Time for college apps? Time to take a deep breath!

While younger families get used to the hustle and bustle of a new school year, families of seniors are already feeling the stress of college app season.


Like most of my students, many CA seniors have their eyes on the University of California system. And like most of their parents, many of us wonder, "Why aren't you starting your application yet?"



Take charge of the application process in early October

I call October 1st the midpoint of applications. Many application sites open on August 1st and many applications are due November 30th. So October 1st seems like a good time to check on the whole process.


With one child already (safely) in college, it's time I admit that we were concerned because said child was just not moving at the pace we felt he should be moving! My husband and I are planners. Life just seems to be less chaotic that way. So if the application opens on August 1st, we thought it was totally reasonable that he start filling out the application by the end of September, the latest. Right? Wrong.


Luckily, it only took us a few weeks to realize that our timeline and our son's timeline varied greatly. I say, luckily, because it could've created a lot of heartache if we kept arguing with each other constantly. The best thing we did in mid September was a take a huge step back and give our son some space.


If there's one bit of wisdom I can share with senior parents in September, it's this: Just because you think your kid should be doing something, doesn't mean he does. If your child is a good student and gets the job done, then take a deep breath and a step back. My son got all his paperwork in order in plenty of time for deadlines. Would I have done it sooner? Absolutely! Was my way better than his? No. Did he give us an ulcer? YES! Did he laugh all the way to his dorm room? Probably.


Now, looking back at his entire high school career, I don't know why we were surprised by his planning . He always got good grades and never missed an assignment or project deadline. Sometimes his friends and he would say, "We work better under pressure." And I used to laugh it off but that might just be the way they get their work done.


While some students definitely need a helping hand during these few months, I think it's wise for parents to understand your child's thought process. It's like eating broccoli, you really can't make them do something that they don't want to do! So when the Common App and UC App opens in August some of these kids might just be starting to think of their recommendation letters and brag sheets. Give them a little space and just watch how they plan out the month of August and September.


Definitely give them a nudge about essays and personal statements, though. (No need to be that relaxed!) Essays are probably the hardest task they face this fall. And when we come across something that feels so overwhelming, we tend to put it off as much as possible. That's just human nature. And that’s why I advise my students to start brainstorming over the summer so that they're not caught off guard in the fall. Getting most of the essays done by the first week of November will give your child enough time to proofread the application and give them some room to breathe in case there are last minute changes.


The first week of October is a great time to re-evaluate the whole process and make sure everything is on schedule (for the most part). Remind your student gently that they really have only one chance at this and while 8 weeks seems like sufficient time, Murphy’s Law exists and we know better!