13 surprising tips for applying to college

It’s halfway through your teen’s junior year, and your brain is crammed with college admissions info. There’s no shortage of information out there but somehow the process still feels like a scavenger hunt.

That’s where this list comes in. Wisdom from those who’ve already treaded this path — plus some lesser-known facts — may change your and your child’s approach to this crazy process… and it just might set your mind at ease.

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How to have a low-key college visit

When you’re just starting to look at colleges, it’s OK to keep it easy like Sunday morning. Here are 15 informal ideas for visiting college campuses with your teen.

A great way to get your child excited about the idea of going to college is to give ’em a taste of what it might be like. Formal tours are great when the time is right, but you can also just drop by a college informally, either in your hometown or when you’re on vacation, to get a feel for collegiate life. 

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The 5 best college admissions books

Here are our top picks for books that lead you through the college admissions process. (And don’t panic, they’re all relatively fast and fun reads.)

When you scan the array of college prep books, there are a scarily huge number of look-alike titles — all of which sound like crucial reading. Here, we’ve boiled it down to five great books that really get it right.

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“What’s a gap year?” 

Parents are hearing this across the country from teens who’ve been pushed to their limit by hours of homework, tests, and college applications. We listen sympathetically, or not. The goal — a college degree — is so close, we can almost hear their tassels moving left as they cross the graduation stage. Is a gap year a fantastic idea, or risky, expensive procrastination? These questions will help you decide what’s right for your child.

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Is taking a "Gap Year" the new redshirting?

Years ago, parents struggled over when their kids would be socially, emotionally, and cognitively ready for kindergarten. Now it's a similar question, but about leaving for college.

When Hillary Billings’ oldest son, Ted, was accepted at New York University (NYU), she was proud — but concerned. “We felt he needed another year to mature,” Billings says. Before her son was “thrown into the deep end in the Big Apple,” she wanted him to take a gap year to mature a little so he’d be ready for the urban living, social life, and academics at NYU.

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Time for your teens to take a personality test! - to help determine their majors, and careers

When I casually ask my daughter Zenobia what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s quick to respond.

“Social entrepreneur,” she replies self-assuredly. “I want to create and sell beautiful things, and then donate a big chunk of the profits to helping girls get educated around the world.”

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