Parents Share the Worst Parts of the College Admissions Process

Mother sitting on the couch with her teen child talking.

Parents Share the Worst Parts of the College Admissions Process

Published July 18, 2023

Mother sitting on the couch with her teen child talking.

We asked parents of graduating seniors to share the most challenging parts of the college admissions process.  Read their answers and lessons learned so you can avoid the same struggles!

Everything Takes Longer Than You Think

“Our high school ran a senior boot camp when the Common App opened up. Students worked on the app in four-hour time blocks each week, including the essays and supplementals. They hammered down reference letters, and also had access to teachers for advice or to read an essay. If you are not lucky enough to have this, make your own boot camp. It will save so much grief especially if your child plays a fall sport. Kids that think they have all the time in the world to apply will find themselves rushed at the end.” — Michele S.

Lesson Learned: Attend or create your own Common App boot camp.

“The Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) and CSS Profile [used to award non-federal aid] were stressful and time-consuming!” — Joanne R.

Lesson Learned: Filling out admissions-related forms is not a quick process, so plan for that.

“Do everything the summer before senior year. The Common App opens in August. My kids had everything submitted — they all applied early action — which took the stress off senior year (although waiting for acceptances was stressful).” — Jane F.

Lesson Learned: Get ahead during the summer before senior year.

“Waiting for acceptances was hard. I wish my daughter had applied to more rolling admissions schools. There are lots of good ones! She’s at a rolling admissions out-of-state flagship that notified her in January. We waited on ones that took until April only to have them come in with merit money, but still far above our budget. When merit brings it down to just over $40,000 per year, you realize how much our system needs to change.” — Heather G.

Lesson Learned: Apply to at least a couple of rolling admissions schools.

We’re All Just People Who Need People

“My daughter’s counselor cut things extremely close with the recommendation letter and school report, finally uploading them to the CommonApp on deadline day (when I was a nervous wreck because I worried she may have forgotten).” — Julia L.

Lesson Learned: Ask for reports and recommendations early.

“Getting my kid to work on the necessary time frame was tough. They don’t have the life experience to know that everyone else is also waiting until the last minute, which makes it impossible to get quality recommendation letters. I had to push to stay on a reasonable timeline since my student applied to a few different colleges. They don’t know what they don’t know!” — Janette N.

Lesson Learned: Create a timeline with milestones to avoid procrastinating.

“Visit the schools for acceptance day activities. It can really help clear things up, so you can make a good final decision.” — Michele S.

Lesson Learned: Attend school events when accepted to make sure they’re a good match.

In College Admissions Process, Make No Assumptions

“My son was so sure that his first choice would accept him. Unfortunately, it did not. Thankfully, I had pushed him to apply to more schools than what he had in mind.” — Miriam C.

Lesson Learned: Apply to multiple schools.

“Colleges are making it seem as if  everybody has an equal chance to attend. This is so not the case. I’ve been in this college application scene for 10 years with my three kids and for years schools were specific about what students needed in order to be considered. Today, they encourage everybody to apply and [some} say test scores do not matter. It’s disingenuous and often done to increase the number of applications and make their selectivity appear better. This forces students to apply to schools that will ultimately reject them and it hurts their self-esteem.”— Chris L.

Lesson Learned: Colleges say they look at applications holistically, but that’s not always the case.

“Test-optional has greatly changed median score ranges. If I had to do it over again, I would have sent my son’s 33 ACT score to all colleges, not just the schools where he was in the median range as we were advised. It all worked out, but it’s something for future applicants to consider.”  — Traci M.

Lesson Learned: Even if a school is test-optional, consider sending your scores anyway.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

10 Ways a Parent Can Help Their Student Prepare for College

How to Motivate Juniors to Start the College Process

College Countdown Gift Ideas for Parents of Seniors




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