I recently attended a Workshop with eight parents (in this case, moms) who shared their best advice on how to handle the college admissions process.
They all had recent experience helping their children get accepted to Drexel University, UC Berkeley, Syracuse University, Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania, Mesa Community College and others.
Here are the highlights:
WAS A PRIVATE COLLEGE COUNSELOR WORTH IT?
Most paid $3K - $4K for a private counselor
most seriously questioned whether it was worth the money
a few found it helpful
one found it invaluable
A few DIYers did not hire a counselor and used school resources to help
Most waited to seek counseling until their child proved to be unengaged
Strong positive: Offloading process onto someone other than mom
Some identified specific areas where counselors came in handy
INTRODUCE THE PROCESS EARLY
Don't wait until junior or senior year!
Most children procrastinate to shield themselves from perceived "stress"
Expose children to college campuses early and often
By 11th grade, there's no turning back. Give them a vision of what they could "become" instead of just hoping that they end up there on their own.
Some younger teens consider "college talk" irrelevant at their age. Unfortunately, as one parent put it: "By the time it's relevant - it's too late".
HOW MUCH PUSHING IS TOO MUCH?
Parents expressed frustration with the constant "hedging" between pushing their children and letting them own the process.
Most agreed that it was just as risky to force their children to engage as it was to ignore the process.
STANDARDIZED TEST PREP TIPS
Take a diagnostic ACT and SAT before deciding which to study for
Don't prepare for both tests - pick one
Take 1 test - a maximum of 2 times
If short on time, study portions of test where you are weakest
Study the summer before junior year
Research potential accommodations for students with learning differences
Confirm test location provides a good test-taking environment
Study methods: Khan Academy, SAT Courses, 1-on-1 tutors, self-study
Consider "test-optional" colleges if standardized tests don't work out
Remember high SAT/ACT scores may determine merit aid eligibility
Register early in order to secure preferred testing site
Most teens have little experience writing about their thoughts and feelings
Common Application essay allows for creativity (pick 1 of 7)
Supplemental college or state-specific essays are more straightforward
Toughest part is finding a topic "worthy" of the college essay
Ethan Sawyer was mentioned as a great online resource for essay help
Avoid the 3Ds if possible (death, divorce, drug addiction)
It's okay to write about a "happy time" in your life
Pay attention at college info sessions to answer "Why [enter college]?"
A robust resume will help to generate ideas for essay
In general, children weak in grammar, punctuation, syntax, and spelling
One mom referred to "soft skills" as the most important skill for students to acquire prior to college - more than GPA, SAT, essays, etc. I wholeheartedly agree. Mentorship beyond the bubble of college admissions is the premise behind PrepWell Academy.
Financial considerations - not something to leave until the last minute
Looking beyond brand name schools (www.ctcl.org)
Community College as a viable (often optimal) path for many students
Considering what type of social life your child would enjoy most
List of colleges should contain all schools that you would love to attend
Don't wait until last minute to submit (Common App can crash)
Try to make the process fun
Things have a way of working themselves out in the end
There is no "perfect" way to manage this - every child is different
This was a terrific event with honest and helpful guidance for all attendees. It was especially rewarding for me, as it reinforced all of the topics, themes, and advice built into PrepWell Academy's multi-year curriculum.
We teach children (and their parents) about these topics in an affordable, self-directed, online video program that is easy to access and consume - from freshman to senior year.
If you are still looking for a way to manage this process, enroll in PrepWell Academy today.
If you know someone with an 8th - 11th grader who is looking for college admissions guidance, please share this post with them.
Author: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank, etc.