How to Help Your Teen Tackle Their College Applications

Scholarships. FAFSA. Grants. Essays. Major. Letters of Recommendation.

Welcome to the college application.

At 16 or 17 years old, most teenagers are focused on friends, driving, earning enough money to go to a concert and doing well enough in school to stay on the football team. Add a pile of college applications to that and you have an extremely overwhelmed, sleep-deprived teenager.

The process of applying to colleges is not a quick or easy one. While some schools may simply require a college application and “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” essay, many require an extensive application, 2-3 essays, 1-2 letters of recommendation, official transcripts, proof of extra-curricular success, a high SAT score and large application fee.

This isn’t something your teen should have to do completely on their own. So how can you, as a parent or older sibling, help your child get into the right school without stepping on their independence?

Set up a Schedule (and Stick to it)

Set aside a time each day (or at least three times a week) for your child to research college applications. If applying to many schools, have your student make a spreadsheet of what is required for each college and the deadlines for materials. This will help you and your student stay organized and diligent. If they are interested in an online program, such as USC’s masters in communication online, stress the importance of how they will need to have a strict schedule in order to succeed.

Start Early!

Most colleges begin accepting student applications for the following year in the fall. While your FAFSA may not be completed at this point, it is still so important to get a head start on college essays. Set aside time for editing as these essays will not be a single-day affair. Expect to start this process in the summer leading up to your child’s senior year, if not mid-junior year. Trust us, it will be worth it not to scramble to get everything in on time.

Get an Extra Pair of Eyes (and Hands)

Look into hiring a college admissions counselor to serve as an additional pair of eyes as well as someone who can lend a helping hand in the process. Many of these tutors and counselors have helped hundreds of students get into various programs. Take it a step further and arrange time for your child to speak with a current student or dean at the school of choice for some inside tips on what admissions staff are looking for.

Be Encouraging

There are going to be many days where your child simply wants to throw in the towel and attend the school with the simplest application process.  Continue to encourage them and remind them of the reasons they are choosing specific schools. Have a financial talk about how these scholarships will help them in life after they graduate by decreasing the amount of student loan debt they have. Be positive and let your child really voice their opinion and feelings on attending college. Never add more pressure unless completely necessary.

Think you’re ready to tackle those applications?