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Surviving the College Application Process

Surviving the College Application Process

There’s no doubt about it–the college application process can be stressful for many high school students and their parents. After all, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed while trying to manage numerous applications, each with varying deadlines and requirements. If your child is applying to college, here are some things to keep in mind before he or she gets started.

Application timeline

For students applying under the regular decision process, college applications are generally submitted in the late fall or winter of your child’s senior year of high school, with acceptance or rejection letters arriving in the spring. While application timelines vary, depending on the college, many colleges open their application process by the first week of September. In addition, a growing number of colleges offer “rolling” admission, which typically provides notice of acceptance a few weeks after an application is submitted.

Many students also take advantage of an early application process in which they can apply early to a college and find out whether they are accepted before regular applicants. Early application deadlines are usually in October or November. There are two main early application options–early action and early decision. With early action, your child can apply to several schools and has until the normal deadline (typically May 1) to decide which one to attend. With early decision, your child applies to only one college and, if accepted, must commit to attending immediately. Not every college offers early action or early decision.

Application requirements

Each college has its own application requirements. However, many colleges use the Common Application, which includes:

  • High school transcript
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • Biographical and family information
  • List of extracurricular activities, hobbies, and interests
  • Letters of recommendation (from teachers typically, but sometimes community leaders)
  • Personal essay
  • Application fee

While some application requirements are not open to interpretation, your child will have the chance to stand out from the pack through his or her reference letters and personal essay. These two items are unique parts of the application because they can help the admissions team distinguish your child from other applicants.

The importance of staying organized

One of the most important things you and your child can do during the college application process is to stay organized. You’ll want to keep track of the various application deadlines on one centralized calendar that both of you can access. You should also create a separate filing system to help organize the applications and correspondence for each college.

A word on independent educational consultants

Hiring an independent educational consultant to help with the college admissions process has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially with high-achieving seniors. An independent educational consultant can help you and your child select the appropriate college to fit your child’s academic and social needs, and can also help manage application requirements and deadlines.

The cost of educational consultants depends on the types of services provided. Comprehensive, multi-year consulting packages can cost upwards of several thousand dollars. However, consultants may also offer more affordable hourly rates and a la carte services.


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