There clearly is something about sharing turkey with family members from far and wide that prompts lots of panicky post-Thanksgiving calls.
I figure that families with high school seniors get either a serious reality check Do you have any idea how competitive it is to get into favorite U? or a guilt trip if they havent yet submitted applications What were you thinking?
So while many seniors are all done, there are many others just getting started and they are quick to tell me they underestimated the complexity of the admissions process.
If your son or daughter has already completed the application process, this column isnt for you. But for the others, here are tips for parents on how to survive December:
1. Shrink the list. Determine whether each college is a reach, target or a safety school. Select one or two in each category. Finish those applications first and then, if theres time, complete other applications.
2. Know the deadlines. All colleges state their deadlines on their websites and in college guidebooks. Many are January 1, but you might be pleasantly surprised to find a Jan. 15 or Feb. 1 deadline. It could turn out to be a huge blessing.
3. Create a task calendar with responsibilities and due dates. Make sure you understand all the elements needed for an application to be considered complete. Most colleges have application checklists on their websites Admissions page.
4. Be realistic. When creating the task calendar, dont over-promise the amount of work you can expect to be completed.
5. Avoid the blame game. Its not helpful to say, I told you about this months ago, but you didnt do anything.
6. Visit schools. If you still havent visited some of the key schools on the list, make the arrangements.
7. Help your child brainstorm. Responding to specific essay prompts and the general tell us something about you essay can be challenging. Spend some time probing for insights and recalling memories.
8. Dont allow shortcuts. Dont write the essays and dont take over the process this is not your college application.
9. Take a deep breath (This too will pass.) Know that within 30 days or so this will be over. Savor the good times. There may be tears, but hopefully there will be good conversations and a strong show of family support.
10. If you have other children, commit to starting earlier next time. Use this as a learning experience.