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It’s not easy watching your child grow up, and watching them apply to colleges isn’t any easier. On one hand, you may feel excited that your child is ready to take this step into adulthood. On the other hand, if you feel that your child isn’t being very organized with their college applications, you may feel a bit stressed as well.

 

Most of us now-adults had to learn about the importance of sticking to deadlines the hard way, but with a high stakes process like college applications, it can be harder to sit back and let your child learn this lesson on their own. How can you intervene without stepping on your child’s toes or undermining their independence? It’s a difficult line to walk, but you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for tips on how to motivate your teen to organize their college applications!

 

 

Create a college planning calendar

A college planning calendar is a great way for your kid to keep track of deadlines and all the work they need to do. Not all college applications are due on the same date;many early decision applications are due in November, while regular decision ones are often due in early to mid January.

 

Sit down with your child and have them lay out the next several months of work — keeping in mind that you shouldn’t just be worrying about application deadlines. The common app essay, for example, should be done well before college applications are due, because it’s important to leave time for editing and proofreading.

 

You should also keep track of which colleges require supplemental essays or other components for their application, and which ones do not.

 

Other elements of the college application process like actually filling out the common app or securing letters of recommendation cannot be done at the last minute, so be sure that your teen budgets plenty of time for these! You should also take note of any extracurricular commitments, family vacations, sports tournaments, or other activities that will prevent your teen from working on college applications during a certain period of time.

 

 

Hold a weekly check-in meeting

While you definitely should be checking in on your child, once a day is a bit too often, and once a month is likely too lax. Try meeting with your child once a week to see what progress they’ve made. During this time, you can pull out the college calendar and ask if they;re on track..

 

This is also your child’s time to ask you any questions or even ask for help if they’re stumped on a particular essay prompt. Aside from your weekly meeting, try to avoid asking your child about their college application progress (unless, of course, they bring it up). Allowing them to be more independent helps build their sense of agency.

 

 

Keep your teen accountable

Again, you should  give your child space to tackle their applications, but not to the point where they don’t end up doing any of their work. During your weekly check-ins, if you suspect your child has fallen behind or needs more help, work with them map out a new plan or reconfigure their college planning calendar.

 

Remember that the ultimate goal is for your child to complete all of their college applications on time — while you might feel frustrated or stressed if your child falls behind, it’s not a good idea to shame your child or punish them. Simply slow down, reconfigure the schedule, and encourage them to keep working.

 

You might also want to emphasize the importance of applying to college and how it will affect your child’s future, and potentially the rest of their life. Encourage them to spend a little more time working and a little less time with their friends or watching TV over the next few months—it will pay off in the future once their acceptances are rolling in!

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Find time for college info sessions

If college info sessions are offered at your child’s school or at nearby college campuses, be sure to go to them. This will motivate your child to apply to college in an organized way and will also give them valuable information about the college process. Going to info sessions together is one way that you as a parent can stay involved in the college process without being too involved. It also presents a great opportunity for you to talk about your child’s college application progress!

 

 

Get to know your teen’s mentor

If your child has a mentor, it is certainly a good idea to get to know them and make sure that the two of you are on the same page.

 

Some students are mentored by a teacher at school, an older peer, or a tutor. There is even our own CollegeVine Student Mentorship Program, which pairs high school students with successful older peers who help give them advice on college apps, interview prep, SAT prep, and more.

 

Whoever this person is, be sure to check in with them and ask how you can better aid your child in applying to college and staying organized. You might be surprised by what you find out!

 

 

Seek advice from other parents who have already been there, done that

Finally, if you’re really feeling stumped or frustrated, remember that you are not alone! Many, many parents before you have struggled with trying to motivate their kids to keep their college applications organized, and each of them has dealt with it in their own unique way.

 

Try seeking out some of these parents and asking their advice—maybe they live in your neighborhood, or maybe they are on an online message board. No matter what, just remember that you can always ask for help!

 

 

Conclusion

It is hard to walk the line between encouraging your child’s independence and offering them too much freedom. If you are worried about whether or not your child is staying organized during college application session, you can help them by creating a college  planning calendar, checking in with them, going to college info sessions together, and even talking with their mentor.

 

Another way you can help your teen stay organized is through the CollegeVine College Application Guidance Program. This program helps students and families track admissions milestones and determine which schools they should apply to based on their chances. Students can even work one on one with an admissions consultant!

 

For more tips on college applications, take a look at these blog posts:

 

How Can I Make My College Applications Stand Out?

Parents: Helping Your Child Through College Applications

Knowing the Lingo: College Admissions & Applications Acronyms

6 Crucial Convos to Have With Your Student Before College Application Season

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Devin Barricklow

Devin Barricklow

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).
Devin Barricklow