How Family Teamwork can make College Apps Easier
It seems that just when you start to get a handle on high school, you have to start thinking seriously about college. Suddenly, you feel as if you have to decide on your whole future at the age of 17! You’ve got to consider what kind of school you’d like to attend, how to navigate the application process, how you’ll afford college in the first place. And you are trying to do all this while maintaining your GPA, engaging in extra-curricular activities and fulfilling other commitments.
Don’t freak out, though! Time is on your side, and if you collaborate well, your family can be your secret stress-reducing weapon. Here are some suggestions about how to lay the foundation for a smooth application process. Answers to these questions will help you start the process with a clearer mind and a set list of priorities.
Be honest about your family realities: Make sure you know the details of your family situation. Will your parents be able to pay for your college education? Will you have to work for pocket money? Is it feasible to visit college campuses? When is it time to get counseling about planning out this process?
Be honest about your parents’ expectations: Do they expect you to attend a school with a certain degree program? Will they place limits on distance from home? Do they expect you to seek out financial aid, scholarship and work-study?
Be honest about what kind of help is needed and can be provided: Your parents can share in this process with you in many ways. Do your parents have time and energy to be actively involved in the application process? Can one of them handle financial aid or research scholarship options? Do you need an SAT tutor? How can a college adviser help all of you cope with this process? Spend some time thinking about this and share your thoughts with your parents.
Family can help you remember and organize your accomplishments: The Common Application allows ten spaces to list your extracurricular and work experience and five for academic distinctions and honors. It allows 150 characters and spaces for a description of each activity and your roles. You are expected to organize this list in a meaningful way so that the admissions officers can understand which activities were most important to you. Even if you are already prepared with an organized list of everything you have done and won throughout high school, you will find this section to be a challenge. If you are not, then you’ll be scurrying around, looking for certificates, articles, and letters when time is of the essence and stress is at a premium!
This is a perfect opportunity to enlist your parents to help you in this task – especially since they will remember more of your awards and honors than you might, dating all the way back to the gold stars you got in kindergarten. Here are some things you can do together:
1. Start your list early. Create a spreadsheet of your clubs, teams, organizations, musical or theater groups, volunteer and community service activities, summer experiences and jobs.
2. Keep track of summer activities, after school programs, religious school, travel teams, music lessons, trips abroad…anything that will distinguish you from thousands of other candidates. Include some details about special events or programs, years of participation, and your involvement, especially any leadership roles and acknowledgments you’ve received.
3. Be sure to have an idea of how much time you have spent on each activity (Hours per week, weeks per year).
4. List awards, plaques, letters of commendation, citations, scholarships, honor societies, honor rolls, etc. Don’t be shy: If you were Student of the Month once, write it down! If you got honorable mention in a science fair, list it!
5. Keep all of the documentation in a safe place. If you are featured in a school or local newspaper article or if any of your work has been published, scan and save them.