5 Important Steps for a Stress-Free College Application Process

Imagine your teen entering senior year with completed teacher recommendations, a compelling college essay already finished, and college applications nearly finalized. Think about how stress-free senior year would begin. Think about how much fun you and your senior could have together as you ease into being your teen’s hero during this transitional time together.

Now that we’re in April of your teen’s junior year, the college application process should be picking up steam. Using the time now allows you and your teen the breathing room to pace yourself, the space to thoroughly complete each step in the process, and the ability to ensure every piece of every college application is completely prepared by the deadlines next fall.

Spring Ahead on Your College Application To-Do List:


1. Encourage Your Teen to Seek Out a Summer Job or Internship

With more schools adopting a test-optional policy, college admissions officers are paying close attention to the rest of the application. Seeing how your teen spent their time outside of school can show a more well-rounded picture and share some of their personality and values.

When a teen has a summer job or internship, college admissions officers learn he/she has

all of the qualities they are looking for in a prospective student. Possessing a job or internship demonstrates responsibility, independence, self-motivation, and if related to his/her major, passion. 

2. Request Teacher Recommendations

In the fall of your teen’s senior year, teachers will be overwhelmed with requests to write recommendations. The result? The teacher will not be able to give your teen’s letter the attention it deserves.

Encourage your teen to start thinking about which teachers, coaches, or mentors would be best to vouch for him/her, and to ask for the letter before the summer starts. That way, the teacher can take the time over the summer to write a more personalized and meaningful recommendation.

3. Build a Balanced List

Take this time to finalize a list of schools to which your teen will apply. Aside from looking into offerings, location, and options for majors, make sure the list of schools is balanced. That means there should be some “reach” schools that might be difficult for your teen to be accepted into, some schools where your teen’s GPA and scores match the average, and some schools where your teen’s acceptance is pretty much a guarantee.

4. Set Up College Tours and Interviews

Narrow down that list by setting up some tours, either in person or virtually. Tours allow your teen to envision himself/herself at the school and can help give a better idea of what he/she is looking for.

Some schools and programs offer personal interviews with a member of the faculty. Especially if your teen is considering a specialized major, this provides an opportunity to receive answers, acquire more information, and demonstrate interest.

5. Brainstorm Potential College Essay Topics

Drafting the college essay the summer before senior year allows your teen the distraction-free, relaxed environment ideal for writing. As summer quickly approaches, taking time to begin listing topics your teen can focus on will make crafting the actual essay seem more doable and approachable.

Though college may still seem a long time away for your junior, time throughout this process always tends to ramp up, along with the stress that comes with it. Keep your teen one step ahead and maintain the sanity of your entire household by springing into college prep.


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