Last year, our college journey ended with the successful completion of our Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA (see my November 2017 blog for details on how to survive the FAFSA). Within the FAFSA website, you can elect which colleges will receive your results; there is no cost to share this information.
Next on the To Do List was The Common Application, aka “The Common App.” Back when I went to college in the mid 80’s, I had to prepare an application for each college I was considering attending. The Common App has simplified that process by using one application that is shared with multiple colleges. As of today, The Common App is accepted by more than 800 member colleges in 49 states, Canada and many European countries. Fortunately, in our son’s case, all the colleges he was applying to accept it. In fact, in our state of Ohio there are 45 colleges and universities that accept The Common App. Check out this link https://www.commonapp.org/search-colleges to see the list of colleges that take The Common App. My wife, who thankfully helped my son, highly recommends that students start working on The Common App in the summer before their senior year to alleviate some stress.
As part of the college application process, the next step was the creation of a student essay, which in our case was due by December 1st of our son’s senior year. The essay highlights the child’s high school accomplishments or setbacks and how they were able learn from those experiences and overcome such defeats. In my son’s case, his passion is robotics, specifically “Battle Bots,” where two robots enter the battle cage and only one leaves. (Well the other one leaves the cage but in multiple pieces of mangled metal.) My son Jack and his team were pretty good at building these robots and had a lot of success demolishing other bots, but they did experience their share of losses. Jack elected to write about his team’s defeat and what they learned about working together as a team from this somewhat painful experience, as seeing your beloved robot crushed is excruciating. At Jack’s high school, there was a literature teacher who helped him edit his essay and did a wonderful job at no charge, though he did say Jack could buy him dinner when he becomes the next Steve Jobs. If you can’t find a teacher, you can hire a paid professional to help edit. Jack’s essay was included with his Common App and I recall the application fee for the schools that charged an application was in the $40 – $50 range.
Jack took the ACT college entrance exam. When you sign up for the exam, you can select the colleges with whom you would like to share the results. Preparing for the ACT was time consuming but sending the results to the selected colleges was easy peasy.
As for high school transcripts, your child will need to submit a request and payment to the high school. The cost was $5 per transcript and the high school College Center sent these out directly to the colleges. This step was relatively easy.
FAFSA complete – check
Essay complete – check
Application complete – check
ACT results and transcripts submitted – check
Now it was time to WAIT to hear back from the selected colleges. In Jack’s case, he heard back from his top choice in February via U.S. mail. My wife and I chuckled at the college letter, as printed on the outside of the envelope was the phrase “The contents of this envelope will change your life forever.” Oh boy, we really hoped the letter contained news that would change Jack’s life for the better! Fortunately, Jack was accepted! This college had a commitment deadline of May 1st. Jack elected to wait until April 30th to commit, and by waiting he found himself without any housing due to unexpectedly high acceptances.
Stay tuned for the final chapter on how we resolved the housing ordeal and the big send off to campus.