When should students start the college search?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

When should students start the college search?

Pam Proctor
Author The College Hook

When should students start the college search?

Here is my video response to the question.

Robert Franek
Author of The Best 373 Colleges The Princeton Review

When should students start the college search?

Here is my video response to the question.

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

When should students start the college search?

After January of the junior year.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

When to Start? When You are Ready

Like so much of the college search process, when to start is more rooted in the individual than in any formula or age old wisdom. Exposure to college can begin at any age—a quick side trip or a campus drive through on a family vacation can offer a nice little preview but if the prospective student is not really ready, the effort will be for naught. I will never forget my family’s own vacation detour through the University of Virginia the summer before my oldest daughter was starting high school. As we came around a corner and the lawn and chapel came into view, my daughter exclaimed, “Mom, look.” I was thrilled, figuring that like so many before her she was instantly captivated by one of the most beautiful campuses there is, but when her next comment was “look at those beautiful bridesmaids dresses,” I realized we were a bit premature in our efforts, and so be it. Now as a senior she is fully engaged in the process and has already submitted multiple applications to schools on a list that was thoughtfully developed. Ultimately, like so much of the process it is all about find the right individual fit.

Michelle Green
Admissions Consultant My College Admissions Coach

Students should begin their college search

no later than junior year of high school. They can research via the internet and look up college websites, read helpful student review books like "Fiske Guide to Colleges" and check out collegeboard.com, unigo.com and whatever resources their high schools provide. It's okay to start with a list with dozens of schools. By the beginning of senior year, the student should have narrowed their list to the schools they will be applying to, which should be from approximately 6-12 schools. Students should keep all of their options open when they begin the college search process. Don't fall in love with just one school! There are 3000 colleges in the country. It's helpful to research schools based on size, majors/minors of interest, admitted student profile. Make sure you have met all of the admissions requirements of the school. Do they require 4 years of English, 3 years of Math, 2 years of History/Social Science, 3 years of Foreign Language and a Visual Arts requirement? If you don't have everything they require, then you don't match their criteria! If it's early in the process and you have any credit/class deficits, make them up BEFORE senior year! If you are a 3.0 student applying to a school with an admitted student profile of 3.75 or above, this would be a reach school. It's okay to apply there - but you should also add in schools that more closely match your academic record, too.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

High school juniors: start thinking beyond standardized tests and explore college options

Now that all is (almost) said and done for the high school seniors who will be attending college in Fall 2012, the focus will turn to high school juniors and the impact that many societal factors will have on their college admissions process. My advice remains the same: avoid focusing on standardized tests during the upcoming weeks. It is so easy to fall victim to the hype surrounding the controversial exams, but in the process students lose the opportunity to attend college fairs and information sessions right here in Los Angeles. A few words of advice: 1) Remember, not only does the college choose you, you also choose the college - do your research and meet representatives any chance you get! 2) The more times you express interest in a college, the better the chances you will be admitted (all things being equal). Every time you attend a college fair or information session, make sure you complete the form to let them know you attended. Colleges put this information in your file and track your interest. 3) As a follow-up to #2 - go online and request information from colleges - express interest early and often. 4) Do your research: know when colleges will be in town and don't miss them! It's so easy to do when all you can think about are those standardized tests...almost seems contradictory, doesn't it?

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

When should students start the college search?

Freshman and sophomores in high school should begin exploring careers and majors. They should become aware of the myriad of post-secondary options. Making a few informal college visits while on family vacations or to local colleges is a good way to become familiar with college campuses and start considering the types of factors important to you such as location, size and majors offerred. High school juniors should begin the college search in earnest. By the end of the summer prior to senior year, juniors should have narrowed their list down to 10-12 schools and have visited as many as possible. Senior year should be spent completing applications and remaining visits in the fall. Francine Schwartz M.A., LPC, NCC Founder and President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Beginning the College Search

Thinking about college should begin way before high school in order to get in the college preparation courses. College visits can begin during family trips during sophomore year (so that you remember your impressions of the campus). Ideally, you should take the PSAT or PLAN as well during your Sophomore year. Trying to figure out what you require from a college should begin in earnest your Junior year and the research into colleges should go in depth during Junior year. When you walk into your high school in the Fall of your Senior year, it would be great if you have your college list lined up even if you still need time to finalize it.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Beginning the Search

As an independent educational consultant I work with students at all phases of the search. Typically students get serious about the college search during their junior year in high school. That is not to say one can't begin sooner. What is important is that the student is engaged in the process. For some students that interest begins as a sophomore. The sooner one starts thinking ahead, the easier it is to make sure the high school curriculum will meet the needs for college entrance. One of my favorite lines says: "before junior year, college visits should be no more than drive-bys at a speed no less than 25 miles/hr!" Obviously if you are visiting grandma across the country and this is your chance to check out schools, you should do it. Please don't wait until fall of your senior year to tackle this project. By spreading out the components to the application: visits, requesting letters of rec, writing essays, filing the common app, filling out the FAFSA; you can enjoy this journey stress free.

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

Beginning of Junior Year

It's best to start the beginning of junior year with the college search, this way you have an entire year to research schools, meet with admission reps at college fairs and visit the campuses. Senior year can be quite stressful in regards to the college process, so the more you do junior year and the earlier you start the better off you will be. My goal for all of my students is to have their college list finalized by the time they start senior year so we can focus on applications.