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Final Steps to the College Application Process

February 24, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

A student completes a college application.

With 2014 well underway, many students are completing the final stages of the college application process. I have been receiving daily requests from my senior students for assistance. Here are some of the most important things you can do to help your child cross the finish line and get into college.

Letters of reference

Make sure your student does not leave this step for the last minute. Teachers and counselors have a full plate and it is difficult to fulfill last minute requests to write a great letter of recommendation. Sit down with your child and write a general letter of reference that highlights positive characteristics, academic achievements and extra-curricular activities. This sample letter can then be given to recommenders to guide them and make completion faster.

FAFSA Documents 

W-2 forms are needed to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application will determine how much state and federal aid will be available to defer tuition costs and it operates on a first-come, first-served basis. The money runs out, so it is imperative that your child submits the FAFSA as soon as possible and they need your tax information. Most high schools offer parent-counseling sessions during this time of the year to answer questions and navigate your tax situation.

Interviews

Several students of mine are currently having interviews to make the final determination on a scholarship opportunity or admission to an institution. Interviews can be tough, but there are some simple strategies that can help your child feel more confident about them.

  • Practice, practice, practice. Generally, interviews involve the same kind of questions: Tell me about yourself, why do you want to go to school here? Tell me about a time when you were a leader, where do you see yourself in 5 years? Review these questions with your child and help them refine their answers.
  • Make a good first impression. First impressions also play big role in determining the outcome of an interview. Practice shaking hands with a firm grip and eye contact, get your student there at least 15 minutes early, and make sure he or she is dressed for success.
  • Send a thank you note. A hand-written thank you note, sent after the interview, is also a nice touch that can separate your child from the competition.

College Admission Test Prep 

These tests can produce a lot of anxiety. The best way to have your student feel better about them is to do some research about what specifically will be on the exam. Once that is determined, the student can put in some practice time. This is especially important for admission tests that involve timed essays. Getting the timing right takes rehearsal and repletion. Check with the school counseling office to see if there are any practice tests available so that the format and question types can be reviewed.

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