Do you ever look at yourself and wonder who that person in the mirror actually IS? I mean, where has the time gone? When I was younger, I would look at the people who are my age and think to myself, “that person is old!” Now, I AM that old person. The problem is, I don’t think of myself as old. When I close my eyes, I am still a young woman who is vibrant and carefree—not someone who is closer to 50 than I am to 20 with two teenage kids, seniors, getting ready to go off to college in a little over a year. Where has the time gone?
Which sort of brings me to my point: WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?!? I mean, I see my kids’ classmates already visiting colleges. They have talked to recruiters. They have started gathering applications to start the early admissions process. And all of this makes me feel like I suck at life. I haven’t done ANY of that with my kids yet! Well – that might be stretching it a bit. We have taken the tests, we have made the plans, we have made lists and had talks. It just feels like I am procrastinating on the execution of pretty much ALL of it!
The thing is, it feels like there’s still a ton of time left. There’s no way my son and daughter are going to be seniors in high school next year. It just doesn’t feel like they are old enough to even be allowed to cross the street by themselves—let alone getting ready to apply to colleges. The fact is, I feel like I suck at adulting and that we are behind. Way behind. Does anybody else feel the same way?
It’s times like these I wonder why the hospital ever allowed me to leave with a baby all those years ago. Just to be clear, I’m talking about my own children. It’s not like I just walked into the hospital and took some kids from the nursery there…but I digress. In all seriousness, though, where has the time gone? Does anybody else out there feel like a crappy mom because you haven’t taken your kids on college visits or met with recruiters or started gathering applications yet? Or am I in the minority here?
I guess what it comes down to is that it’s time to get moving. Now is the time to make a plan and set it in motion. My kids are thinking about the Coast Guard and the Air Force. With that being said, I have decided to compile a checklist to help others who are in the same boat as I am and who feel far behind in the process. My parenting failure can be your parenting success. The sooner you start on these, the better. Well, let me rephrase that: you don’t necessarily want to start these when your kid is in kindergarten. More along the lines of 11th grade to start thinking about these things—especially for college admissions tests. Most of these can start in the fall of your kid’s 12th grade year: (but my recommendation is, of course, to start much sooner than we did)
Fall and Winter of 12th Grade
- Start narrowing down your options. Select the few colleges you really want to consider, and begin gathering applications (most can be downloaded online) and financial aid documents. Also, plan on visiting as many of these colleges as possible. Also, take this time to meet with recruiters.
- Create a calendar or a timeline that has the following information: deadlines for applications, application fees, tests to take along with their fees, required financial aid forms and their deadlines, letters of recommendation, and transcripts.
- If you plan on taking any of the tests again, get this done in the fall as well and have scores sent to the colleges your kids are applying to.
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid as early as possible. Typically the beginning of October is when they begin accepting FAFSA forms.
- Prepare early decision applications. These are typically due in the first few weeks of November.
- Ask for letters of recommendation from counselors or teachers.
- Begin writing admissions essays.
Spring of 12th Grade
- Keep actively engaged in school. Senioritis is a real thing, and many students begin allowing their grades to slip thinking college is already in the bag. Remember that many college acceptances are conditional! If grades slip, they can revoke your admission!
- Visit the colleges before accepting any admissions offers. When you do finally accept an admission offer, be sure to notify the other colleges that you are accepting admission elsewhere so they can offer your child’s place to another student.
- Send your deposit to the school of your choice.
- Talk to your child’s counselors or advisors or have your child speak with them if there are any questions or concerns.
College is such an important decision to make. It is really easy to fall behind in the process of helping get your kids organized and applying to colleges. For me, it’s simply because time got away from me. It doesn’t feel like my kids are getting ready to head off to college in a little over a year. Then when I realize how far behind in the process I am compared to my kids’ peers, I feel even worse and lose ALL motivation to get moving. It’s almost as if I ignore it, it will go away and maybe my kids will stop growing up altogether and I can keep them home with me FOREVER! It’s a daunting process and hard to know where to start. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available to help point you in the right direction. Learn from my adulting mistakes and start getting ahead of the curve here. As much as I want to keep my babies at home with me forever, when they’re 25 and living in my basement I just know we’ll all start getting weird looks. But again, I digress. Now go on. Get started. Go. Now. GO!