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The Parent Guide to Helping Your Senior This Fall

Oct 7, 2022

As college application deadlines are fast approaching, we know that this can be a stressful time for students and their parents alike. However, with the right tools and guidance, the college application process can be an exciting opportunity to get to know your student better as they set goals and make plans for the next chapter in their lives! Since parents play an important role in the college admission process, it’s essential to create boundaries and effective communication methods. We want to help you prevent the application process from taking over every second of your fall and winter seasons and—most importantly—from becoming a point of contention. Choosing your battles is important for releasing stress and maintaining a manageable schedule, both for you and your student.

Here are five ways that you can help your senior through the college application season.

1. Help Your Student Keep Track of Deadlines:

We know that life can get hectic between school, sports and extracurricular commitments, so staying ahead of college application deadlines will make things a lot easier. Some school submission deadlines are fast approaching: for example, the early action deadline for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is October 15th, while most early decision and early action deadlines will take place on November 1st. If a school has rolling admissions, it will accept applications throughout the fall and into winter, or for some, at any time of the year. However, the earlier the better as spots will fill up as applicants are accepted.

To make sure the whole family is on the same page, create an application submission calendar listing your student’s schools and their respective deadlines and application requirements, including supplements, optional videos or portfolios, and interview sign-up deadlines. Then, work backwards, setting goals for when your student will work on each application. If there are other in-person portions of the application that the student needs to complete, like traveling to visit schools or audition, make sure to plan ahead and incorporate such requirements into your calendar!

Key Tip: Letting your student choose when they want to work on each application will give them a sense of both agency and responsibility! Make sure that your student creates their application submission calendar with the understanding that essays and applications should be completed at least one week before each deadline.

2. Set boundaries:

Establish a time of day or day of the week that you will discuss the college process with your senior. Let the student lead the discussion instead of springing it on them, which can ease the pressure and let the student know what to expect, as the college process can be a stressful topic to discuss. Designating a specific time frame will prevent college applications from becoming the topic of discussion during every car ride, meal, or fun family night.

3. Ensure Your Student Has Asked for 3 Letters of Recommendation:

Make sure your senior has asked their teachers and counselor for letters of recommendation! Most schools require a total of three letters of recommendation: one from a guidance counselor and two from academic teachers. Teachers often follow their own process when it comes to collecting information from the student to work from when writing letters. Regardless, students should always ask their recommenders and then check in with them well in advance of the deadline. In addition, ask if the student has a third recommender in mind. While not required, a letter from a third teacher supervising an extracurricular or an individual from outside of school (like a volunteering or internship supervisor) can be a great way for a student to demonstrate his or her various strengths.

If there is any additional information about your senior that should be noted in his or her letters (for instance, significant accomplishments outside of the classroom or circumstances that will help to explain gaps in their academic performance), remind them to share it with their counselor.

If you or your student want to learn more about the letters of recommendation, check out our comprehensive guide!

4. Help Your Student Complete the Common App:

Encourage your student to start completing the Common Application early, and offer assistance with filling out the parent-related portions, especially those asking questions about financial information, including FAFSA. Remember that the Common App is not the only application portal that exists. The UC schools, MIT and Georgetown are some examples of schools that use their own application systems.

5. Don’t Over-Stress:

Encourage your senior to set aside time to relax, de-stress, and sleep. Whether it’s setting time aside for hanging out with friends, watching a Netflix show, or sleeping in during the weekends, balancing the workload with rest will keep your senior from burning out.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide to what your senior is going through this fall, check out our College Application Timeline!