7 Tips to Help Your Student Manage the College Application Season
With summer ending and the new school year beginning, the college application season is in full swing for the Class of 2018. Here are 7 tips to help your student manage the College Application Season.
- Ensure you have a balanced list of schools – both academically for the student and financially for the family. Help your student to design a list of schools that has 2-4 safety schools, 4-8 target schools and 1-5 reach schools. You want them to have more acceptances than fewer and you want them to feel good about themselves after they’re done with this process. A financially balanced list includes the same ratio of schools: 2-4 schools you can definitely afford, 4-8 schools that are right in the zone of your plan, and 1-5 schools that are maybe out of reach financially, but hopefully they miraculously come back with scholarships.
- Get organized – Every school has a laundry list of things that needs to be completed for their application. These could include some or all of these items: application, official transcripts, official test scores (SAT and/or ACT, subject tests), secondary school reports, teacher recommendations, other recommendations, portfolios, auditions, essays, and more! Identify these items and then determine when you’ll send them. Timing on these is everything, especially test scores for tests the student hasn’t taken yet.
- Create a calendar – Gather all the deadlines for the colleges and look at how many essays and items need to be submitted. Most of our students are writing 14 essays or more. This takes time and multiple revisions to put quality essays together. Be sure to start mapping out a good game plan with target deadlines for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, final drafts (yes, often it takes this many revisions) and tentative deadlines to submit everything. If your student is thinking of applying Early Action or Early Decision somewhere, they should be submitting their applications anywhere from October 1st-15th to meet the Oct. 15th or Nov. 1st These applications are timestamped, so getting them in the night before they’re due at 11:59pm doesn’t show the schools you’re organized. Plus, these schools have many applications and supplemental materials that come in to them—after you submit your application, they’ll list inside of their online student portal what they’re missing. You’re going to want time to get them what they need before the deadline.
- Financial Aid Forms – These go in separate from the admission applications. The FAFSA and CSS Profile (for some schools, not all) need a lot of financial data and their deadlines could be as early as the middle of November. You’re going to need your taxes from two years back (yes, they use the “prior prior” year now), your W-2 with your pre-tax contribution amounts into retirement, a list of all your assets including: retirement, non-retirement, primary residence, investment properties, mortgages, and potentially the year, make, and model of your vehicles and when you purchased them, as well as how much you purchased them for. That’s just the initial financial aid forms. From there, they could ask for additional documents, such as tax transcripts, dependent verification forms, income and expense statements, asset verification form, business/farm supplements, your dog’s name (just kidding… but it does feel like they want everything), and potentially more.
- College funding plan – Too many families wait until they their student gets accepted to a university and receives a financial aid award before determining how they’re going to pay for college. With the cost of attendance at these 4-year universities ranging dramatically from $25,000 per year to $70,000+ per year, this is not a decision you should just assume will work itself out. Time will go by, and where you’re at financially before, during, and after all your kids go to school can be dramatically different. Taking the time to put together a plan and work with your kids before they start applying will help alleviate some of the stress, anxiety, and the “unknown” territory the you’ll go through in this process.
- Manage your stress and anxiety – Remember, if you start to stress and become anxious, your student will become stressed and anxious. They could show it in many ways, including arguing, ignoring you, crying, or just acting indifferent. Remember, this is a time when they’re putting everything about themselves out there to be judged, they’re facing the reality that they will be finishing school, changing their social environment, and facing the concept of “figuring out what they want/need to do for the rest of their life.” Try to remember what it was like at their age and be strategic to help them through this process. This is their last year before they head off to college—make it a good year together.
- Check in with a college planning expert – with the landscape of college admission and funding changing on yearly basis, it’s good to see where you’re at and if there’s either things you can do to help your children yourself, or if you need help, there are experts out there like College Planning Source that can guide you to success.
~ College Planning Source Team