13 Clear Signs That College Application Season Is Upon Us

In some parts of the country, they call it “Fall.” We know better: This is college application season and here are 13 surefire signs to recognize it. A version of this post ran in 2015.


1. Your high school senior gets at least six pieces of mail a day from colleges she’s never heard of, wouldn’t go to, and/or would never get in anyway.

Of course she is brilliant and outstanding in a million ways, but that’s not why colleges keep reaching out to her hoping she will apply. The more applications a college gets, the more selective they appear, which must be a good business model if you are a college because they all do it. 

2. The first thing anyone ever says to you nowadays is “Where is your daughter applying to school?”

Sometimes this comes before “May I see your license and registration please, Ma’am?” Her optometrist will ask you where she is going. So will her third cousin, the neighbor whose dog she walks, and every other mother at school. 

3. If your daughter is within earshot of the person asking that question, you should not answer.

I don’t know why, but I know this to be true. 

4. Teachers and coaches appear unaware that it’s college application season.

School homework and studying maintain their usual tight grip on your teen’s life. Sports teams still hold daily practices and schedule games that are a two-hour bus ride away and don’t end until 9 p.m. Homecoming weekend will still be held. Kids will still get sick and need to make up classwork. Major school projects will be assigned that require coordinating several kids’ schedules and entire days of weekends. 

It is already life-stretched-to-the-max but in college application season, please also add the following to your teen’s life: Get yearbook photos taken; study for, get tutored and take SAT and ACT tests multiple times; study for, get tutored and take SAT subject tests. Same drill for state AP tests. Then write a personal essay during the summer and rewrite it 100 times over the next two months because no two people agree on whether it’s personal enough; and don’t forget to write any additional essays that certain colleges require, generally asking why you want to go to school there — a question you can’t really answer since your father added it to your list because he thinks it has a great football team.

The end result is that there are still just 24 hours in a day and none of them are available for friends, watching “Dr. Who,” or buying hints on WordBrain.

5.  Four times a week, you look at her chair at the dining room table and try to imagine what it will feel like empty.

You cry.



6. At least 20 times a week, someone tells you that applying to 15 schools is insane.

And you know it is, but you want your kid to have options. The College Board and most counselors recommend applying to five to eight schools.

7. You’ve stopped telling your daughter to clean up her room, figuring this will become her roommate’s problem soon enough.

This also makes you cry.



8. You just delete emails from Travelzoo and Princess Cruises.

They should maybe try you again in four years.

9. By Oct. 15, all those expensive college coaches start to look like a bargain.

You cry, albeit for a different reason.

10. You have already checked how many frequent flier miles it will take to fly your son home from every school on his list.

11. Her attempts to use the same username and password for the ACT, SAT, Common App and the three other applications her schools require have failed.

12. She knows when you’ve tried to sneak a peek at her application because you mess up the password and get locked out.

13. You will be squeezing melons in the market and mumble to no one in particular, “Why is it so hard to send in a high school transcript?”

You may cry here as well, and it won’t be because the melons are soft.

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