I’m in the midst of helping my son apply to college, and I’ve already learned an important lesson. Just like Ronald Reagan found it important to ‘Trust, but Verify’ when dealing with foreign countries, I’ve found it necessary to follow his advice when dealing with college admissions departments, high school counselors, and anyone giving advice about the college application process. |
My son and I have completed only half of the applications to his selected colleges, and we’ve already run into so many mix-ups, dropped balls, and ‘he said, she said’ finger pointing incidents that I’m sure I’ve doubled the gray hairs on my head. At its worse, you should start with the attitude that you’ve got bureaucrats at your high school dealing with bureaucrats at the universities, with you in between. So prepare yourself for frustration. If you take this attitude, you don’t take anything for granted and watch everything like a hawk, driving the process forward. This approach is most important for colleges that don’t have a cookie-cutter approach for applications – those where there are special requirements or exceptions to the standard application information required, such as small private colleges and the service academies.
Ok, to be fair, the application process has become hyper competitive, with everyone striving to get an edge, creating a highly stressful process. High school counselors are dealing with hundreds of students, while college admissions offices are dealing with thousands of applicants. So things can and do fall through the cracks. Transcripts don’t get sent or get sent with errors. Mail gets lost or routed incorrectly. Electronic submissions and online forms aren’t always clear enough with instructions. The left hand didn’t talk to the right hand.
That’s not to say that my son didn’t have occasions where he didn’t take the initiative to keep things rolling, but at least that part seems more controllable. So, don’t ever just take someone’s word for it that a critical requirement has been completed, an important form submitted, or a letter mailed. When you plan out milestones and deadlines, make sure you take into account the time it takes for someone to get something done, then the time for you to wait to see if it’s marked complete by the university, and the time to redo it if it gets done improperly. Make sure you track each item and verify with sending and receiving parties (and everyone in between if appropriate) that it’s completed. And then double check that again later.
Do research online and speak with other parents about pitfalls to avoid and tips to enhance your student’s application. After all, who stands to lose out if something falls through the cracks or an opportunity is missed? It’s just your child’s college future at stake. Trust, but verify.
By Elaine Sigal, Founder of MindLaunch Education MindLaunch.com connects students with experienced U.S. licensed teachers for the most effective online tutoring experience.
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