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COMPLETING THE COMMON APP: HOW INVOLVED SHOULD PARENTS BE?


October can be a stressful month for many parents of high school seniors. Deadlines are looming, seniors are feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork and essays, and a calm household can become a hot mess in a matter of seconds.


When we see our kids overwhelmed and stressed out, we parents often have a desire to step in and make things feel better. It’s easy to start nagging our kids about upcoming deadlines and ask whether they’ve started a supplement. Have they finished the activities list? Have they asked their teachers for recommendations? Typically, though, nagging like this only increases the stress. Our kids know what they need to do, and the goal should be for our kids to own the application process. As best we can, we should stand on the sidelines and cheer them on.


Applying to college, after all, is an opportunity for skill-building. It’s a complex and complicated process with many unknowns--not unlike many projects and assignments they will face when they’re in college. Robbing them of this opportunity will not serve them. When the college admissions process is in the rearview window, we want our kids to say to themselves: “Wow. I just did that. I applied to a bunch of colleges, and I got into a few. Now I’ve chosen the best one for me, and I really belong.”


So what can and should parents do? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Have your senior print out a pdf of their Common App and proof it before they submit. Check for typos and glaring misrepresentations, but please do not edit their essays. Their voice--not ours--needs to come out in their essays. Highfalutin’ vocabulary and two spaces after a period are dead giveaways that parents took over an essay. Restrain yourself, please!

  2. Hand over your credit card to pay for application fees.

  3. Complete the FAFSA.

  4. Celebrate whenever your senior turns in an application. It’s a big deal. It’s emotional. It’s an especially heavy lift right now given the last two Covid-filled years.

And what about those kids who just can’t seem to get their applications done? Take that as a sign. For some reason, they are not ready. For some reason, they are resisting. They may need a gap year. They may need a break to figure out what they want. Embrace this. Meet your kid where they are. Trust that things will turn out okay.


I help students and their families navigate the college admissions process. I empower students to figure out who they are and where they belong, and I provide structure, insight, and enthusiasm as we find colleges that are the best fit academically, socially, and financially. Contact me at marisa@mgsed.com for a 30 minute complimentary session to learn more!

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