Do you have a high school senior who is now applying to colleges? If so, I have exciting news to share with you so that you do not make the mistake of jeopardizing your teen’s college chances. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this behavior exhibited year after year with parents of seniors. I want to share it with you so that you are both informed and empowered in terms of how you support your teen through the college application process.
August is the time that seniors will be usually setting up their Common Application account. That’s the main portal or tool that they’ll use to have the ability to apply to hundreds of colleges. Ideally seniors will choose eight to ten colleges to apply to using the Common Application website.
One of the things I see is parents working with their first child to go through the college application process and they get a little bit overzealous in terms of helping. When this happens, I warn parents that it’s okay to help, but not do. There are generally three key mistakes I see parents making that jeopardizes their teen’s chances of admissions.
The first mistake parents make is using their teen’s Common Application password to log into their account. A few years ago, the mother of a client of mine was logging in to her son’s account and inadvertently submitted an application with her name on it. That’s embarrassing–and it’s difficult to undo! The Common Application now has accounts created for parents, so you can set up your own account. That way, you can see what the application questions are, how to fill out an application and get some insight without actually logging into your teen’s account.
The second mistake that I see is from parents that will write the application essays for their teens. I know some of you might be horrified by this thought, but it’s true. It happens every year. Unfortunately, that’s a critical way to hurt your teen’s college admissions chances. It’s highly likely that a college admissions officer will recognize the difference between the words a parent would use versus a teenager. An essay written by a parent won’t have the same authenticity that’s needed to be really compelling and stand out. Sometimes, even if you’re not fully writing it but instead trying to write about an experience or offering certain words to use, it will still be obvious. What I recommend is to let your teen invite you to read their application essay and just do that. As much as you can, restrain from commenting on it or suggesting changes. Read it, encourage them, and let them submit their best without you placing judgment on it.
The third and final mistake that I see parents making is having too many readers. I have seen some parents invite family members and other people that they know in the community to read their teens application essay. Just like too many cooks in the kitchen can be a disaster, having your teen respond to three or five different readers stresses them out more and makes the process that much more challenging for them.
To recap, the first key is to get your own Common Application account. The next is to not write your teen’s essays. Thirdly, limit the number of readers for your teen’s application essays. One or two, that should be enough so that it doesn’t confuse them, doesn’t undermine and discourage them in any way. The main thing that your teen needs through this process is confidence. They need assurance that it may be a tough season, but they will get through it and it will be a great experience for their future.