Procrastinating on Your Homeschooler's College Apps? 7 Quick Steps to get a Jumpstart this Summer

Would you rather avoid college applications? I get it.

Your teen is prepping for camping adventures with friends. You’ve packed away the papers and books. You’re both ready to exhale and celebrate the end of 11th grade. A swamped year of test-taking and goal-making discussions.

Are you dreaming of a beach vacation? With mindless reading in hand and plans to let mother nature do all the work? I know you don’t want to think about college application season. Believe me, I put it off way too long.

But as Mark Twain said,

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting in on the first one.”

Take a tiny bit of time on the 7 steps below before heading off to the ocean. So, you can relax in the sun and water instead of feeling weighed down by the tasks to come in September.

Ready to start?

1. On your mark. Get set. Go.

Completing college applications is easier than ever. The Common Application is automated and online. More than 700 schools accept it. No more filling out ten individual packets by hand and mad dashing to the post office. But it’s also harder now. Teens apply to more schools than before and at the click of a button. More schools on the list means more to get done.

Your action: Get started. Visit commonapp.org and create an account. Input the general Profile and Family information and click around to get familiar with the Dashboard.

2. The oft-dreaded section

I know you’ve heard it many times over your years of homeschooling: keep good records. You’ve saved projects and written work, booklists, and your journal notes on bits of paper. If you didn’t keep track, get ready to connect the dots backward. It’s not easy, but you can do it.

Your action: Organize your teen’s academic and extracurricular activities by subject and year. Research transcript and course description templates. Have the template ready and the pieces to plug in.

3. More tests?

Review your teen’s ACT or SAT results from junior year and decide if another sitting is needed. Are there areas where a stronger score is possible? If she’s interested in re-taking it in fall, summer is the time for prepping. Set up a study schedule but also allow time for rest and fun.

Your action: Schedule the ACT or the SAT fall testing date now.

4. It’s not written in stone… yet

Have you whittled down the college list to 8-10 best-fits? If you haven’t, no worries. Plan to sit down with your teen for solid research sessions this summer. Visit websites and read books like the Fiske Guide to Colleges to discover schools that meet your teen’s needs and preferences.

Your action: Arrange a few dates to meet with your teen and create the college short-list.

5. Does the early bird really catch the worm?

Having an application strategy is important. Does your teen know without doubt the one college that is her top choice? Then ED or EA may be a good option. Applying Early Decision or Early Action has benefits:

  • reduced stress
  • less money spent on applications
  • a possible increase in acceptance

But is it right for your teen? Here are reasons not do it:

  • fewer financial aid opportunities
  • forced commitment to one school
  • scrambling to complete other applications if your teen doesn’t receive an acceptance

Your action: Discuss and decide if your teen will apply ED/EA or stick with Regular Decision. Circle the deadline on your calendar in red.

6. A heavy writing work-out lies ahead

Once your teen creates her Common App login, she can view the Personal Statement essay prompts. She should read through them and choose one that resonates. No writing yet. Let the ideas simmer while she enjoys her horseback riding and marine biology summer camp.

Fresh connections erupt when we’re not trying so hard. Yes, the Supplemental and Why Us? essays need attention, too. Your teen can shift focus there when the Personal Statement is on its way to completion and the college list is finalized.

Your action: View the 7 Personal Statement essay options. Which one is your teen drawn to? Let it percolate a couple weeks before starting the first draft.

7. Secure it now

Your teen developed many interests outside the home. He’s a black belt in karate, a volunteer at a dog shelter, and an assistant in his online AP English Lit class. That’s fantastic!

2-3 recommendations are required for the college application, ideally in areas of length and strength. Which adults work closely with your teen and know him well?

Your action: Plan who will provide this outside perspective to colleges. Let your teen ask for the recommendation before the teacher, mentor, or supervisor is too busy in the fall.

Glorious summer

You both accomplished a lot this year and need a break. The waves are calling. You deserve it.

But take 30 minutes each evening for a week to get a jumpstart on the college admissions process.

Polish these 7 tasks off and beat the overwhelm.

Then your final action is to enjoy the sweet waves with your teen.

Happy times.

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