You’ve narrowed down the choice of colleges and, now together, it is time to look into the schools’ costs, activities, clubs, sports and other things to be involved in. There is more to college than just class and homework, so having other activities in your child’s life will benefit them thoroughly.

After choosing what colleges are in the running, your child needs to spend some time to reflect on their high points from high school. What extracurriculars were they in? Did they have an internship or a job? Were they a part of any volunteer services? Brainstorming these few things will get the juices flowing for one of the most crucial parts of the college application process: the essay.

This dreadful essay is the first impression that your child will give the university. The admissions office gets hundreds of application essays every semester which means that a lot of work needs to go into standing out. In fact, your child needs to do more than stand out; the essay needs to be their story that captures the attention of those exhausted admissions office employees. Weeks of effort will need to go into this crucial step to ensure that the essay is clear, concise and attention-grabbing. To help the essay be successful, your child should write it entirely on their own using their own voice and perspective, followed by multiple peer reviews. The college wants to hear about your child’s commitment and how they got to where they are, but only through a well-written and first hand story.

In addition to the essay, recommendation letters are also an important part to the application. A recommendation letter should be written by someone that your child is close with, such as a teacher or employer. This person will write about and boast about your child’s successes that they have witnessed throughout their relationship. Perhaps this is an instructor that your child spends a lot of time with during the week and who has seen them grow or maybe it’s a teacher that watches them work hard and earn their A’s. When it comes to the recommendation letter, your child needs to sit down with the writer and discuss what topics they want covered so they can feel confident when they send in their application.

And lastly, of course your college applications will want to see your transcripts and test scores, so make sure to get copies of those from your school counselors, test websites or wherever they may be kept. Applications are more than filling in the blanks; they are all about getting the school’s attention, so make sure your child spends time prepping for and creating their college application.