Once junior year rolls in, whether you're a parent or student, the buzz about college applications is often inescapable. You hear it everywhere you go, from other students, parents, friends, even teachers. So many people saying so many different things...it quickly starts to feel like this ever-present, anxiety-ridden static.

Some of it is for good reason. The landscape of college admissions is always changing, and there are a lot of mixed signals:

  • Colleges are receiving a greater volume of applications than ever — in part because individual students are applying to more colleges on average.
  • Average tuition at four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1990. However, average financial aid packages have also grown.
  • While acceptance rates at the top-ranked U.S. universities continue to drop, the national average acceptance rate is still about two thirds of all applicants.
  • Lastly, the total number of first-time freshmen enrolling in fall is on the decline. In other words, the pool is getting less crowded, although there are millions more in that pool than when most parents were headed to college.
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But what does it all mean? What should Class of 2019 families be doing now?

Two things:

  1. Start learning about the stages of the college application process. In one year, you will be neck-deep in your application work. Learning what happens when and how to approach each piece is the single best way to alleviate the general feeling of stress. If you're ready to dive in, my Teen LAUNCH colleague and I are offering a slate of free events to help you form a plan. (The next one will be November 18th, 2017.)
  2. Start taking stock of everything you have going on at this moment in time. Think about the trajectory you're on, the story that you're already telling through your classes, grades, and involvement in your activities. Think about how those items will be perceived by admissions readers; if there is anything you'd like to change, now is the time to set that in motion. If you'd like a handy self-assessment tool, check out this Teen LAUNCH blog for a free download (scroll to the bottom).