So many students and families wait until their junior or even senior year of high school to start planning for college. But there are many good reasons to start the process early:
Exploring Colleges Takes Time
The college search is a bit like house-hunting. There are many, many factors to consider in order to find the right fit – locations, costs, majors offered, etc. You’ll need to research and visit a variety of colleges. During junior and senior year, students are often preoccupied with their coursework, driver’s ed, standardized testing, jobs and other activities. Trying to search for colleges AND complete a number of lengthy applications by January 1 of senior year can be overwhelming for busy families so it makes sense to start early!
Students are sometimes surprised during their senior year when they learn that their dream college requires four years of a foreign language or 3 lab sciences and they’ve taken only two. In addition, sometimes school systems will place an incoming freshman in a particular class that has ramifications for the next four years. For instance, if a 9th grader is placed in a lower track math class, it may be impossible for him to take calculus during his senior year, a course that many selective universities like to see.
Preparing Your Finances
There are many things to learn about college costs and funding options. Parents and students need to have a financial plan in place before the college search begins.
Deciding on a Major
Many juniors and seniors begin the college search with no ideas about a potential major. In many cases, it’s fine to check the “undecided major” box on college applications. However, this may lead to your degree taking 5 or 6 years to complete or a costly transfer if your initial college does not offer your desired major.
By starting early, students can identify aptitudes, learning styles, and career interests before the application process begins.
Many families wait until the end of junior year to start planning college visits; but that is too late! In order to get the “vibe” of a campus, you need to observe the students and faculty in action. Therefore, it is not as effective to visit colleges in the summer when no one is around. That leaves only one school vacation day during senior year, Columbus Day, to visit schools. By beginning the process as a freshman or sophomore, you can plan for successful and more leisurely campus visits during sophomore and junior year.
Crimson Ed would love to be help your 9th or 10th grader start their college search so call today to schedule your free consultation.