One of the most frequent questions I am asked is when is the best time to start the search for the right college. In my experience the answer is generally during the sophomore year or early junior year of high school. That does not mean that you need to start looking at choosing a college that early. Rather, that is the time that you want to start some self inspection to decide who you are and what do you want out of your college experience.
By thinking about the issue of who you are, over a period of time, you will better identify what type of college will fit you best. If you aren’t familiar with the different types of colleges, this is a great time to visit different sizes colleges and colleges with a different focus. Visiting your large state universityl will give you a very different feeling from that small liberal arts college 2 hours away. Spend this time thinking about the big issues like what learing style suits you best and how far away from home do you want to be when you go to college.
Once you know what you are looking for in a college, the process of finding the best college for your needs becomes simpler and more focused. You also have time to decide when, and which, standardized tests to take.
if you are motivated to starting earlier than your sophomore year on the self inspection portion of the search you have even more time to think about who you are. But keep in mind that who you are and what your interests are may very well change as you progress through high school.
The advantage to starting early is primarily for those students who are wish to attend a highly competitive college. Planning out your 4 year curriculum and your 4 years of activities can be very helpful for the student shooting for a highly competitive school.
Many students don’t get serious about the college search until their senior year of high school and while this can be done, it is much more difficult. By starting this late you may not really know what you want from a college and have little time to explore the options. Moreover, you have limited testing options for the SAT or ACT if you wait until senior year to start testing. And early decision thoughts really are not appropriate for the student who has not done their homework.
The process of finding the right colleg for you should be an enjoyable one. Don’t wait until the last mintue and then stress out about all that needs to be done. By starting early you reduce your stress and increase your chances of finding the best college for you.