Answering a dad’s distress: Early application work pays off with scholarships

Q: My son, Alex, a senior and an all-A student, takes four Advanced Placement courses. Active in school and the community, he is now finishing college applications but since September, it’s felt like a world war has disrupted our family. Alex is exhausted, depressed and pressured, finding it almost impossible to do schoolwork and college applications simultaneously. He is overwhelmed and stays up until one or two in the morning every night. What can I do to make this process easier for him and not adversely affect my two younger children?

A: As an Independent College Counselor for the last 26 years, I have found the senior year to be the worst for putting pressure on our kids. Most students apply to more than 15 schools as competition for entry increases exponentially every year. Each and every application takes 10 to 30 hours to complete, a daunting task. Applications usually request two teacher recommendations plus one from a school counselor, and you can’t ask for these recommendations at the last minute. A good recommendation takes several hours to write.

Your child is also responsible for sending current transcripts and all standardized test scores on a timely basis. For the past few years, the University of Florida and Florida State University required students to self-report their grades, which takes another one or two hours to complete.

I genuinely believe that the essay is still the most important part of an application. Most colleges do not ask for a perfect AP English essay but one that comes from your child’s soul. In 26 years, I have never had any of my students write on the same subject. My job, as an Independent College Counselor is to unearth what has so far probably been locked away in their hearts previously. Because of my students’ essays, they receive extraordinary scholarship offers. As difficult as it may be to believe, all of my students receive thousands of dollars in scholarships.

That’s why it is truly worth all the time and energy your son can spend to complete a perfect essay that not only gains admission but helps make it financially possible to attend the most desired school of one’s choice. Some specific advice:
1. Do not make any travel plans for the month of August. The Common Application and many others come out August 1, providing a full month to complete before school starts.
2. Work on parts of an application, including the essay. While not in school, students can devote an entire day to the task, so that when school starts, they should be far ahead of the game.
3. For procrastinating students, I advise “tough love” at this time until all applications are completed. Your child should curtail outside activities and focus on schoolwork and applications to avoid stress later in the semester.

While this situation may not make for harmony at home, it will pay off. I guarantee your child will be thrilled when all is completed and acceptances start to roll in during the second semester.

If affordable, I recommend considering services of an Independent College Counselor. I know many good counselors throughout the United States. Ideally, counseling should begin in the eighth grade because it is important to decide then what high school will offer an appropriate selection of courses for an upcoming freshman student.

Toby Rose, an Independent College Counselor for the past 26 years, served a three-year term as President for the Pinecrest Business Association. Named an Outstanding Teacher in Miami-Dade, she served as Chairperson of the Dade County School Board’s Academic Advisory Committee and was a National Vice President of Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority. She is a member of the University of Miami’s Women’s Guild and the American Association of University Women. Rose can be contacted at 305-790-3746 or by visiting Her website is

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1 Comment on "Answering a dad’s distress: Early application work pays off with scholarships"

  1. My daughter and I also found this a very trying time, and as with your son, it was very overwhelming trying to keep up the 4.15 gpa while completing the application process, and as she is looking for merit scholarships, had to write many additional essays.

    We created a spreadsheet with the schools she was applying to with their “early action” dates and “general application” dates, as well as scholarship application due dates. We also looked at the Common Data Sets for the schools she was interested in to make sure she wasn’t wasting time making additional visits for overnights or “special days” when the school does not consider interest in their application process. This saved her several days and nights in the first quarter. We had put off visiting schools until late summer as she had an extremely heavy coarseload junior year and a great summer research program, so she couldn’t start essays early.

    Good luck, my daughter has received three excellent offers so far and knows the time and effort she put into it is paying off. (We did not have the money for a counselor although the majority of the students in our school district have them).

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