What every parent needs to know about guiding students through the college application process

As college application deadlines quickly approach, tension between parents and their college-bound seniors often escalate. Naturally, you want your child to get into the best colleges and you know that your high school senior should be spending every free moment checking out colleges, writing personal statements and essays, and studying for the SATs/ACTs. But, whether they're clueless or procrastinating, if you're like most moms of college-bound students, you're probably pulling out your hair as you try to get them to get started. And when they finally get on board and realize what they need to do for each college application, even the most level-headed seniors will feel the stress. As their stress mounts, you'll need to take some deep breaths and build up some callouses to help you through the next few months.

Many parents succumb to the pressure and fill out the application forms for their children. Don't do it. Students need to complete their applications on their own; it's part of growing up and getting ready to move on. Instead, you can help by setting up a time to meet so you can both discuss colleges, deadlines, essay topics and letters of recommendation. Be prepared to have them put the deadlines in a planner or on a calendar to prioritize where to get started. Then, they'll block off time to complete each task for every college. Making time to get the job done is important and this step is often overlooked; it is the most important step in the process. Finding time to complete each task in any senior's fall semester will be a challenge. But once your child sees what needs to be done over the next few months, he/she will own some of this responsibility -- minimizing the nagging and reminding that you will have to do.

The key is to let your child block off time to do all of the steps required to submit the college applications, finish regular school homework, and participate in after-school activities or work. It's easy to blow off writing a college application essay if you think you can do it tomorrow or next weekend, but students who have taken the time to organize their schedules for the entire college application process, know what they need to do. By putting the responsibility of completing college applications on your child, you can be a supportive mom who offers a shoulder massage or cookies when things get stressful instead of the nagging mother who reminds them that they are behind schedule.

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