by Christal Holmes, Campus Visit and Communications Manager
Hello parents! This blog series is just for you (students and counselors can feel free to read along too). So often parents ask us what it is that they should be doing to help their students during their senior year. Many times they acknowledge that they became involved in the process too late, or that they just don’t have a clue where to begin. The college admissions process can be stressful and often overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to keep both you and your students on track from now through the beginning of 2013.
If you haven’t already done so, sit down with your students and identify their top schools in which they plan to apply for admission. Create a calendar of deadlines with your students including target dates for not only submitting the application, but requesting that transcripts and test scores be sent to those schools. Make note, or a checklist, of any supplemental information that needs to be submitted in order to complete the application process, such as essays, an art portfolio or audition, or an interview. Be aware of deadlines!
If they haven’t already done so, your students need to take the SAT or ACT as soon as possible! An application to almost any university will not be complete without at least one set of test scores on file. Students that are planning to retest are encouraged to sign up for the next available test dates so that their scores may be submitted in time to be considered during the application review process.
Before leaving for winter break, your students should ask teachers or counselors for letters of recommendation. If they’re like me and don’t want to stress out after break, they’ll submit all of their college applications before they leave for winter break as well. Remember that teachers and counselors receive tens, if not hundreds, of requests from seniors asking for letters right before application deadlines hit. Some will even put a limit on the number of recommendations that they will write for students. Ask your students who they have in mind to write recommendations for them and make sure they put in their requests soon. Not only will this allow the recommender time to formulate a fitting recommendation, but it will allow students to ensure that it’s submitted to colleges on time too.
As the end of the year approaches, parents should save their year-end payroll stubs if they show earnings for the year so that students can begin to complete the FAFSA in January. Remember that the earliest that students can complete the FAFSA is January 1 –- you can learn more about the FAFSA on our Financial Aid Office’s FAFSA FAQ website. You’ll also want to have your students contact colleges to obtain any financial aid applications that they may require in addition to the FAFSA and find out their deadlines. Remember that most financial aid is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
December is also a great time to begin applying for funding and scholarships, outside of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Check with high school counselors to see if there are community awards that your students may be eligible to apply for. Also think about various clubs and organizations that you or other families may be involved in that offer awards: fraternities, sororities, social clubs, civic organizations, and religious affiliations/organizations are all great places to start.
Hopefully these guidelines will help you and your students be prepared to tackle the application process. Through it all, remember to be supportive of your students and let them know that you’re there to assist them as best as you can. Encourage them to continue excelling academically (many schools will request to see mid-year senior year grades). You’ll also want to encourage them to contact colleges if they have questions during the application process or if they want to make sure that information has been received on time. Finally, remember to breathe and enjoy the process– this goes for students too. As stressful as it may be at times, it’s all worth it in the end.
Check back in January for a follow-up entry on what you and your students can be doing once the applications have been submitted.