Eye on Education: Navigating the college application process

Eye on Education: Navigating the college application process

By Judith Burke-Berhannan

New technology influences everything, including your child’s college application process. Websites, social media and streaming videos may be more common than catalogs as sources of information for the college-bound child, but the fundamentals of applying for college remain the same — along with the anxiety and anticipation. So how do you help your children make the most of their college search and selection process?

Talk to your child about his or her interests, strengths and goals early. During sophomore and junior year, keep college in focus by including him or her in conversations with family, friends and associates about their college experiences and take advantage of college planning and guidance resources available through your high school and library.

Help your child compile a checklist of what he or she wants in a college, so that by senior year, they can explain their reasons for applying. Research options by exploring college websites together. For example, the Stony Brook University website features a virtual tour, blogs from current students and tools to help you plan for college costs and scholarship opportunities.

The summer before senior year is an ideal time to tour college campuses and review essay topics and application deadlines. Encourage your child to complete all college applications before Thanksgiving. Remember that application and scholarship deadlines are non-negotiable.

At the same time, establish an email account for your child’s college correspondence. Colleges will correspond with applicants primarily by email, so make sure your child checks the account regularly and responds quickly throughout the application process. Remind them that all college correspondence is professional and their writing style should be formal to reflect how serious they are about applying. Make sure they use proper grammar and etiquette and don’t use any casual shorthand commonly used in text messages and on social media — in other words, no acronyms, abbreviations or emojis!

But remember, when it’s time to write essays and talk with the people who will provide letters of recommendation, step aside. This is your child’s college experience, not yours. Admissions committees can detect essays written by professionals and parents. Empower your student to take ownership of the process. Finally, take a step back and relax. Be confident that with the proper preparation and a positive outlook, your child will be successful in his or her college search.

Judith Burke-Berhannan is the dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Stony Brook University.

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