Preparing for the college admissions game
By Margaret McNally, M Ed., McNally College Consulting
Why does applying to college rank up there along with moving or buying a house as one of the most stressful times a family can go through? With the cost of a four-year college in some cases topping out at over $200,000, and pressure to believe that only “brand name” schools count, it’s easy to see why families often view this rite of passage with so much anxiety.
When my own kids applied to college I thought it would be a slam-dunk. At the time, as an 11th grade English teacher, I hardly expected it to be as difficult as it turned out to be. In desperation, my husband and I hired a college consultant, a wonderful man who helped us navigate those stormy waters with personalized attention, experience and empathy all the way.
The college admissions process is complex and confusing, no doubt about it. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. As an education consultant, I advise my students and their families to break down the process into manageable chunks, and to approach it in a systematic way with a schedule worked out well ahead of time. This is what my College Application Road Map looks like:
Buy a binder to organize applications and the college search.
The college search
Based on detailed interviews with the parents and the student I work with, I develop a list of colleges that best match the student’s needs, qualifications and goals, as well as the family’s financial goals.
The application process
This is where much of the heavy lifting takes place. Tests, early application options, the college essay, activities list, recommendations, supplements to the Common Application, more essays, college visits, interviews, the FAFSA and the Profile... and deadlines throughout.
The final decision
Once the acceptance letters come in, which offer will you choose? And if you applied for financial aid, which package offers the most free money?
Families often ask when they should start gearing up for college. No later than your child’s junior year and before if possible. That way there is much less pressure on your child and on you.
Each student deserves excellent college advising. You should always work closely with your school guidance counselor, but if your child would benefit from individualized attention, then hiring a college consultant might be the best and most cost-effective choice you can make.
Margaret McNally is director of Cambridge-based McNally College Consulting. Contact Margaret at (617) 680-6449 or firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with her on LinkedIn or visit www.mcnallycollegeconsulting.com.
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