There’s no more distracted student on the planet than a high school senior in December. They’ve got applications on the brain, and some are so stressed they are almost sick. Or as my students say, they’ve come down with the “common cold,” referring to the Common Application many colleges use. Teachers can support college applicants by using some simple teen-approved tips.
1. Help them get the process off the ground.
As the saying goes, the first step is the hardest. The college application process can seem daunting to students. Simply sitting next to a student as they log on to their account and explore the basics of the application can take some of the fear and anxiety out of the process.
2. Encourage creating a timeline.
It’s the perfect time to help teens “adult” by planning for upcoming deadlines. Getting specific about these dates will ensure they make it through the process with at least one acceptance letter. For example, instead of writing “letter due,” they should write “ask teachers for letter” and “follow up with teachers about letters” on the appropriate dates.
3. Speaking of letters …
This may be the first time your student has asked for a favor from a teacher. The very idea of that request can seem overwhelming to them. Students may think they are the first student to ask for a letter—hardly! Offer to role-play the conversation. Encourage them to come to the teacher with specifics, such as information they’d like included or promoted, the due date, and the means of submitting the letter. Students should follow up with an email containing all of that information as well. Finally, ensure students know to write a thank-you note to recommending teachers.
4. Leave no scholarship opportunity unexplored.
Students often think that if their school of choice didn’t offer them enough money then that’s the end of the journey for them. However, many scholarships are available, especially if a student has experience in a certain field or knows the path they want to pursue. For example, the Architects Foundation offers this amazing scholarship to undergraduate minority students going into architecture. Their post explains their desire to encourage minority students to help diversify the field of architecture. Help your students identify areas that make them unique and ensure they have the right connections to potential scholarship opportunities.
5. Offer support on the dreaded essay.
Some English teachers help juniors and seniors practice writing their college essays before crunch time even hits, so remind students to think back on whether they’ve ever drafted a practice essay or another personal essay that might provide the framework to their college essay. If a student is stuck, it can help to ask them about a challenge they’ve overcome in their life or something they deeply believe in as a conversation starter on the way to establishing an outline. If essays aren’t your area, help them tap into school resources that can walk them through the process, such as an English homework club, a favorite English teacher, or even a peer who is a confident writer. Brainstorming the college essay in isolation can kill creativity.
6. Get to the root of the decision.
What is your student basing their college decision on? Sometimes their slacking in the application process is a disguise for the fact that they just don’t know what they want to do yet and where the best place for them might be. Discuss things you’ve seen college students in the past consider as major factors in the decision, such as location, proximity to family, the quality of the school’s program in a desired area, the size of the school, campus life, and anything else they may deem important. A conversation may reveal to them more about what they want than they originally realized.
In the end, your students will survive the “common cold” and might even have epiphanies about themselves along the way, with some simple guidance and conversation from you.
Thanks to our friends at the Architects Foundation and the American Institute of Architects for sponsoring this post. This wonderful organization offers a Diversity Advancement Scholarship for minority students interested in architecture. Please check it out and spread the word to students you think might be interested!