How to avoid stressing over your kids’ apps

If you’re throwing around the term “app” a lot but it has nothing to do with iPhones, you must have a high school student in the family working on a university or college app. Application, that is.

NEW YORK — If you’re throwing around the term “app” a lot but it has nothing to do with iPhones, you must have a high school student in the family working on a university or college app. Application, that is.

And while it’s stressful for teenagers to deal with university applications in addition to their regular school work, volunteering, clubs, sports and jobs, it can also be stressful for parents.

For those of us who grew up in an era when parents had virtually nothing to do with the college application process, it can even be downright bewildering. Suddenly the family calendar is covered with scribbles about campus tours, standardized test dates, financial aid workshops and application deadlines. Postcards, catalogues and invitations from schools you’ve never heard of arrive daily in the mailbox. You may even be getting phone calls from recruiters wondering if you and your child will be attending their open house.

Marie Carr has been through all this three times, and this year she published a book about the process, with her three daughters’ help, called Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent’s Operational Manual.

“It’s not about nagging,” she said. “It’s about trying to help them organize and prepare, and scale this big project down into manageable bits.”

One approach to keeping track of all the options and deadlines is to create a graph, spreadsheet or folders that you can look at together.

“Kids do really well when they have visuals,” she said.

Carr’s book has sample checklists and charts that you can use or adapt, but if you’re making one up from scratch, be sure to include teacher recommendations, resumes, essays, interviews, test dates, application deadlines and other requirements for each school on the list. Every time a task on the chart is completed, “putting a check in that box can be very rewarding,” said Carr.

A wall chart or computer spreadsheet also gives you a neutral way of talking about a looming deadline or an undone task.

“Instead of asking ’Is the essay done, is the resume done,’ you can say, ’I want to get this done in a timely fashion. Let’s look at the components,”’ Carr said. “This way you’re not nagging, you’re working together.”

Be sure to emphasize that money spent on late fees for missed deadlines is money that won’t be available for other family expenses, Carr said.

And don’t forget that filling out the financial aid forms is your job.

By now, university- and college-bound students should have all their letters of recommendation lined up, but if some are missing, “your child is going to have to nag the teacher,” Carr said.

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