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Hindsight = 20/20

chaphillmomchaphillmom 119 replies11 threads Junior Member
This isn't a new concept for a discussion thread; but I've been reflecting on things we have learned along the way, or things I'm bursting to tell parents with younger kids. DS20 is now in the final phases of the college application/ selection process, and these are the things I would go back and tell myself:

1. The essays! So many of them, all slightly different enough that there is no cut and paste. Different lengths (250, 500, 750 word limits). All seeming to seek a creative and authentic voice! We saved every single one that he wrote, and would start with each new essay request (scholarships, research programs, general applications) by seeing if we already had the starting materials to work with. Most frustrating were the applications where submitting one round of essays 'unlocked' the next level of application with even more questions to answer. The lesson I took from this was to narrow down the application pool as much as possible and save everything you write. He only applied to 6 schools (and associated scholarships, honors colleges etc). I can't even imagine what it is like to apply to 10-20+

2. Letters of recommendation: I really hated these, I'll be honest. I think for some kids and in some schools this is really a strong point for them. For other kids, and in certain schools, it felt like agony. Teachers who didn't submit until a couple hours before the deadline were one challenge. But the other was having to go back to the same teachers and ask for letters for schools, ROTC, scholarships, extra programs etc. My kid felt like he was imposing. My own view is that people ask for LORs from teachers that will give them a strong one, so it is a strongly biased source of data. But- that's coming from someone who doesn't like them! Lesson learned: not sure really, except that you need to line them up before the end of Junior year.

3. Don't click the "I'm interested in receiving email" button on any standardized test. For a while, staying on top of his email box took dedicated time daily.

4. For parents that have their oldest/ only going through the process- read these forums early and often (without getting weird and obsessive) as you figure out the ropes. Also, try to find a more experienced parent in your school district for insider tips. I had no idea until my son was a junior that kids could take AP classes as Freshman or sophomores. I didn't realize that NMF/ NMS came with great scholarships at some schools. I didn't know that his school required volunteer hours to be in NHS, and that Boy Scouts service activities wouldn't count towards it.

5. Positive learnings (i.e. things I'm glad we did): (1) apply to at least one school with rolling admissions that he liked, with good merit aid. Pressure was largely removed his senior year as he already had a couple of good options. (2) focus on fit/ cost over prestige. Ensure that you don't get too caught up in where all the other kids are going to go. (3) Be open to big changes in direction. S20 went from being very focused on service academies or ROTC last year, to realizing it wasn't right for him at this point in his life. Having an open dialogue and supporting him through the process was positive for us both.

I didn't mean to turn this into such a monologue! If you stuck around this long, thank you. The other parents on CC have really been a huge help to me as we have gone through the last 12-18 months. I'm happy to hear what others have learned along the way.
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Replies to: Hindsight = 20/20

  • mommdcmommdc 11862 replies31 threads Senior Member
    edited February 19
    My oldest took AP courses and received AP credit for them. Check the college websites to see what scores are needed and what classes you can get AP credit for.
    You don't have to submit your AP scores until after you know which school you attend, only that school will need the official scores.
    So when your student sits for the AP exams spring of senior year, just put that college's code on the test booklet and they should get the AP score report for free.

    I did not know when my oldest applied, that the high school could send transcripts in the summer. My S took advantage of that and applied to his top choice in July for higher merit chances.

    I did not know that my S's school accepted CLEP exam credit. I could have had him take the math, science and history one and he could have saved some money (his school charges tuition and fees by the credit).

    If the college says they don't require the essay portion of the SAT, take it anyway.

    Dedicate time in February/March of senior year to apply to local scholarships. My kids got several and although they were only one year awards, they helped.
    edited February 19
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  • TS0104TS0104 1242 replies30 threads Senior Member
    Excellent post, I strongly agree with your points! (Well, #4 sounds like a weakness of HS counseling unfortunately!). Interesting thoughts about the LORs. I suppose that just the act of asking for them and keeping track of them is a good skill for our kids.

    Having an early rolling admission is a HUGE mental boost if you have any good fits that do rolling!
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  • AlwaysMovingAlwaysMoving 368 replies5 threads Member
    Great points!

    I can't agree more about rolling admissions. Parents, find one that you can sell to your kid as a hidden gem. Once they get that acceptable acceptance you will see a lot of the stress melt off of them. Also, a lot of these schools give amazing merit and the kid can be near the top of the class for research and internships.

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  • chaphillmomchaphillmom 119 replies11 threads Junior Member
    edited February 19
    @me29034 - completely agree. I think this really came to light for us because we moved from out of state the summer before DS20 freshman year. So- new school, new neighborhood, new state. I think that was the true hindsight for me- find a friendly parent in the school who can help you navigate all the less obvious points. CC is good for advice and information, but the 'inside scoop' would have also been really helpful.

    @TS0104 - the guidance services have been surprisingly absent for the entire high school process, unfortunately. It may be in part due to (what feels like) a lot of GC turnover, so not much relationship building. I see other parents on CC refer to sessions sitting down with GCs to talk about what schools they will/ should apply to which was never offered where we are. This was another example where requests for LORs from the GC needed multiple reminders. So- the combination of our ignorance of what should be going on, with their lack of resource led to a less than ideal situation. I can't get overly bitter- DS has three great options, a couple of which have good merit aid. Just one of those things that I will definitely share with other parents in the neighborhood as they get started.
    edited February 19
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  • SweetgumSweetgum 49 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Thanks so much for this thread. Lots of helpful tips.
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  • Darcy123Darcy123 436 replies7 threads Member
    I so agree with the LOR point and was just thinking there should be a centralized service where the teacher/counselor/coach could upload a letter and then other organizations could be added to receive them. My D20 has really started to feel like she's imposing when asking for additional letters for scholarships. I really don't know how the teachers do it - I suppose it's good that at least the Common App makes the college part easier.
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  • EmptyNestSoon2EmptyNestSoon2 66 replies1 threads Junior Member
    On the Letter of Recommendation piece, I definitely assumed that when my daughter went back to the same teachers for a recommendation for something beyond the common app recommendation (ie she had already asked for a college rec, but then also needed one for a scholarship or something else), that they could recycle the original one they wrote for common app. So hopefully it’s not an entirely new imposition, but merely a minor administrative request for them to re-send what they had already thoughtfully crafted. That’s what I had assumed and hoped at least. Maybe some scholarships and programs have unusually specific questions that they ask recommenders, such that they have to write an entirely new letter??? But otherwise, it should not be a big deal to add on (whereas of course the original letter requires much thought and effort, and deserves a lot of gratitude!!).
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  • chaphillmomchaphillmom 119 replies11 threads Junior Member
    @EmptyNestSoon2 - I think there is an element of truth to what you say, and we had actually assumed that these could be 'cut and paste' exercises. However, what we found was that the focus of a ROTC LOR, was slightly different than his Eagle Scout, honors college or engineering scholarships applications. In our case, of the two teachers that best know his strengths as a student, one announced his retirement at the end of DS junior year, and the other seems to work best with hours to spare before a deadline. Neither were impossible hurdles to overcome, just led to my perception of it being a least favorite element of the process. Again- I think is some schools and for some schools this is a really strong part of the application.
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  • kropladykroplady 129 replies4 threads Junior Member
    The one thing that stands out for me is how much the college landscape has changed over the last 6 years when my oldest applied. Merit money has significantly decreased and the hoops to get any has significantly increased.
    I agree that the LOR portion of the application is difficult because it can give an advantage to students whose schools do a good job keeping up with this.

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  • Darcy123Darcy123 436 replies7 threads Member
    I think even when the teacher can recycle the original letter, the administrative hassle of sending it multiple times for multiple students must get tedious at best. I know this particular teacher is very popular with students as she writes great letters and is also a mentor for an ec many of them participate in so the letter is broader than just the classroom. She's been gracious enough to send at least 5-6 for my daughter and I know a good friend of hers has done a ton of scholarship apps, so has probably done even more for her. You have 20-30 kids asking for 3-10 letters, and it gets pretty insane pretty quickly. I better understand why the IB English teacher states the first day of junior year, that you have to apply to get a rec from her and she only writes them for a limited number of students.
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