There are two parts to the process of finding the right college for any student. The first part involves the student investigating what they want from a college. Do you want a large or small college? Something near where you live or far away? What sort of academic atmosphere are you looking for?
Some students know the answer to these types of questions but many don’t. What do you do if you don’t know what you want from college? Visit several different types of colleges. The more colleges you visit the more likely it is that you will discover what you want from a college. At this point you are not visiting colleges trying to decide where to attend but rather what you want in a college.
This first part of figuring out what you want can start any time and 9th and 10th grade are not too early. Ideally, you will be finishing this process in junior year.
The second step in looking for a college is taking all of the information you have learned about what you want from a college and finding a college that meets your criteria. I typically work with students on this part of the process in the summer after junior year. At this time, the student knows their high school grades, test scores and extracurricular activities. With that sort of information, combined with the student’s interests, we can find options for the best college for that student.
So, when do you start looking for a college? The earlier you start the first part of finding what you want, the better options you will have when you actually decide where to apply.