The Parent’s Guide to College Applications

Disclosure: This is an approved cross-post from written by Duong Sheahan. You can find the original article here.

parents guide to college admissions process It’s hard to believe that I’ve been uttering the words“college” for the past several months and it’s been a potpourri of mixed emotions. We are in the early stages of the college application process as my oldest daughter is entering her senior year. My husband and I are learning so much from our daughter as she has taken initiative during this college application process. Maybe she ought to write a book titled, The Parent’s Guide to College Applications {by a Teen}.

But how is it even possible that we went from playing dress up in my old prom gowns, donning hats from my collection, sipping tea and noshing on cookies to preparing for college? One day I’m ecstatic and the next I’m holding back tears. While she’s preparing herself to fill out college applications and writing essays, I’m preparing myself to let her go…and it may be far away.

MT’s preparation started as a freshman by visiting and researching schools in general. She browsed to read reviews of schools she had researched and based on the reviews she formed her own opinions about the schools and either added it to her list of “Interested” or omitted it. When I was a freshman, my mind was on boys and certainly not preparing for college.

During MT’s college research, she compiled a list of schools that sparked her interest and found the midrange ACT and SAT scores for incoming freshmen. This gave her a goal score to set for herself while studying for her own ACT & SAT tests.  {Gosh, did I even care about my ACT or SAT scores? I think not. }

With private school tuition and other expenses capping our budget, we decided to make another sacrifice and enrolled MT into an ACT/SAT prep course through Kaplan her junior year. This was worth the financial sacrifice because it helped raise MT’s score by 7 points, qualifying her for some of the more challenging schools.

Because of MT’s determination and self motivation for college search, even though it seemed premature, as parents we allowed her the freedom to select the colleges that interested her. She presented us a list of colleges based on decision plans. We learned that for half of the colleges, she decided to apply under the early decision option, and the other half, regular decision.

Early decision applications are usually due November 1, in which you will hear back from the college around mid-December. Regular decision applications are usually due in January or February, and you will receive the admissions decision by mid-April.

Before deciding whether to apply Early Decision or Regular Decision, she thought it was important to visit the college’s website and determine whether the early decision is binding or non-binding.

Binding: If you apply to a college with binding terms, you can’t apply for early action binding to any other school. If you are accepted to a college under binding early action, you must enroll into that college and cannot apply to other schools.

Non-Binding: You can apply colleges under early decision and are not bound to enroll in that school if accepted.

In all honestly, I don’t recall going through any of this process when I went to college right out of high school. I suppose growing up in the digital movement has some advantages such as having college information available at your finger tips. MT definitely took initiative and was proactive while we enjoyed hearing about all of her research and listening to why she chose some colleges and not others. Of course, we had colleges that we wanted on her wish list…but going back and forth, some of them didn’t make the cut of those she will be applying to.

MT listed 2 colleges that are  easy to get in to. She chose 4 colleges that accept over 25% of applicants, and 2 colleges that accept less than 10% of applicants. Although it’s not recommended to apply to so many colleges, it became difficult to omit a couple on her  list.  She is starting her applications with a couple of the easy colleges to warm up for the more difficult ones.

While we’ve given MT the liberty to research and record the colleges of her choice, we’re getting down to the wire in starting the application process. It’s time for us to get more involved, giving some input into her final decisions. We are looking forward to going on a college tour when MT hears back from the colleges to which she applies later this year.

Wow…it seemed like yesterday that I was a proud mom to a new baby girl….and today a whole new season awaits.


About @DuongSheahan: Duong Sheahan is the blog author of Live Healthier and Happier which is focused on Lifestyle from the inside-out, sharing practical solutions to everyday life, ranging from health and fitness, recipes, inspiration, to emotional and spiritual empowerment. Duong is a mother to three teens who are keeping her on her feet, including one that is soon to be college bound. View author profile.


A huge thank you to Duong Sheahan and the ChicagoMoms for permission to share this parent story! Best of luck to MT as the Early Decision deadlines approach.  For additional insight into the college visit and college admissions process, check out our Parent-to-Parent section or our series on applying to college