It is that time of year again, when K-12 schools are starting back, students (and teachers) groan and parents quietly celebrate. Colleges are beginning to open their applications for the Class of 2023 (UGA's app will open on September 1), and the college admissions process suddenly gets real. With the flip of the proverbial switch, applying to colleges suddenly changes from a vague future action to a reality and the tension level goes up to a seven or eight. I honor of this time of year, here is a list of do's and don'ts for parents and students.
Rising HS Seniors:
DON'T: Let senioritis overtake your brain. After you are admitted to a college, they will still be reviewing your final HS transcript, and you need to make sure your grades have not dropped to a level that causes problems in enrolling at your intended college. We rescinded eight offers of admission this year - please don't be one of these next year.
DO: Stay active in clubs, sports, volunteer work or other activities that you have been involved with during HS. Senior year should be a good finish to your HS years, not a count-down until you are out of there.
DON'T: Be so active in all things outside of school that you let your grades drop (see the first DON'T). Know (or learn) how to juggle different demands, and know that your academics come first.
DO: Look at the college search process as a time to learn more about yourself, what you want to do for the next four years, and find several good matches in your college search. This should be an exciting time where you are able to look into the future and see how you fit with each college, and the possibilities that are down the road.
DON'T: Listen to myths, rumors or people who say "I heard that in order to get into UGA...". Senior year and the college search should not be a time of panic or despair, and most of the stress is not necessary. College admission offices want to work with you and help you through the process, so listen to their suggestions. Generally, college admission rumors start when someone does not understand the admissions process, and they then attempt to guess about a reason X/Y/Z happened. Don't get caught up in this cycle of misinformation.
DO: Pay attention to deadlines, take responsibility for your own college applications, and make sure things are in well before they need to be.
DON'T: Do things at the last minute. How you act in HS and in the application process shows us how you might be on our campus. If you do things at the last second (or later), procrastinate, and do not take care of your side of things, what do you think the colleges will be thinking about how you will handle things once you get to college.
DO: Enjoy your senior year, take time to enjoy the college selection process, and thank your parents, counselors and teachers for all that they have done for you.
Parents of Rising HS Seniors
DO: Support your student during this challenging year of transition. Find a good balance between helping them and getting out of the way and letting them handle things, as they will be out of the house next year and having to do things on their own soon enough.
DON'T: Make this process about you. We all want our kids to succeed, whether it is in four year old soccer or applying to college, and as parents, you feel each joy and pain your child feels. But make sure that the focus is on the student, where they want to apply, and what is best for them. If you find yourself saying "We applied...", stop and reassess the situation. There are many comparisons we use for parents (training wheels on a bike, safety net, coach, cheerleader), but in the end the student is going to be on a campus next fall, and they need to learn how to handle this college thing on their own.
DO: Learn about the colleges your student is interested in, and ask questions of admissions about the process. Our offices are happy to answer all questions, and I try and reply to any and all comments on this blog. We still want the student to ask questions, and you should encourage your student to take the lead, but we are fine working with parents during this process.
DON'T: Ask for advice on UGA admissions decision process from your friends/neighbors just because they have had a child apply to UGA in the past. First, things change, from deadlines to requirements to how our process works. Second, having a child apply to college makes you knowledgeable about applying to college, not on how admission decisions are made. Myths and rumors abound in the college admissions world, but I heavily suggest you try and avoid anyone sharing them. If a person starts a sentence with "I heard that UGA Admissions ...", think twice (or more) about the advice.
DO: Have a discussion with your student on the realities of attending X/Y/Z college, especially if college costs are a major factor. Make sure they know what the reality is concerning what is possible and what is not based on admissions/financial aid.
DON'T: Eliminate a college from your student's list just because it is a rival of your alma mater. If you are an Alabama fan, life will be okay if your child goes to Auburn. Same with UGA/GT, Cal Berkeley/Stanford, UNC/NC State, and Harvard/Yale. Let your student find the colleges that match their interests and go from there.
DO: Help your student find a number of colleges that fit their needs. In the college search, there will be a number of institutions that "check off all the boxes" of what your student is looking for in a university. Help them understand that there are a number of great options and to find good matches with their needs.
DON'T: Tell your student that there is only one perfect college for them. Having only one "perfect" option puts a great deal of unnecessary pressure on getting into that one institution. I know a number of previously denied students who found a great match at another college, even if at first they thought not getting into UGA was the end of the world.
DO: Tell your child you love them no matter what admission decisions occur over the next year or so.
Good luck in managing the college admissions process, and Go Dawgs!