Lessons I’ve Learned from a Year of Blogging about College Admissions

A few things about college admissions stand out to me.

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

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Plenty of parents need this information When I started this blog, I wondered if anyone would actually find it useful. In both the comments section and in-person, you’ve told me the posts have helped. I’m glad because I aim to choose topics based on what I remember I wanted to know when I was in your shoes, plus what parents ask me about and of course, trends and changes that impact families of soon-to-be or current college students.

College admissions isn’t getting any easier Here’s the reality—getting into college is tough, but not impossible. What’s making admissions so competitive is the fact that many high school seniors over apply. Horror stories about top students getting rejected from their safety schools prompts others to seek admission to 20 colleges instead of the more reasonable 6 or 8, or even 10.

Colleges encourage this behavior when they offer to waive application fees for students who don’t actually fit their criteria so that they can boast about their record number of applicants and selectivity.

This means grades matter, test prep is essential and most importantly, kids need to know how to sell themselves. This is the time to find out what actually makes your teen special.

Paying for college is a challenge The costs are high and most families don’t really have the available funds FAFSA says we do. Need-based financial aid helps the poorest applicants, but middle class kids tend to strap themselves with too much debt.

Contacting the college financial aid offices helps. Most will try to give more assistance if you plead a good case and their fund isn’t maxed out.

If you, as a parent, can’t help your student pay for college at all, talk with the financial aid office to find out what type of paperwork you must fill out so your teen can qualify for the maximum need-based aid. Also, help your senior look for other scholarships—from local organizations and online through finaid.org or fastweb.com.

Parents often wait too long to start talking about college My kids will tell you I’ve discussed college with them since they were in kindergarten. I think they’re exaggerating, but definitely by middle school and once they started high school, we talked plenty. How else would they understand why they needed to concentrate on academics as much as their extra-curriculars all four years? Kids can still have lots of fun and work hard at the same time. Honest.

Other parents are still your best resource The people who’ve been through it know what they’re talking about. I still consult experienced parents for their advice and suggestions for upcoming posts.

High SAT and ACT scores abound, but not for every kid College entrance exam scores are one of the top criteria for admission to college. We’ve all heard and read about the students with perfect or near-perfect scores. For many of us, our kids do very well on these tests, but aren’t in this category.

On the other hand, too many parents accept mediocrity from their teens. But the results of these tests can often be the key to merit-based scholarships. They were the reason my out-of-state kids received in-state tuition from their public university.

Check out the guidelines for SAT/ACT scores at the colleges your student is interested in for what’s required for admission and to qualify for scholarships. Do this before your teen takes the test the first time, if possible, but definitely before the second, so that he can set a goal for his test score.

College websites are full of information, but they’re hard to navigate I visit college websites regularly when researching posts. Sometimes I quickly find what I’m looking for, but too often I’m spending hours searching for one simple fact, number, date, name, etc.  I wish colleges would test their admissions pages with high school students and their parents to understand the kind of accessibility we really need.

Knowing where and when to start is hard High school kids don’t want to think about college. That’s a fact. But some parents don’t want to get on board with the process either.

As parents we have to take the initiative the way we did when our kids were younger. They need us to be the ones in charge and guide them. Don’t worry if you feel you don’t know enough. That’s what I’m here for, and so are your friends and relatives who’ve also survived the college admissions process.

Thanks for reading and please remember to share this blog with friends and family of high school and college kids. 

Please offer your thoughts on the blog and suggestions for future posts in the comments section below.

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