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What Parents Need to Know about Senior Year

By Robert LeVine

The process of applying to college can be just as stressful for parents of high school seniors as it is for the students actually filling out the applications. The decision about where to begin the transition to adulthood is naturally fraught, and even parents who have already sent an older child to school can find the process overwhelming and long for a support system. A little information goes a long way to soothe irritated nerves.

Most colleges start accepting applications around the time that high school starts in the fall. It is not critical that applications be submitted immediately. Rather, it is vastly more important that students take the time necessary to submit the applications correctly and completely, with well-written essays.

Parents should be aware of a few admissions deadlines. Although major universities often use “rolling” admissions methods (accepting students as applications are submitted), most students will apply to one or more colleges with rigid filing dates. There are two dates to remember: November 1 and January 1.

Students who wish to apply “Early” – whether binding, non-binding, or priority – must do so by Nov. 1. The University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Miami prefer that students apply by Nov. 1, and Ivy League and highly-selective colleges share that date for their EA/ED deadline. Keep in mind that some schools require students to apply earlier to be considered for certain merit scholarships. Students who apply “Regular Action” must do so by Jan. 1.

Most colleges require that applicants submit an SAT or ACT score, so parents should oversee that their students have the testing services forward their scores to the colleges. Selective colleges also often require one or more SAT “subject” tests. Review each college’s admissions website for its specific requirements.

Colleges will need official high school grade reports, and parents should double check that their students have asked the high school counselor to send transcripts. Note that many high schools have a computerized protocol for requesting transcripts, and every year students who disregard notices from counselors find themselves in last-minute panic because they didn’t follow directions.

The most selective colleges also require recommendations from teachers and perhaps from a counselor. If students have not arranged for teachers to write their recommendations, they should do so as soon as school starts in the fall. Teacher recommendations are vitally important in the admissions process, so they should not be left to the end.

College applications are submitted electronically. Many colleges share applications, either through the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Students create an account at or Within each site, they then select the colleges to which they submit applications. With both the Common and Coalition Apps, every college gets the same biographical information, list of activities, and main essay, plus each college has its own “tab” which requests additional information and supplemental essays. The University of Florida and Florida State University both require that students apply using the Coalition App. Some colleges do not participate in either the Common App or the Coalition App. For those schools, students create application accounts through each college’s admissions website.

The main essay is a personal statement, clothed in a topic prompt that students are asked to follow. The focus should always be on the student, not on someone else or matters ephemeral or philosophical. College admissions representatives are trying to find out about the personal side of the applicants. When writing essays, it is prudent for students to enlist the assistance of a trusted editor, whether that be a teacher, counselor, friend, parent or professional. Although proofreading is important, effective editing involves active review of student work. The essays are usually drafted in a Word document, then copied and pasted into the electronic applications.

Some colleges utilize interviews as part of the admissions process. Although they are usually not required, interviews are recommended if available. Most colleges assign interviews after applications are submitted, but some request applicants schedule interviews even before formally applying.

Families seeking financial aid should check the FAFSA website for applicable deadlines. The FAFSA application for the 2018-19 school year opens on Oct. 1, 2017.

The regular challenges of parenting a teenager tend to affect the application process. Students may need help organizing a complex to-do list, but they also need to feel a sense of ownership over where they will continue their education. The trick for parents is balancing the student’s needs for independence and supervision.

Robert A.G. Levine, president of Selective College Consulting Inc., can be reached at (813) 391-3760, email or visit


New mom? Step this way for the agony aunt

By Anu Varma Panchal

A couple of months ago, we were blessed with an adorable baby niece, with whom we’ve spent enthralling hours Facetiming. When my sister-in-law was pregnant, I warned her to prepare for an onslaught of unasked for and often antiquated and contradictory advice. Of course, as soon as the baby was born, I became one of the worst offenders, doling out suggestions about everything from gas reduction techniques to the merits of the nursing football hold. Just in case anyone out there doesn’t have a bossy older sister-in-law to dish it out, I’m sharing here my five tips for being a new mom.

  1. Listen to your mother if you’re lucky enough to have her around. Let her spoil you; her nagging is love. Choke down the weird foods she produces — we come from a culture that has postpartum care down to a science, and those recipes have evolved over centuries. Most important, rest when she tells you to rest. Once she leaves, no one else will encourage you to lie around and chill; take advantage of it while you can. Also, cut your mother some slack. She may not load the dishwasher the same way you would have, but she’s here. Years later, you’ll cherish the memory of that cocoon of intimacy you inhabited together when she taught you the ropes of her job and helped you up a rung on the family ladder.

  1. Stay offline, except when the Internet is a lifeline. A casual search about a weird rash can easily derail and leave the new parent slackjawed with horror at the diagnosis they have just foisted upon their child. “You and your google,” my mother would tell me, shaking her head. On the other hand, the anonymity of some of those online support groups can save your sanity when you can’t vent to friends and family (sometimes they are the problem). You can tell MomOf4Kidz who lives safely in another state your most frustrating issues at 3 a.m. knowing your paths will never cross in real time, and when it’s all over, you can peacefully melt away from each other’s discussion-board lives, calmer for the interaction.

  1. Record the moments. “Do you remember this evening at the beach?” I ask a friend, showing her a photo of our kids as toddlers together. “I don’t think so,” she replies helplessly. It’s all gone, the weight of my toddler on my lap and the smell of her ocean-drenched hair and the sound of her 2-year-old chuckle. And that’s a little devastating. So capture as much as you can, as mundane as the moments may seem. Take loads of videos. Then put down the camera and inhabit that moment fully, praying you’ll store the memory deep inside. But know that not every moment is magical; some suck because babies can be tyrants. On days when that precious bundle of joy has stepped on your last nerve, save your sanity by thrusting her into someone else’s arms and exit the room guilt-free.

  1. Enjoy being the center of this tiny person’s universe, but share the space. Being totally needed can be addicting. Remember the first time your baby gave you that look of recognition, or stopped crying when you picked him up? That newborn fragrance, the innocent eyes focused on your face — it’s so easy to shut out the rest of the world. However, it’s just as easy to lose yourself and become a martyr to motherhood. Resist. The repercussions are long-lasting and no one comes to bail you out. If you’re the only one who does everything, it’s really easy for everyone else to get used to it. And the fun wears off. Resentment can be chronic and toxic, so let everyone pitch in from the beginning. Sharing is caring!

  1. Find your sisters. It’s magical how this helpless bundle has turned two disparate people from two completely different clans into a little family of its own. Embrace it but seek out some mom friends. Even if you and hubby were always a cozy twosome, or if you’re the kind of girl who always hung out with the guys — trust me, nothing makes you need a close girlfriend like having a baby. These ladies are side by side with you in the trenches and you can be real with them like no one else. If you’re lucky, you’ll go from potty-training to lost teeth and car pools and suspicions about that girl or boy who’s been calling all the time, all the way to graduations and weddings together. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll all still be in each other’s lives when one of them gets married and has a baby. And then you can take your place in the cycle, and stand on the sidelines dispensing advice that nobody asked for that someday, someone will follow.

Anu Varma Panchal is a mother of two and owner of

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