When frustrated by families dragging their feet to start their college search, my good friend likes to say, “Get started early. You’ll thank yourself later.”
Despite the wisdom of this declaration, he makes it tongue in cheek. As a parent, he understands the challenges of having multiple kids attending different schools, playing different sports, and dragging their feet to plan anything more than 2 days in advance.
I bet you can relate to those challenges, too. So this blog is meant to make plain the big advantages of starting your college search early.
- Teens aren’t always easy to engage in conversations. (I know, I have one at home.) Give yourself more time to find moments when they are open to communicating.
- Earlier college conversations set the expectation that you want your child to attend college and understand the value of higher education.
- You can consider a broader set of colleges. There are over 3,000+ colleges and universities in the U.S. By getting too focused on just one school, students might be devastated if they don’t get in or if they don’t receive an adequate financial aid package from their top-choice college.
- You’ll be able to visit more campuses. Students who attend colleges they visited are more likely to graduate. An early start will also help you spread out your travel costs (and stress). Your early visits should be casual and help your child gain points of reference for important differences between campus communities. Your later return trips should include more activities on campus and create an opportunity to explore your top choices.
- Keeping college in mind when choosing class schedules can help you avoid curriculum mistakes that hamper your chances for college admission and could have been avoided.
- Getting to know your School Counselor and Advisor early in high school helps when application “crunch time” arrives.
- Learning from students/siblings going through the process one or two years earlier can be invaluable, because they are coming from your same place in life. Learn from their research and mistakes!
- Give your children more time to improve their standardized test scores. Almost all students’ scores go up when they take the test a second and third time. Starting early will give you more time to find the test that suits you best, get 3 tests scheduled and practice for those tests!
- Applying early in the fall of senior year tends to help your chances for admissions and for receiving financial aid, so you need to be ready to complete complicated applications and financial aid forms at the start of senior year.
Taking the “long view” of the process, I circle back to my favorite comment for freshmen. It highlights the benefits of starting your college search conversations early, and – oftentimes – it motivates students to recognize the tangible benefits of working harder. I like to say, “The better you do academically, the more choices you will have. And everyone likes to have more choices, don’t you?”
Fitz has dedicated the entirety of his 25 year career to encouraging higher education opportunities. He worked in the Vanderbilt, Duke Law and St. Lawrence admissions offices prior to serving as an enrollment management consultant for dozens of colleges around the country. He partnered with his former Vanderbilt colleague, Nicole Cook, to form Find The Right College and support their mission to make trustworthy college counseling more accessible.