Top Tips for the College Application Process

You might have noticed a dearth of blogging in the month of December.  Yet I spent the month immersed in a writing process—unfortunately, just not my own.

Between December 10th (when Ling found out she was deferred at her early decision school) and January 1st, my daughter wrote 7 college applications—with a total of about 25 extra essays.

It isn’t that we hadn’t warned her all fall.  We knew she had little chance of getting into her top choice with an acceptance rate of 9.8% (30% of its students valedictorians and another 10% salutatorians).  But the closer the decision date approached, the less motivated she became to write essays she might never need.

Can I say it was a challenging December?  How many times can you say to the same girl, “Active verbs!  Strong nouns!  Death to the adverb!  What’s the hook?”??  We finally decided her tardiness wasn’t going to rob us of our family vacation, so travelled to Maine (wifi router in van) to my mother-in-law’s, where the rest of us skied while she wrote essays.

Each late afternoon or evening I’d relent and let her ski for an hour or so—figuring she needed some fresh air and exercise.

So here’s what we’ve learned thus far in the college application process:

  1. Apply early decision to some reach school if you’d like to go there:  Ling’s elite top choice accepted 469 students out of 1678 early decision applicants–28% of applicants—a much better statistic than 9.8%.  Harvard, with a 5.9% acceptance rate accepted 21% of its incoming class.  Just do the math to see how hard it’d be to get into those schools with the regular class!  It didn’t work for Ling, but it was worth a shot.
  2. Write your essays early:  Enough said
  3. Do a practice interview early:  A friend took her son to a school he was less interested in just so he could practice interviewing. We didn’t—which meant Ling’s first interview was with her ED school.  But Scott took her through the paces, even making her step into the cold outdoors, knock on our front door and introduce herself.  Google “Top college interview questions.”
  4. Start visiting colleges early:  As I’ve written before, I took Ling on her first college visit at the end of sophomore year.   We went pretty overboard, visiting about 20 colleges over the course of the past year and a half, but it’s not so painful  at a slow and steady pace.  Of course, it’s a lot easier here in Boston where gazillions of colleges are within a relatively short driving distance.  And I’ve already informed our younger kids that they better have paid attention because we’ve done their college visits already.
  5. Remember to keep track of your finances the year before:  I didn’t, which has made filling out financial aid forms difficult–especially since the CSS form’s due 2/1–before w-2s come out.
  6. Work hard, pray and release the results to God:  There’s no way to apply to elite schools without feeling the surreal crapshoot nature of it all.  There’s no way to be in this without you and your kid feeling like their whole sense of worth and identity’s on the line.  Resist anyway!  Try to keep some perspective.  After all, does God love an Ivy League grad more than a community college student or a high school dropout?

Have you noticed the prevalence of the word “early”?

We’re now in the blissful state where apart from some schools contacting Ling for interviews, there’s nothing else to do but wait until early April.

Except for me. . . as written above, I’ve got 3 days to finish the CSS financial aid profile!


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