Stay Ahead of Senioritis

4 steps to early college prep

It’s October of your child’s senior year in high school. By now, your teen may be in the refining stages of applying to a dream college or scrambling to consider all his options.

But beware, senioritis lurks.

Senioritis seems to hit nearly every high school senior eventually. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your child finishes the college application process by winter break, before end-of-year activities trump, well, everything else. Mid-October brings the first round of college deadlines, for early admission, with traditional deadlines rolling on through mid-February. So now’s the time to draft a to-do list, break tasks into manageable chunks and check everything off in due course.

1. Apply, apply and apply.

Early senior year is the time to tackle the tedious work of completing college admissions applications as well as scholarship applications. You’ve likely brainstormed a wide list of possible colleges and universities to which your child should apply, including “reach,” “match” and “safety” schools (respectively, a long shot or two, several likely fits and a couple of schools that are as close to a sure bet as the admissions game allows, based on your child’s grades and test scores). Hopefully, you’ve also visited some campuses over the summer to get a feel for the size and setting that makes your child feel comfortable. If you haven’t, it’s not too late. Many colleges bring presentations to area high schools and also host prospective students overnight for free; contact your select admissions office for info.

Together, hone down that list to a manageable number, usually between five and eight. Keep in mind that the application process costs more than time: Elite schools each charge an application fee of $60 or more, plus score reporting fees of $11 per school for the SAT and ACT and $15 for AP tests. Then have your child start filling out the Common Application, accepted by most of the nation’s higher-ed institutions.  


2. Make that essay shine.

Even via Common App, individual colleges ask for different information, so make sure your child knows how many supplemental essays and questions he will need to tackle. Once they’re written, get involved with the editing process and help your senior refine the wording. If ever there were a time for perfectionism, it’s now.

Even though the essay will be uploaded online, print out the piece — you’ll be surprised by the number of mistakes you’ll catch on a printed page yet miss on-screen. Give trusted relatives or teachers a copy, too. Proofreading by multiple sets of eyes adds exponential value. Finally, print hard copies out and keep them in a large accordion-style file or file box — it should be full to bursting by the end of the year.

3. Attend financial aid presentations.

Many high schools host at least one parent’s event on financial aid, usually in the fall. Attend as many as you can, ideally with a friend who has already sent a child to college. A second ear can help you sort through the information overload, terminology and financial acronyms. Allow time to make sense of it all in order to be able to apply the information to your individual situation. The deadline to apply for financial aid via the FAFSA form is March 1, 2015. Click here for FAFSA specifics.

4. Accept the roller coaster.

After everything on the list is checked off, there is nothing to do but hang in there and wait for the letters of acceptance or rejection to arrive. If your child takes some risks in the application process, there are bound to be disappointments as well as victories. You might celebrate one day and then receive sobering news the next. Be prepared for tears. Remind your child that the closing of one door opens another. And remember that the results are hers, not yours. Your role is to support, not hover.

Whatever the news, you will have endured the ups and downs together, forming memories that will stay as your child moves beyond high school.

Categories: Secondary Education, Tweens & Teens