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Is Early Decision the right choice for your student?

Is Early Decision the right choice for your student?

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Grandma's meatballs help net $70,000

Grandma's meatballs help net $70,000

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High-tech house: Los Altos Hills showplace boasts innovative features

High-tech house: Los Altos Hills showplace boasts innovative features

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How in the 'hack' did they break into my car?

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Senior Lifestyles

Grant Park senior program made permanent

Grant Park senior program made permanent

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Wedding To Remember

Makeup tips and tricks for women in the spotlight

Makeup tips and tricks for women in the spotlight

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Your Kids

Gap Year: Local students take time between high school and college to explore their interests

Gap Year: Local students take time between high school and college to explore their interests

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Inside Mountain View

Author chronicles Iran escape

Author chronicles Iran escape

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Start early and avoid college application mania

What are we asking of our children and students?

We want to make our children look as good as possible on paper. We want them to understand how important the “right college” is for their future. We want them to fill out an application that might have gaps in it. We want perfection. We want to do it for them. We want to write that essay so that the admissions committee will have to take him or her.

My advice to parents: Stay calm. Start early. Don’t fill out their applications for them. College admissions people know who wrote that essay and who filled out those short answers.

Following are tips for taking the stress out of the college admissions process.

• Download a copy of the Common Application – used by more than 400 colleges and universities – as early as when your child hits the eighth grade. It can be useful in directing academic course selections in high school.

• Choose any five schools your child may want to attend and download the supplement.

• Encourage your child to keep a notebook of events that happen to him or her – a record of even minor, small events may prove valuable as the admissions process approaches.

• Urge your child to discuss all aspects of the application with you. It is less daunting if he or she has some idea how to begin to answer the questions.

• Start a list of possible schools.

• Visit my website to access a college application matrix.

• Seek help from professionals, but be careful – there are no laws or guidelines for those hanging out a shingle. Be sure to check credentials and references. If a counselor tells you that his or her students are accepted into every school to which they apply, run the other way.

• Set reasonable goals. Maybe ask to see the first three pages of the application done by Friday night dinner. Do it in pieces.

• Procrastination often means that the child is scared, not lazy. Think about what we are asking children to do – fill out an application that will change their lives. How excited would you be to do this? Remember, they are all talk and show – they love you and their cocoon.

Seek help from a professional if you think your child needs it. Don’t do it yourself – especially because you may not know what should be written.

The application is not about recounting all of your child’s activities. It is not about what you think is important. It is not a brag sheet. It is an essay that will show who he or she is. Let the admissions officers uncover who your child is. In short, don’t hit the admissions people over the head.

Elaine Sigal is a Los Altos resident who has been an educator for more than 35 years. She is founder of MindLaunch, a tutoring, academic advising and college counseling company. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit mindlaunch.com.

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