How to Help Your Senior Start the College Application Process

Posted by Jessica Forinash - 28 August, 2018

college counselor and student meetingThis time of year is a little wild and crazy for a senior. They have started the school year, finally having become a senior. This is something they’ve always wanted, and they can’t believe it’s here!

It’s the start of so many things for them. The start of another school year, the start of athletic practices, play auditions, and the start of piles of homework to complete. It’s also the start of the college application process. This is something they’ve been very excited about, but now that it’s actually here, they’re nervous. They don’t know quite what to do. They don’t know what the outcome will be, and they’re receiving advice from so many places. (Because everyone thinks they are an expert!) 

If you want to help, here are four constructive things parents can do to help their high school seniors stay sane and succeed during this exciting time.

Help them prioritize

At this point parents should be assisting their students through this process with encouragement. Help them sort out what’s important to them as they build their application lists.

It’s confusing and overwhelming to them, and they end up putting it off because it scares them. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried to age out of my procrastination, and it’s taken four years of college, two years of grad school and my entire professional career to get over the fear of starting a project. Adults have the wisdom to know that it’s better to just get started. Our favorite teenagers are still learning.

Adults have the wisdom to know that it’s better to just get started. Our favorite teenagers are still learning.

Schedule reminders

Gently remind them about deadlines. It’s probably best to set a time each week to “talk college.”  That way, students don’t feel as though you’re constantly asking them about their applications. If everyone knows that we talk about college on Sunday afternoons, then the conversations should be more productive and pleasant. And of course, let us know any time you have questions. That’s why we’re here!

Help them to pace themselves

No one completes all of their applications in one sitting. It takes time, and working a little bit every day or two can really spread the work out to make it seem less overwhelming. And remembering that your college counselors are always there to help means you don’t have to struggle with the questions you may have. Just send an email, stop by our office, or make an appointment. Many times, the concerns students have can be cleared up quickly, and they leave feeling far less stressed. If that happens, then I feel like I’ve done my job for the day.

Remind them that we are here to help

Mr. Allen and I are currently meeting with every senior to see what their plans are, to answer their questions, and to encourage them to get going. It’s amazing to see the light in their eyes when I tell them certain applications might only take them only ten minutes to do. The magic words to them are “there’s no essay to write!” They think that starting college applications is like jumping off of a cliff into a lake miles below, but really, it’s just a little hop over a puddle.

If required, Mr. Allen and I write a recommendation for students. We include information about a student’s curriculum choices, who they are in the classroom, what they do outside of school time, and the type of person they are. The size of the community at Randolph allows us to get to know every student here so that we can share that with colleges. That’s one of the benefits of being here at Randolph – that is all that Mr. Allen and I do! Our jobs are to assist students through the college application process, and our days are spent answering questions, reviewing essays and applications before they are sent, and helping students navigate the process. We meet with every senior individually to make sure they have a plan for their applications. They might come in a little, they might come in a lot, but we’re always here to answer their questions.

I understand why it can be overwhelming. They haven’t done it before! Even if their older sibling is in college, it’s not the same when it’s their turn. Rationality disappears, and suddenly they think that they’ll be denied everywhere, even when data and common sense say otherwise. So, it’s our jobs as the adults in their lives to be supportive, to encourage them to keep working on those apps, and to remind them that this is why they’re at Randolph. They’re already prepared for the college classroom because they’re here – we just need to get them started on finding their classrooms for the next four years of their lives after they graduate in May. And we find them, one hop over a puddle at a time.

They’re already prepared for the college classroom because they’re here now.

That's why I love my job. I live for the “will you read my essay?” or “will you help me submit my application?” And, of course, the “Ms. Forinash, I got in!” Because in the end, we just want all of our students to feel like they have choices and that they have made the choices that are right for them. That all begins with starting their applications…so get going, seniors! We’ve got some goals to achieve.

Read about the Class of 2018 and their college choices.
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Topics: college counseling


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