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Countdown to college: Plan now, feel better later

Lee Shulman Bierer, Tribune News Service on

Published in Education News

You can still qualify for the honor of being called an “early bird” as long as you complete at least one college application before school starts.

Teenagers may be prone to romanticizing about the last remaining lazy days of summer and getting anxious about the stress once they return to school. My recommendation to a parent is to be the “bad guy” and make them commit to start working on their college applications, now. Once school starts, they’ll certainly be feeling pressed for time between their homework, extracurricular activities and social engagements.

Here is my top-10 list of simple tips to get the process started. Make a simple chart or spreadsheet with the following information for each school:

1) Name of each college.

2) Your best guess on your chances of being accepted, and label each school with "R" for reach/dream schools, "T" for target/likely schools, or "S" for safety/slam dunk schools.

3) College admissions webpage url.


4) Application deadline. (Note whether the college offers Early Decision, which is binding, or Early Action, which is non-binding.) List the colleges in order of their deadlines.

5) Label each as to whether it accepts the Common Application.

6) List the number of essays required and read through the application to see what optional essays are offered

7) Find out whether schools are listed as “test optional” or will require you submit either the SAT or the ACT.


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