My Tips for Surviving the College Application Process

By Emily I. from Berlin, Germany
Guest Blogger and College Goals’ student of Jilly Warner

The idea of applying to colleges can seem exciting, daunting, maybe even scary, but most of all, stressful. Although it should actually only be exciting, as we begin this amazing new chapter in our lives, I feel that it is hard to get around the stressful part of applying. The only way to make it easier is to take each step of the process as it comes and just get it done. To get started early is important, in order to have enough time to dissect each step of the process and work on it thoroughly.

To me, the most important part of the application process is having motivation and excitement. You have to be excited to go to college, and to start the wonderful experience of life after high school. If you are not, it may be very hard to find motivation to write essays, look into different kinds of schools, and keep up with your studies at the same time. Motivation and excitement came easy for me, as I have always dreamed of going to college in the US.

It helped to look at the websites of individual schools, and find one thing for each school that I was completely passionate about. This also helped when comparing different choices, as I could weigh the aspects I had found amazing about one school to the highlights of another.

During the process of deciding where to apply, I began writing my Common App essay. Again, the most important things to have are motivation and passion. Choose a prompt that you are interested in and brainstorm about what information you find important to share about yourself. This will help a great deal, as it will not be a burden to write and you may even find the process enjoyable. Going over it repeatedly will get boring, so I tried to always keep in mind why I initially felt inclined to write an essay in response to that specific prompt and why I was excited about it. If you simply can’t get motivated, think about your dream school. Imagine their admissions team reading your essay and what impressions they will gather from it. You want it to stand out, right?

Once I had made my final choice of colleges, I began writing the individual essays for each school. Again, if you get a choice of prompts, choose one that you are passionate about. Many of the essays took a lot of thinking and mulling over in my mind until I was able to decide what I wanted to write about. The University of Richmond, for example, has a prompt that simply says: Spiders. I felt completely clueless about how to respond, as I felt that such a creative prompt deserved a very creative answer. I was really happy that I had started early, because I had enough time to take a week to just think about it. I tried to think about it at least once a day, and if any good ideas popped into my head, I immediately wrote them down on my phone. This is a good thing to do with any prompts that seem tricky. It is a lot easier to have a whole bunch of ideas and then weed out the good ones, instead of staring at a blank computer screen with no ideas to consider.

Once I had finished writing all the individual essays, everything else seemed like a piece of cake. The best advice I can give to anyone about to go through the process of applying to colleges is to get on it early and stay focused, and most importantly, be motivated and get excited. It is the first time for most of us to be independent from our families and to make all of our own decisions. No matter where you end up going to college, you should be excited about the unknown, and use that anticipation for a boost of energy and motivation.

Why Should I Apply to College Early?

With October upon us, it’s time to start thinking about when to apply to college! Besides regular admission, you have the options of Early Action (EA), which can be Single Choice/Restricted, and Early Decision (ED). Usually the deadline for these options is November 1 or 15, but some schools have a deadline as early as October 15. Wait, what?! That’s coming up quickly!

Make sure you check the specific requirements for all colleges to which you are applying! An Early Decision application is a binding commitment to one school. If accepted, you must attend and withdraw any other applications, and thus you won’t get to review other Financial Aid packages. It is usually possible to apply to multiple schools EA, but you can apply to only one ED.

Early Action is more flexible, as it is non-binding. This means you’re not required to enroll if accepted. You can apply to more than one college that has an Early Action application process. However, the Single Choice, or Restricted option, while non-binding, does mean that you are not allowed to apply Early Action or Early Decision to any other schools.

Applying early can be the most effective admissions strategy out there for many students. Since there’s a smaller pool of applicants, generally there are better admissions rates for early appliers, because colleges know you are seriously interested in attending that institution. It can sometimes double or triple your odds of acceptance!

It also may be the best way to “demonstrate interest” in a particular school. It’s like saying, “Marry me! I love only you!” You offer them the sparkly diamond ring, your early application, and you “promise to be true” to your commitment to that school if they accept your proposal. You certainly benefit by knowing if you have been accepted (or not!) sooner because you can plan accordingly.

It’s important to keep in mind that you should apply early only if you are as ready to present your credentials to the college in November (or, yikes, in October!) as you would be later in the fall. If you want to re-take the SAT or ACT you didn’t do so well on, or get your History grade up, you might want to forgo applying early and buy yourself some more time for improvement until the regular admissions deadline.

If you plan on applying early, you need to start all facets of your admissions process early — indeed, NOW — make sure you have lined up your recommendations and completed all required testing before the deadlines. Be ready to present yourself as a solid candidate. Above all, make sure you indeed want to attend the school to which you are applying early. Now take a deep breath, get down on one knee, break out that diamond ring, and propose!

Written by Jilly Warner

Your Common App School Report and Counselor Recommendation

Within your first two weeks back at school, be sure to set up a meeting with your high school college counselor or school administrator to discuss the School’s Report and the Counselor’s Recommendation that are part of the Common Application. Your Counselor is the person who creates your School Report, which is required by the Common Application and by most other colleges that do not use the CA. The School Report accompanies your School Transcript (your grades for the past 3 years) and, hopefully, a School Profile (brief description of your school).

Ideally, your Counselor will also write a separate, personal Counselor’s Recommendation, if s/he has time. In the best of all possible worlds, s/he will meet with your teachers and/or read your former teachers’ comments so as to gather information about you and to represent your strengths. Hopefully also, your Counselor has gotten to know you throughout your past three years at school (or two, or one!). If, however, your school counselor handles all the paperwork for more than 50 seniors (and yes, at some public schools, even good ones, the counselor load can be over 400 students, across all years!), you may be out of luck in being able to provide an actual Counselor’s Recommendation as well as the basic School Report.

This is the first year that the Counselor’s Recommendation has been separated from the School Report, and is not requested or expected by over 200 colleges and universities. Please see this excellent article by Nancy Griesemer (“Important changes to the Common App school counselor recommendation system“) so you can better understand the changes in this year’s Common Application’s School Report and Counselor’s Recommendation.

Schedule a meeting with your counselor in the first week or two of school, and do not go empty-handed! Bring along the following:

1) A resume, or a list of your extra curricular and personal activities during the past three years. School counselors, like admission officers, value humility and appreciate honesty, but they need to know what you have done and achieved outside of their classrooms, beyond their experience of you.

  • Include ways you have contributed to the school in general, or to your larger community, and significant summer activities.
  • You can mention particular skills or personal strengths, and let the recommenders know what areas of study interest you.
  • Any career goals?

2) A list of colleges to which you are considering applying (you can change it later!).

3) Note any special reasons and programs for applying to specific schools.

Ask your counselor for his or her email address. You will then enter that contact information into your Common Application in the first college on your list. Click the ‘assign’ button, and the Common App will email your counselor with the required School Report form.

International students, you need to talk with the head of school, dean, or whatever administrator will prepare the School Report for you (check out the form for this recommendation in the Common Application). If that person knows you personally or is willing to talk with teachers about your contribution to the school, then do request a Counselor’s Recommendation, also.  This ‘counselor’/ administrator is a vital team member who needs to be brought up to date with your college planning ideas, testing plan and scores. It’s important to have a very good relationship with your counselor so that person can represent you to best advantage. The School Report is very significant, and a Counselor’s Recommendation can be the most important Recommendation you’ll receive!

Written by Joyce Reed

(c) College Goals LLC 2015

Your Recommendations

talk to your teachers about your college recommendations now

talk to your teachers about your college recommendations now

You’re back in school, heading into your final year. Your courses are challenging, your extracurricular leadership roles are demanding, AND you will need to move forward every week on your college applications! Where to start, your first days back in school?

In addition to grades, personal statements, and activities, colleges also want to know what other people have to say about you. Most will require a ‘School Report’, created by your school counselor or administrator, and one or two Letters of Recommendation from teachers. Recommendations matter . . . a lot! Here are some tasks you need to set in motion as soon as possible.

Ask one or two teachers to write the Teacher Recommendations to be sent to your colleges.

Carefully consider which teachers to ask and consult your college counselor and parents for their input. They must be teachers of major subjects (math, science, history, English, languages), and have taught you in your Junior (11th grade/Premiere/Lower 6th) year, or be currently teaching you, as a Senior. (But last year’s teachers will know you best.) Moreover, they need not only to know you as a student in their classes, but they must also have the interest and willingness to support you by writing a great recommendation that will ‘market’ you well to colleges and universities.

Approach those teachers right away! You want thoughtful, substantive letters, and those cannot be done overnight. Moreover, popular teachers may limit the number of students whose recommendations they can write each year.

Schedule a meeting with these teachers in the first week or two of school, and do not go empty-handed! Bring along the following:

1) A resume, or a list of your extra curricular and personal activities during the past three years. Teachers, like admission officers, value humility and appreciate honesty, but they need to know what you have done and achieved outside of their classrooms, beyond their experience of you.

  • Include ways you have contributed to the school, in general, or to your larger community, and significant summer activities.
  • You can mention particular skills or personal strengths, and let the recommenders know what areas of study interest you.
  • Any career goals?

2) A copy of your transcript for the past three years, as well as your standardized test scores.

3) Copies of papers in which the teacher made interesting or positive comments on your work — take these along to help jog his/her memory. Admission officers find specific examples of impressive insights, writings or research, useful.

4) A list of colleges to which you are considering applying (you can change it later!).

5) Note any special reasons and programs for applying to specific schools.

Once a teacher has agreed to support you by writing a Recommendation, you need to get his or her email address. You will then enter that contact information into your Common Application in the first college on your list. Click the ‘assign’ button, and the Common App will email your teacher with the required Recommendation form. Note: each teacher’s recommendation can be used for all your Common App colleges, so each teacher needs to write only one Recommendation.

Discuss with your Counselor how to submit Recommendations to colleges and universities that don’t take the Common Application, and how to assign recommendations from different teachers for different colleges.

The college admission process allows you to gain in self-knowledge and new insight into how people view you. But don’t leave people’s perceptions of who you are and what you are capable of achieving to chance! Instead, help shape that impression with your thoughtfulness, organization, and courtesy.  DO IT NOW!

On Writing an Ivy League Admissions Essay

These days, students applying to Ivy schools find themselves having to wade through a dense morass of conflicting advice about admission. With Harvard, Princeton and Yale denying far more valedictorians than they accept, many students are coming to the disquieting realization that overwhelming academic achievement and stratospheric scores may be not enough. Hence, the hope that a perfect essay might be where real distinction lies.

All the Ivies, however, use the Common Application with its single essay requirement. Students are given a choice of five prompts that ask them to tell a story that reflects their own identity, to recount a moment of failure, reflect on a time when they challenged a belief, describe a place of contentment, or discuss an event that marked their transition to adulthood. But the student who is applying to both Princeton and Pomona has to craft a personal statement that speaks to readers at both schools equally well.  As Jon Reider, a well-known high school counselor in San Francisco, says, “It has never occurred to me that one Ivy (or anywhere else) would want a certain kind of essay.  The whole point is that the main essay tell that kid’s own truth.  Colleges take what they get.”

Ivy admission officers would agree that in telling their truth, the topics that students choose more often reflect the reality of their own lives than they do the ethos of specific colleges. This year, for example, admission officers saw many more natural disaster essays (Sandy, Colorado flooding, Oklahoma tornadoes).  The subtle trends are even more interesting. Some admission readers have noted a shift in the overused “helping others in exotic locales” topic, from the old staple in which a student discover peasants that are happy in spite of their poverty, to one in which witnessing the deprivations of poverty spur students to express gratitude for their American prosperity. Others have the impression that students are often more comfortable celebrating a rather anodyne version of diversity, marked more by servings of both sushi and stuffing, masala and mashed potatoes, turkey and tamales, at the dinner table, than by political engagement.

Students’ desire to write an Ivy-inspired essay is also complicated by the nature of the Ivy League itself.  While the League shares a long tradition of academic excellence, exclusivity, and a set of admissions protocols that relate mostly to athletics (such as an Academic index that all Ivy athletes have to meet), the eight Ivies remain very distinctive institutions. It is hard to imagine how to write a Common Application essay that simultaneously speaks to Columbia’s focus on the intellectual value of a core curriculum, Brown’s notion that such value derives from the absence of a core, Cornell’s proud tradition as a land grant school, and Harvard’s exclusivity.

Of course, there is an element of self-selectivity that may set the essays of some Ivy applicants apart from others. Thoughtful applicants focus on how particular schools fit with their social and intellectual aspirations, and good essays mirror such self-awareness.  Elisha Anderson, an Associate Director of Admission at Brown, notes that when he used to work in the admission office of a smaller, nonconformist liberal arts college in Massachusetts, he saw so many essays on protests, filmmaking and the Food not Bombs movement, that, “It wasn’t until I started working at Brown – where I almost never read essays on any of these topics – that I realized how different the self-selection of the two applicant pools must have been.”

For the school-specific supplements to the Common Application students do, however, have to write more targeted essays.  Here a student needs to craft an essay that speaks to his or her fit with that particular institution, and some will ask the question very directly. “Tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia,” for example, or “Why Brown?” Dartmouth avoids additional long essays and Harvard’s is optional. The Ivies with engineering schools ask for additional essays from prospective engineers, but Cornell, not surprising given its seven colleges, ask every applicant for such an academic interest statement. Princeton and Yale are presumably looking for exactly the same qualities in their top applicants—academic aptitude, intellectual depth, awareness of others, leadership qualities, and knowledge of the institution. And to help them identify those elements, Princeton asks students to reflect on their own lives by writing, for example, in response to quotations on culture, service to the nation, and the practice of inequality. Yale, in contrast, asks simply that a student, “Reflect on something you want us to know about you.” Associate Director Rebekah Westphal of Yale explains that the question is, “open enough that students write about whatever they feel like at the time, to present themselves to us without trying to fit into a certain topic or question.”

It has been said that there are only two stories we tell each other: a familiar person leaves on a voyage, and a stranger comes to town.  This is no less true of college essays.  In a good essay the student embarks on a voyage to learn more about an idea, a place, or about herself, and she returns able to examine and understand what has been familiar with new eyes and a deeper perspective. In that narrative, Ivy admission officers are looking for qualities that are no different from those that readers at Stanford, Rice or Chicago are searching for, and for the greatest part, they are all likely to discern them in similar essays.

(A version of this essay was published by Quarts magazine, February 10, 2014)

Seize Your Advantage: Study at a US University

by Jilly Warner, College Goals’ Counselor

If you take a deep breath when someone asks you where you are from; if you report the temperature in Celsius and the distance in kilometers; if you have friends from over 20 different countries, then chances are, you are a Third Culture Kid!

Being a TCK is cool, especially in the world of US higher education.  With a more than 40% increase in international students in the US now as compared with 10 years ago, and admissions officers who understand educational systems from schools all over the globe, US universities have truly embraced an international outlook.  How does this benefit a TCK?  Considering that almost every US college has experienced a significant uptick in the number of international students on their campuses, and given that most TCKs may have lived in many foreign countries, the result is a rich, diverse, interesting and more familiar environment for their college years.

Third Culture Kids are likely to have one or two American parents who experienced a US college education at a time when the application process was very different.  Now, there are more details to manage, more requirements and regulations to understand, more important documents to gather and all is now handled online.  US parents living overseas may find their child’s school doesn’t offer university admission counseling to students applying outside that country and students may feel lost in the process.

Because of these challenges, more US students living overseas and wishing to return ‘home’ to the US for college are seeking the guidance of an independent college counselor for the college search and application process, which takes a year or more.  These professionals offer a broad array of knowledge, resources and experiences upon which to draw, all perfectly designed to support both family and student eager to enter the exciting world of higher education in the US.

Gaining admission to a top US university is now far more competitive.  Overseas students with a US passport bring a wealth of global knowledge and international insights that resonate with colleges today.  These dynamic young people may be considering colleges in the UK, Europe or the US.  What’s the big distinction?

Choice is the difference!  Most young people enter college unclear about their academic paths and career destinations.  As a college student in America, they have the joy of being exposed to multiple options and students with diverse interests.  They benefit from the guidance of faculty and professional advisors who want them to succeed and help them find their own academic passion, even if that means they change their minds a few times.  Whether emerging from a liberal arts college or a pre-professional program, graduates of US colleges are very successful in both job placement and graduate school admissions.

So consider coming ‘home’ to the US for college, and consider the services of a professional counselor to smooth the pathway.  Carefully check credentials and experience before making that important selection but get started as soon as possible.  College Goals provides a full range of services from highly experienced professionals.  To understand our goals, values and skills, check us out online and on Facebook.

Early Decision Results for College Goals’ Students

With the exception of just of few colleges, most students have heard back from the colleges to which they applied early action or early decision.  Here are the results from our College Goals’ students!!  Congratulations on a job well done!  And, students, good luck on your regular decision applications!

Early Decision Results 2014

 

Number of CG Students

College or University

Early Acceptance

Early Deferral

Early Denied

Amherst College

1

Babson College

1

Bowdoin College

1

Brown University

1

3

CalTech

1

Carleton College

1

Case Western Reserve

1

Claremont-McKenna College

1

1

Cornell University

2

1

Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM)

1

Fordham University

1

Georgetown University

2

Harvard University

1

2

Imperial College London

1

Lehigh University

1

Loyola Marymount University

1

MIT

1

Northeastern University

3

Northwestern University

1

Princeton University

1

5

Purdue University

1

Sacred Heart

1

St. Michael’s College

1

Skidmore College

1

Soka University

1

Stanford University

1

1

Tulane Honors Program

2

University of Denver

2

University of Illinois

3

1

University of Pennsylvania

1

1

University of Vermont

1

Vassar College

1

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

1

Yale University

1

1

List of Colleges Extending EA/ED Deadlines

Here is a list of colleges and universities that have extended their Early Action and/or Early Decision deadlines because of the problems with the Common Application.  This information will be updated regularly.

Deadlines extended to October 21

  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill  –  EA
  • Georgia Tech –  EA
  • Roanoke College

Deadlines extended to November 1

  • Temple University — EA

Deadlines extended to November 4

Deadlines extended to November 5

  • Loyola Marymount University — EA   http://admission.lmu.edu/requirementsdeadlines/freshman/
  • Chapman University — EA   tmblr.co/ZlafYryszwxJ

Deadlines extended to November 6

Deadlines extended to November 7

Deadlines extended to November 8

Deadlines extended to November 10

  • Vanderbilt University — EA1

Deadlines extended to November 11

  • George Washington Univ –  ED1
  • University of Vermont – EA
  • University of Pennsylvania — ED   http://bit.ly/1aeywId
  • Saint Michael’s College (VT) — EA1

Deadlines extended to November 15

Deadlines extended to November 20

Deadlines extended to November 22

Deadlines extended to November 29

  • Furman University — EA
  • Hendrix University — EA

Deadlines extended to December 1

 

last updated 11November2013

Teaching Students to Show, Not Tell

Here is an article that is very relevant to college application essay writing, written by Mark Spitzer in Chronicle of Higher Education, September 26, 2012.

 

In his epic poem A Season in Hell, the surly French poet Arthur Rimbaud proposes that the Devil likes writing that lacks “descriptive” qualities. Rimbaud then makes a stand in favor of descriptive writing by offering “these hideous pages from [his] notes of the damned.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that nondescriptive writing is evil in any religious or nonreligious sense, but I would agree that writing that fails to generate strong images or provoke significant feelings provides little incentive to be considered as literary. Nevertheless, I’ve just indicted myself for the exact crime that Rimbaud railed against. “Strong” and “significant” are perfect examples of words that I have spent the past 10 years telling college students to avoid.

When I encounter a vague word—like “cool,” “good,” “bad,” “small,” and “beautiful”—in a student’s creative work, I circle the word and ask how the writer can “show not tell” the details. After all, what’s “cool” for one person is often not “cool” for another, and when something is qualified so ambiguously, it frequently means nothing.

So I ask students to rethink how the details can be shown. I explain that identifying words that fail the Show Not Tell (SNT) test is an exercise in unlearning; that I’m challenging them to re-imagine what they’re shooting to articulate; that I’m trying to get them to take their descriptions to the next level in order to provide unique, colorful, action-packed visions that provoke the imagination—a concept in which the role of the image is key.

Writing teachers from all disciplines and at all levels have been struggling with the issue of show not tell for centuries. I can’t comment on how my colleagues encourage students to cast this demon out, but I can definitely remark on my own approach in introductory creative-writing courses. Basically, for the first half of the semester, I put my students through a drill in which they write “portraits” of people, places, and things. I tell them that what I’m looking for are physical details, and that I’m not interested in anything else. I don’t care what their subject matter is, I don’t want to see any clever summaries to put anything in perspective for the reader. I just want pure description in the realm of 150 words. Then, after they hand in their portraits, I come along with my red pen, circling words that “tell not show” like a tough-love tyrant.

Or a coach, because I’m getting them in shape. I tell them they’re in training for their midterm—at which time we meet at the campus art gallery and each of them picks a piece of art to write about in the form of a 100-word portrait. The grading is simple: An essay with no SNT violations equals an A+; one circled word equals an A; two is an A-minus; and so on. Because showing not telling, I inform them, is a scientific measure of creativity that incorporates a critical and rigorous component. If they can weed out adjectives like “ugly” and replace them with phrases like “toothless, pus-covered, and puke-inducing,” then they’re on the right track.

During the first few weeks of the semester, I provide advice on how to avoid the tyranny of my red pen. Using the example of a student who describes a party as “the bomb,” I explain why that phrase falls short. (Why is it the bomb? Don’t tell me it’s the bomb, show me it’s the bomb.) I then ask students to brainstorm the details of what such a party would involve by relying on the five senses. We discuss the subject in terms of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch, and then I propose metaphors and similes as another technique in making writing more detailed. Then we move on to what I refer to as “wordinvention,” which can add texture to text—because creatifying creatures of contextio is a quickish way to frankenforge emotio-experience.

But mostly I concentrate on encouraging students to expand with description, rather than replace one vague word with another, which is what our instincts are programmed to do. In that sense, I take Jack Kerouac’s Beat mantra of “first word, best word” to task by advocating the sixth or seventh thought.

Take, for example, Hemingway’s minimalist sentence “It was a good fish.” (Sure, simplicity worked for Hemingway, but most of us aren’t Hemingway.) It was a healthy fish. It was a thrashing bass. It was a hull-slapping smallmouth bass. It was a hull-slapping, whoop-inspiring, DNA-pleasing Ozark smallmouth heading for my frying pan. It was a hull-slapping, “Yahoo!”-producing, green-gold-striped smallmouth from the Buffalo River whose filets would soon be dredged in a mixture of cornmeal, flour, and lemon pepper, and fried on the pebbly calico shore. And so on.

The idea is for students to flesh out the details to the point that readers encounter a specific image, one that means something beyond a “good fish.” To put it simply, the more we see, the more we feel. That’s what Rimbaud was talking about: employing details to conjure visions that trigger associations in the subconscious.

Rimbaud’s “alchemy of the word,” however, wasn’t intended to advance the dominant 19th-century literary trend now considered Realism; he was aiming to create a much more visceral effect. This is the visionary poet who wrote “Voyelles,” a poem in which different vowels are ascribed different colors with different sensory qualities, a theory dating to Greek antiquity, then popularized in music study with input from Newton and Goethe. Rimbaud’s vision of using physical details to create effects that play upon the senses later became a major objective of the Symbolist movement, which eventually evolved into Surrealism and became central to the Postmodern aesthetic.

But for my intro students, I keep it simple. We work on physical details, then shift gears into writing poetry, then fiction after that. That provides for a background in description that prepares developing writers for more-sophisticated explorations if they choose to move on to upper-level forms and workshop courses.

I also tell my students that this method will help them on their college papers and in their careers, adding that if they don’t believe my approach is worthwhile, they can always reject it in the end. But once we pass the semester’s halfway mark, there’s really no way they can look at their own writing without considering the hands-on process I put them through.

The scrutiny of details carries through to their final portfolio, which tells it all: They hand in two versions of six pieces (one short story and five poems) in a standard cardboard folder. One pocket is labeled “originals” and contains texts full of words I circled, and the other pocket is labeled “revisions.” In their final products, I see detailed descriptions, wordinventions, similes, and metaphors. In short, I see their mental sweat. But most of all, I see students thinking critically about what they’re composing—which is what the exercise is all about.

Mark Spitzer is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas and the editor of the literary journal Toad Suck Review, published by the university.

 

 

Top 10 Things for Parents to Remember

Excellent tips for parents during the college application process — from Middlebury College Admissions: www.middlebury.edu/admissions/start/parents

It is good, of course, that students and parents approach this process jointly, but we all know that at its best, the process itself can prepare students for the independence that they will experience in college. The following list contains some possible symptoms of parental over-involvement.

10. Remember that this process is not about you. No matter how similar your children may be to you, they need to make their own decisions and observations.

9. Support and encouragement are more appropriate than pressure and unsolicited advice. Allow your children to seek you out and restrain yourself from imposing your viewpoint upon them.

8. Do not use the words “we” or “our” when referring to your children’s application process. Those little pronouns are surefire indicators that you have become too involved.

7. Help them prepare but let them perform. Encourage them to sleep well and put thought into a college visit, but once on campus, step back and let them drive the experience. This is good practice for the next phase of their lives—adulthood.

6. Encourage your children to make their own college appointments, phone calls, and e-mails. When a family arrives at an admissions office, it’s important that the student approach the reception desk, not the parents. We notice! Having control over those details gives them a sense of ownership. Don’t be tempted by the excuse that “I’m just saving them time” or “they are too busy”—students will learn to appreciate all the steps it takes to make big things happen if they do them.

5. Allow your children to ask the questions. They have their own set of issues that are important to them.

4. Prepare your children for disappointment. For many students this is the first time they could face bad news. Remind them there is no perfect school and that admissions decisions do not reflect on their worth as people or your worth as parents.

3. Never complete any portion of the college application—yes, even if it is just busy work. That also goes for friends, siblings, counselors, and secretaries. For many colleges, that overstep would be viewed as a violation of the honor policy at the school.

2. Do not let stereotypes or outdated information steer your children away from schools in which they would otherwise have an interest. Times have changed and so have colleges.

And the Number One thing for parents to remember about the college search process is:

1. Never, ever, during a college visit buy that souvenir sweatshirt or T-shirt from the bookstore in your size—it’s a dead giveaway!