College App To Do List

By Margie Chiang 2023-05-06 13:51:40

As an education coach, I’m often asked by parents how they can support their children during the college application process for overseas studies. I’ve compiled a to-do list for parents to make the journey a well-paced marathon instead of a harried sprint.

1. Start Early

In last year’s School Directory, I wrote an article about students owning their awesomeness and steps to doing so in light of the college application process. My recommendation remains strong. Proactively plan activities. When it comes to timing, you are giving your child a longer runway to experiment if you start the discovery process at the onset of high school if not earlier in middle school.

Most vital is that whatever activity the student adopts is authentic to them. They really should love what they are doing and have the skill set to excel in the activity. The combination of both can inspire a student to demonstrate leadership when working with other students and creativity as they deepen their interest. The intersection of their passion and skill is indicative of how they can contribute to our world, which colleges want to learn about from applicants.

For example, I have one student who loved to sing and rallied to lead his acapella club. He leveraged his singing ability and his acapella club members to raise awareness and funds for autism through free performances, partnering with his hometown’s autistic center.

Learning and seeing the therapeutic impact of music on children with autism, he delved into music therapy in practice and research, partnering again with the autism center to work with staff and children on bringing music into their daily lives.

Going from interest to execution was a two and a half year journey.

Given his growth due to the journey, he will be studying at New York University this fall as a psychology major. Thus, starting early gives your child the runway to experiment, lead and flourish.

2. Prep for Standardized Exams

Aim to reach your ideal scores by spring of the year of application, so that the remaining months before the early decision deadline in the fall can be focused on activities and application essays. SAT, ACT, and TOEFL preparation should start at least one year before the application year. Practice exams are essential. From my experience, strategic support from a testing institution is efficient as they can pinpoint areas to spend more time and effort on and create a study plan that helps to diminish the fear of taking standardized exams.

3. Practice Balance

The college application journey is one of self-discovery and to encourage self-reflection, it helps to practice balance. 

Focusing all efforts on academics is not a winning formula for college admissions or life as it’s focused only on one facet of a student’s life. To practice balance, a student, with their parents’ support, must explore their interests in academics, community service, and personal passions.

4. Encourage Independence

It’s important to encourage independence for your child’s self-discovery on academic, community, and personal interests, which influences what they will want to study in college. After all, it’s your child that is applying to college, not you. Let them take the lead on research into colleges and majors and be supportive with guidance when it comes to college visits during holidays as borders normalize. Keep the dialogue as a discussion instead of a didactic lecture. Kids will resonate with parents who approach with mindful advice and kind support.

5. Be Supportive

Admittedly, the college application season can be a stressful one. Compassion in listening to kids’ concerns and offering encouragement goes a long way. Often my students share that their parents will compare them to other students in the hope of inspiring them to move forward. However, this approach deflates and increases stress while lowering self-confidence, which can prevent them from exerting effort on activities and essays.

So, to demonstrate authentic support, be present and positive with them.

6. Celebrate Milestones

This is a long journey, so celebrating milestones keeps morale high!

When certain milestones are reached, such as reaching a standardized testing goal, winning an academic competition, or earning service accolades, celebrate the successes! They can be as simple as a pat on the back, celebratory emojis messaged to them, or eating their favorite meal.

Regardless of what they are, the celebrations keep kids motivated throughout the journey.

Margie Chiang is a partner at Joyview Education. As an education advisor, she integrates her leadership coaching experience and marketing savviness to coach middle and high school students on successfully navigating the college applications process and life.