College Application Season: Low-Stress September

How to Turn Down the Temperature of An Overheating Senior
It may seem like an oxymoron, but there is a way to ease into the hectic college application season after a relaxing summer vacation.

During my first counseling session with families, I stress the importance of mitigating any stress until after September. In October, November and  December, parents won’t have to “pump up the volume” on anxiety because in-school college counselors and ex-missions directors, the College Board and the Common App, emails and snail-mail from colleges themselves as well as your students’ friend group will make sure your senior feels, if not hears, the imminence and the eminence of the application season.

Want to dial down mounting tension your student may be feeling?  Here you go:

iCal, Google Calendar, Outlook
Find a management system that works for your senior and you.  Some parents tell me that a good old-fashioned wall calendar with color-coding denoting various tests, college visits and application due dates helps their family stay on track.  Other families “invite” relevant family members to “events” on their electronic calendars.  Maybe all of the above, plus a little reminding, when a deadline’s looming!

Class Schedule
This seems to be a high school senior’s “wild card” in the application equation.  Gone are the early high school days of requirements and fairly universal course schedules amongst most Freshman in the U.S. During Senior Year, students are given freedom and choice, resulting in varied curriculums nationwide. I’ve had students tell me that they have electives with college course names such as “Psychology and The Industrial Age” and others say they’ve chosen to take all APs.  For some, this will be their “easiest academic year” and for others, their “hardest.” A little secret: it doesn’t matter.  What’s most important is to get any bumps out of the course load-road before October. I’d suggest your student switch classes or sections as soon as they realize that whatever they signed up for Junior spring isn’t conducive to the big-bang finish, grade-wise. There’s no weakness exposed in begging out of a difficult class just to maintain a GPA.  Admissions’ officers want to see a banner first semester for each individual student.

Reconnect with Friends, Teachers, Coaches, Mentors
Time spent catching up after the summer — updating art teachers or sports coaches, socializing with friends, school administrators or anyone who’s in your student’s world — is often regarded as “chaff” during a season focused on “wheat,” or college applications.  I just told a student to book a meeting with his European History teacher and chat; the student enjoys talking with this gentleman who also happens to be writing one of the student’s college recommendations!  This moment of connection serves double-duty in this case. Taking some “me” time, however that’s interpreted, for your student, is very important before the sprint to the deadline-finish.

As always, for personalized Essay Coaching and/or College Counseling, drop me a line at or give me a holler at 917-863-2424.