Do Colleges Consider Me a Child or Adult When I Apply?
Most freshman applicants to college are around 17 or 18, unless they choose to attend college later in life. Given that you are making momentous life decisions at a relatively young age as you apply to college, you may be wondering how much responsibility colleges assign to you and how much they assign to your parents in the process.
How mature IS a college applicant? Of course, the answer to this question can vary a lot of from person to person. However, most students, as well as society, would probably describe themselves as in an in-between stage in terms of both age and maturity. There is no correct answer here, but there are some factors that you should consider.
Some teenagers have held jobs (which, as we describe in this guide to jobs and internships, can be very impressive to colleges) and managed their own lives for years. Others may have focused on other activities or haven’t been able to explore more adult roles. Ultimately, there are many different kinds of 17- and 18-year-olds—and there is no “typical” or the “right” kind. In this blog post, we will talk about how mature colleges expect you to be as you apply to college, and how the responsibilities of the process are commonly divided between you and your parents.
What does your age status mean for your college applications?
While you may not be a full adult yet, colleges want to see maturity and potential, and expect you to handle most of the application process on your own. Of course, you can—and often should—still accept and receive advice and support from your guidance counselor (check out this guide on building a strong relationship with your guidance counselor to find out more about how he or she can help you) and parents, as well as other adults and peers. Still, most of the work in putting together the final application should be yours.
Try to handle as much of your process as you can on your own. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have other read over your work and offer tips—as we describe in this guide, it can be helpful in some cases (though not always) to have a second set of eyes. However, most interaction with colleges themselves, such as making calls or sending emails about your application, should come from you. Don’t have a parent call a college on your behalf; this may indicate that you aren’t able or ready to solve your own problems. You should also be the one to ask the other people who contribute to your application, such as your recommenders, for their help.
Financial aid and paying for college
Colleges consider attending and paying for college a family decision. In many cases, your parents are primarily responsible for financing your education, and colleges understand that. If you are the one responsible for paying for college, colleges will take this into account when determining your financial aid package.
You will need to provide your parents’ complete financial information when filling out your need-based financial aid forms. Even if your parents are the primary funders of your education, if you receive need-based aid, colleges will expect you to contribute in some way, either through work study jobs, summer or outside jobs, or a combination of some or all of these.
For more guidance on financial aid and paying for college, check out our guide here.
Life at college
So what does your in-between age status mean for your life at school, such as your academic performance, housing, and food?
In terms of your grades, college are generally not allowed to release your transcripts directly to your parents, even if they are the ones paying for your tuition. You are responsible for managing the relationship between your parents and your college by acting as an intermediary. This means if your parents want to see your grades (and you want to share them), you need to be the one to show them. If you are struggling in any way, you will be responsible for seeking out help and resolving problems as well—don’t expect your parents to email your professors asking them to grant an extension on your behalf (yes, this actually happens).
As far as housing, food, and other aspects of your living conditions, policies vary considerably according to which school you attend. There may be several different options for dorms, apartments, and meal plans, while other schools, often referred to as commuter schools, have limited options for on-campus housing and may expect you to find your own place to live. While your parents may contribute to your rent, many students are expected to work and pay for their own housing.
Schools may also have different rules about curfews, visitors, and alcohol. For many students, life at college is the first time they have lived away from their parents for an extended period of time. You’ll be expected to hold yourself accountable for household chores like laundry and dishwashing, not to mention managing your schoolwork and sleep schedule well.
Colleges give you adult opportunities and expect you to handle some responsibilities. At the same time, they recognize that you are at an in-between life stage. College is an intermediary stage in your life; for most students, it is the first time they will be living away from their parents, though they are still under some supervision while living in dorms, and while they are responsible for making some of their own decisions, many still rely on their parents to provide financial support and other guidance. Ultimately, you will enjoy a new degree of freedom and independence, while still having a great deal of support.
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Want some help on filling out specific sections of your applications and related forms? Check out the posts below for guidance from CollegeVine.