Help my daughter apply to college? Nothing to it, I thought. I was so, so wrong.
The three months that we struggled through the process turned out to be filled with pressure, arguments, emotional outbursts, and vast stretches of black depression. But along the way, I learned a few hard truths.
First: Remember what it was like when you applied to college? It’s not like that anymore. At all.
More kids are applying for fewer spaces than ever before, and the pressure from counselors, teachers, peers, and parents – yes, you! – is far greater. Colleges want to know much more than they did in your day (let’s just call it “The Seventies,” and leave it at that). One example: back then, the entire application for the University of California was about four pages long. Today the application form is 16 pages long…and the instruction book for the application is 48 pages. So start with this first certainty: you know nothing.
Second: You better be organized, but you can’t be prepared.
You can find dozens of books and Web sites explaining the application process, including one that promises to chop essay-writing time to one hour (yeah, why waste more than one stinkin’ hour on writing the single most important document of your teen’s life, hah?) These books are crammed full of the painfully obvious, the inapplicable, the contradictory, and not much more.
The one helpful guide we found was by Arlene Matthews, a psychologist, college counselor, and author of Getting in Without Freaking Out: The Official College Admissions Guide for Overwhelmed Parents. Her clear and real-world advice will help you sleep at night and still get the job done. Among the gems that deserve to be put on posters: “Relax, it’s only college,” “Stress is a killjoy,” “Procrastination is inevitable; accept it.” And, “You know you’ll still love them, no matter where they go.”