College Application Mania

By Elaine Sigal

I read a funny (not) comic today, ZITS, that summed up students’ feelings about applications and application essays.  The boy was complaining about the weather; the mom suggested that he work on his application and essay.  the boy replied that after he finished that he would then work on learning the US Tax Code – probably one of the most boring topics to a teenager!  I first laughed and then realized that it was not so funny.  What are we asking of our children and students?

We want to make our children look as good as possible on paper.  We want them to understand how important the “right college” is for their future.  We want them to fill out an application that might have gaps in it.  We want perfection.  We want to do it for them.  We want to write that essay so that the admissions committee will have to take him/her.  Stay calm!  Don’t do it!  Let him/her do it!  College admissions people know who wrote the essay and who filled out the short answers.

If you think your child needs help, then get professional help.  Don’t do it yourself – especially since you probably do not know what should be written.  It is not about retelling all of the child’s wonderful activities.  It is not about what you this is important.  It is not a brag sheet.  It is an essay that will show who the child is – let the admissions officers uncover who the child is…don’t hit the admissions people over the head.

The easiest way to take the stress out of this process is to start early.


1.  Download a copy of the common application as early as 8th grade.  This is useful to help direct academic course selections for high school.

2.  Choose any 5 schools a child may want to attend:  download the supplement.

3.  Have a child keep a notebook of events that happen to him/her – little events are great.

4.  Encourage your child to discuss all aspects of the application with you.  It is easier to work on it if the child has some idea how to begin to answer the questions.

5.  Start a list of possible schools.

6.  See our website for a college application matrix that you can use.

7.  Seek help from professionals – be careful!  There are no laws or guidelines for anyone “hanging our a shingle.”  Be sure to check credentials and references.  If a counselor tells you that his/her students get into every school to which they apply, run the other way.

It means that there were no reach schools on the list.

8.  Set reasonable goals.  Maybe ask to see the first three pages of the application done by Friday night dinner.  Do it in pieces.

9.  Procrastination often means that the child is scared, not lazy.  Think about what we are asking children to do:  fill out an application that will change their lives!!!  How excited would you be to do this?  Remember, they are all talk and show!  They love you and their cocoon.


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