College Applications and Lack of Motivation

<p>My son will be starting his senior year of high school in September. Prior to the summer we spoke about starting the college application process (writing essays, completing the application) during the summer so he would not have the stress of school and school activities. He started his essays one Saturday and has refused ot do anything else since. He had a hard junior year (lots of school work, SATs, some sports injuries, etc) and he doesn't want to have to deal with college applications. I think that waiting for the fall will just give him a stressful senior year. Any suggestions?</p>

<p>As I see with my D, they procrastinate as much as they can because they are ... afraid. ;) For once they should make choices (of places to apply to) which majorly affect most of their life, then to fill the spaces on the applications which affect most of their life (depending on where they would be accepted), to write the essays that should make people want (to accept) them ... Ugh, scary!</p>

<p>Yup, they're afraid. The good news is that the bulk of application work, at least I found, was just filling out address/name/etc etc. The essays come when they come.</p>

<p>You could try to convince him to do the first part of the application for a few schools. It's totally harmless and non judgmental, no essays, but it will save him time in the future. AND he can see what each school requires as far as supplemental essays are concerned.</p>

<p>Ah, I remember it well! My daughter was adamant that she would start her apps in the summer ... at least write her common app essay before school started. Flash forward: it's the very evening before the first app was due for EA that she FINALLY finished the essay & sent it on its merry way. Of course, that was just the beginning ... each app was finished a few short minutes before the deadline. In the end, she got into some wonderful schools (a couple quite selective). I didn't think she could stretch it out the way she did ... but she has procrastination raised to an art form!</p>

<p>Set up a timeline that has small but important steps listed for each week. Review it with your son/daughter. Promise not to nag about college apps so long as they follow the timeline and meet the deadlines. It worked for us.</p>

<p>Just know that your son is trodding a time-worn path. Worn by many sons (and some daughters) whose parents see the benefits of starting the application and polishing off the essays in the summer before school, EC and sports routines weigh in. Me included.</p>

<p>They don't see it that way. And I don't think it's wise to push them. Know that those who have traveled this well-worn s-l-o-w path include kids who have had great admissions results and written great essays. Often, they are actually noodling ideas around in their heads even though we don't see action.</p>

<p>If you were able to search through old threads on the topic (they are legion :D), you would see how we have all lived through it and come out the other side.</p>

<p>So, if they respond to your suggestions and timelines, great. If they don't, it is highly highly likely to work out fine.</p>

<p>My son, for example, did not get started early enough to suit me. But he did not end up doing it all at the last minute either. The one who stressed about it all those days between <em>my</em> schedule and <em>his</em> schedule? Me.</p>

<p>I think it's hard for the kids to get motivated before school starts. They are still in summer mode. Once they start senior year and all the kids are talking about college apps, where they're applying, etc. it should probably get him going. Don't worry about him having too much going on, he will find time for the apps. My s did.....he probably got his apps out end of Sept./beginning of Oct. and got accepted to all he applied to except one where he got wait listed.</p>

<p>Lots of reassuring advice here! I found that even driven, Type A types (my d2) can't necessarily do all they planned for college apps in the summer before senior year. She told me she'd have all her essays written when school started; the reality was that she had one good basic essay, but no "Why Us?" supplements done, and nothing done for the several schools that wanted short-answer essays. She was finishing up her last essay in December. It was the first time I can recall that this very goal-oriented kid missed a self-imposed deadline (and she missed it by a country mile :) ).</p>

<p>One reason could be the heavy summer reading for AP classes - my d3 has 5 books to read, an essay, and some other stuff due for AP English on the day school starts, and maybe 100 pages of AP Bio to do by September. (Hm - hope she's got her eye on the calendar - it's coming up fast). </p>

<p>I'm not opposed to letting kids take a day or two off from school to complete applications, if it comes down to that.</p>

<p>And to add further reassurance. I remember how shocked and awed we were, DH and I, as we sat around wondering why our S wasn't as "into" this process as we expected, when he emerged from his lair on October day to announce, unprompted, which school was his first choice, which his second and which others he might apply to. From then on, he did all he needed to do with time to spare.</p>

<p>They really are thinking about it; they really might have their own schedule. He got is EA apps in with time to spare and so was ready for his one RD app with tons of time to spare. </p>

<p>So, don't even consider worrying until October.</p>

<p><em>easy for me to say, now that it is three years behind me ;)</em></p>

<p>But I remember it as if I were living it with you right now</p>

<p>And this is not the end of it. DD leaves for her freshman year at college in 6 days and has not yet begun to pack. We've bought the essentials, but nary an item has been moved from it's spot in her room. </p>

<p>But somehow they get by and all of the valuable lessons we want to teach them about procrastination fall by the wayside. The most effective means for us was to just get out an application and start filling in the easy stuff. We started with Penn State - they don't require an essay and since the "Personal Statement" was optional it wasn't as unsurmountable as the BIG essay in the Common App. </p>

<p>Good luck, NJmom, and remember to at least get those on line apps in a day or two in advance, the school servers get backed up the night they're due.</p>

<p>Our son was fortunate with 5 of the 6 colleges he applied to using the Common Application, and even the 6th application could be done on line as I recall. Including the essay, applications and one supplemental essay(Oberlin), he go everything done in one Saturday and had everything done by early October. The only thing I did was the FAFSA which was also very easy despite the moans and groans of some other parents.</p>

<p>However he did spend lots of time researching what colleges to apply to and started his junior year. The reason was because we were up front in letting him know that he would be responsible for tuition, fees, books and spending $$. He had a $76,000 college fund at his disposal, enough to pay for any of our state colleges, one of which he applied to. However he found 5 private colleges(incl RPI, Case, Allegheny) through his research which he liked(er were a fit) and would possibly come through with merit money.</p>

<p>He spent many hours doing this research but he had a big incentive too. </p>

<p>But the application process was quite simple and required a minimal amount of time.</p>

<p>I think a real push for a lot of kids is when they return to school in the fall, and they see that BrainyBetsy applied and got accepted (gotta love rolling admissions) to StateU. When one kid in a school does this, the others realize that the time is NOW.</p>

<p>Plus, the parents above are right; they do have little ideas in their heads, rattling around, gaining momentum... My sons finally got four essays done this week - a miracle. <strong>I</strong> was very happy. They'll be happy too, if/when those fat envelopes come in the mail.</p>

<p>I made a calendar up for my kids and hung it in the back hall so it is not always in their faces, as it would be on the frig or in their bedrooms. They can look at without me hanging over them saying: Well, and where's the "What I can bring to XXXCollege" interview. </p>

<p>One other thing I think is important: half the time, I think the kids have no idea what to write. They are all smart and used to writing essays and longer papers about academic topics, not necessarily topics about themselves. I had a book a long time ago with practice essay topics in it and (as part of our homeschooling curriculum), I had the kids write one every Friday. Great ideas, but required imagination: "If I had 10 blocks and a yard of string, what would I make that could be used in a kitchen?" "Describe a conversation between two whales." "What makes you joyful?" "Once upon a time, a knight fell from his horse in a dark wood. His fall was spied by a......"
All ideas to get them to use their imaginations. We usually made it a contest and Dad had to decide which one he liked best (rotated them through, I'm sure). Maybe just ask your kids to fill out the front side of a sheet of paper, for practice?</p>

<li>correction: ... and where's the "What can I bring to XXXCollege" ESSAY.</li>

<p>Another part of the problem is that they have absolutely no idea how busy their senior year will be.</p>

<p>Take the initiative to find out if the high school has deadlines for requesting recommendations, transcripts, etc. Engrave them on your kid's head if you have to. </p>

<p>Help them break the application down into easier parts. My daughter was completely flummoxed by the section to list all her activities. And she had no idea what her father's job title was.</p>

<p>your kid will get back and find out that brainybetsy has not done anything either.</p>

<p>this is totally normal and not procrastination. to a teen, a few months is an eternity. it is just the way it is.</p>

<p>before you criticize too much, ask yourself when you start doing your income taxes?</p>

<p>NJMom, at our school, the AP English classes focused on writing college essays at the beginning of the school year. I'm not sure if all of the senior english classes did that. Perhaps your school might take that approach as well.</p>

<p>Wow, I hope that is the case in my son's AP class as well. Since my son is the oldest, I have no idea what to expect.</p>

<p>I agree with jmmom. I am scrupulously avoiding any reminders to S about the essay as I know from 17 years of experience that such behaviour backfires:). However, he piped up the other day - "Mom, you know what I am thinking of writing my essay on?" Some of them are thinking about it, but as usual, they just don't want to talk about it...</p>

<p>NewJerseyMom, it is not actually essential for your son to work on applications this summer (it would be nice, but it is not essential).</p>

<p>The following things are essential:</p>

<li><p>By the time school starts, your son should have a fairly well established (though not necessarily set in stone) list of the colleges to which he will apply.</p></li>
<li><p>He (or you) should have checked the web sites of all the colleges listed in #1 to make sure that he has met the standardized testing requirements. He does not want to find out what it's too late that College X requires an SAT Subject Test in Math, which he didn't take because he thought the ACT was enough, or something like that. There is still time for one or two more sittings of standardized tests, but you need to know about it NOW.</p></li>
<li><p>Within the first month of school, your son should ask teachers to write recommendations for him. Using the list in #1, he should figure out how many recommendations he needs and from whom. (Usually, any two teachers in different academic subject fields is plenty, but some colleges, such as the University of Chicago, are more picky.) Some teachers, because they have many demands on their time, set quotas on how many recommendations they are willing to write each year. Your son doesn't want to be closed out because he made his request after the teacher had filled the quota. Also, note that some teachers may want ALL the recommendation forms at the time that your son submits the first one. My daughter, who applied Early Decision, was startled by this. She thought that she could just give the teachers the recommendation forms from her ED school in September and give them the RD school recommendation forms later, but the teachers refused to accept the paperwork that way. She had to make decisions about her RD schools essentially overnight to fulfill this requirement from the teachers.</p></li>
<li><p>Your son should find out what the school Guidance Department or Registrar's requirements are in terms of deadlines. For example, at some high schools, it is necessary to submit transcript and GC recommendation requests as much as six weeks in advance of the college's deadline (e.g., before Thanksgiving for January 1 deadlines). Some high schools also insist that the student submit a completed application with the transcript request (although this is becoming less common in the era of online applications. The high school's deadlines are the REAL deadlines. The colleges' much later deadlines are essentially irrelevant.</p></li>

<p>I'll add to Marian's excellent post.... parents and kid should have had the reality check meeting which shows kid the spreadsheet of, "here's what parents can contribute annually (or over four years); here's what your schools cost, here's what the gap looks like and how do we plan to meet the gap, i.e. summer earnings, work/study, aid package, loans, etc." Don't wait until the applications are in to let your kid know that first, second and third choice schools won't be happening unless you win the lottery.</p>