’ll keep their word.
You know your student best and what does or doesn’t motivate them. Use your parental instincts to guide your teen through this college application process. You’ll all benefit.
Please share what worked in your family for completing college applications in the comments section below. You might have the perfect solution for another family.