Families hire college planners for all sorts of reasons. One very good reason is when the parents were educated in a foreign country and know little about the United States educational system.
While working with such a family, the rising senior seemed uninterested in making progress toward a goal that was so far in the future. It was easy to tell when his classmates began making preparations for the coming college application season because he was suddenly eager to follow all my instructions. Everything was going to plan and by the end of the spring semester, he was in a position to worry about nothing until the online applications became active. Imagine my surprise at receiving a message that was filled with all-out panic.
We had decided on a short list of colleges and I sent a message congratulating him on his work. The information that caused the anxiety was a comment about the need to complete three different applications in order to be considered for admission at all the colleges on his list. The short, choppy sentences that came back in reply were obviously indicative of his thoughts being in complete disarray. What does it mean and why is it necessary to complete so many applications? The message would have made me chuckle had it not been so obvious that he was terrified that something had gone wrong before he opened his first application.
My reply was an extended explanation about the ability of colleges to use admission materials that best meet their needs. I made him aware that not all colleges accept every application. His colleges were listed along with each application they accepted for admission. Because two of his colleges used university-specific applications, at least three applications would need to be completed. My explanation seemed to do the trick and I could almost hear the sigh of relief in his next reply.
Families like this one are a key reason why I enjoy my involvement in the application process so much. Prior to becoming a college planner, my peers regarded me as good teacher. That is what I continue to do; teach high school students how to make the most of their secondary education opportunities and use those successes to assemble an outstanding college application. After 14 years, it’s old hat to me; but to someone who doesn’t understand the system, that knowledge is pure gold.