If you are the mom of a high school senior, hang on for a wild ride. 

It’s college application season, so most seniors will be managing not only classes, sports or clubs, a job, and a social life, they will also be busy working on college applications. Oh, the places you’ll go!

While this is an exciting time for me as a school counselor, it can be a stressful time for families. And if your kid is like most teens, you probably don’t always get the information brought home to you and discussed at the dinner table! Many high schools offer parent nights to help you through the process. But if this is the first time you are going through the college application process as a parent, this is what I would tell your senior:

Make an appointment to see your school counselor!

We will help fine tune your college list and make sure you are working on what you need to be working on. We also want to write a great recommendation letter for you, so if there’s anything you need to do for us (most counselors have students fill out a questionnaire or build a resume), make sure it’s done on time! And if you’re not sure you’re even ready for college, that’s OK too. There are other options out there.

Work on that Common Application and essay!

Create an account on the Common Application before you meet with your counselor. That way, he or she can help you complete anything you might be unsure about. Counselors are experts on the Common App! And most English teachers will help students with their essays as well, either during class time or after school. 

Check in with the teachers who will be writing your recommendation letters.

Some teachers might ask you for a copy of your resume, or they may just want to chat about your accomplishments before they write. Be sure to give your teachers enough advance notice before applications are due.

Research the application requirements for each college.

Do they require standardized test scores? (Most likely not this year.) When are the application deadlines? If you don’t get accepted to your preferred major, can you pick a backup choice? Are there supplemental essays required in addition to the Common App essay?

Start the FAFSA form for financial aid, and start researching scholarships.

Some colleges may also require the CSS Profile form; it depends on the school. Also, there are a lot of great free college scholarship searches, including Going Merry and FastwebMEFA is also a great financial aid resource.

Attend college visits at your high school, if offered.

My school hosts more than 30 colleges each fall, and usually the admissions rep who visits our school is the same person who will be reviewing applications later this fall! It’s good to make connections with these reps.

Don’t wait until the last day to apply!

If you have an early action deadline of November 1, don’t start working on your application on Halloween night. Allow plenty of extra time to submit applications. And be sure to request transcripts with your school counselor at least two weeks before your deadlines to be sure he or she has enough time to get your transcripts and recommendation letters sent out.

Finally, parents, please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s school counselor with any kind of questions. We are happy to help!

Cheryl Mastrogiovanni
Cheryl is a native of Salem, MA, and now resides in Arlington with her husband and son. A graduate of Boston College, she has been a high school counselor for over 20 years and enjoys helping seniors navigate the college application process. A lifelong Boston Bruins fan, Cheryl began attending hockey games with her father in the original Boston Garden at the age of 8, a tradition she is now sharing with her son. Cheryl published a children’s picture book about the Bruins, and is also passionate about soccer, Cape Cod, all things Italian, and spending time with her family. As much as she loves to travel, she equally loves coming home. Loves: playing soccer on the weekends, GOOD pizza, hot summer nights, '80s music, sneakers, and being organized Dislikes: long meetings, loud noises, messiness