Split blue image, woman with tablet, man at laptop, words Ask the Experts

When Should I Start Thinking About College?

The experts weigh in on when high school student should start thinking about college (and when to begin their college search!).

Michael Milone, PhDMichael Milone, PhD
Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer
Talk to your family and friends about college. Go to a library and look at some books that show different colleges, or check out some colleges online. Something that’s really fun is to look at college websites with friends. You can brainstorm about what you would like or don’t like about the different colleges. You will probably discover some facts about colleges that surprise you. Another thing that you might enjoy is trying to find your “dream college.” Suppose you didn’t have to worry about money or anything else. Where would go to college? Why would you choose that college? Talk about your choice with your friends and family. You might be surprised to find that other people admire your choice, and if it really is your dream college, maybe there’s a way you can make that happen.

Cyndy McDonaldCyndy McDonald
Higher Educational Consultants Association (HECA)
In elementary school is not too early to start thinking about college! Your thoughts should be not “if I go to college” but “when I go to college.” Start by going to college sporting events in middle school. Start visiting colleges when you start high school. The time passes so quickly!

Ask the ExpertsRhiannon Schade
Director of College Counseling
Collegewise of Millburn

Most students start their college search in earnest during either their sophomore or junior year of high school. Initially, you want to evaluate yourself rather than focusing on what colleges have to offer you. A university can have all the resources in the world—but that won’t matter if you’re not the kind of person who will use them. Think about what kind of experience you would like in college, from the way you learn best to academic experiences you’d like to have to what you want to do for fun. Once you have done some thinking about those things, then you can begin to look for colleges that align with your vision for yourself. It is ideal to have a firm handle on where you would like to apply by the time you finish your junior year of high school. Then, you can anticipate which applications you will need to file, what is required of you, and you will be able to lessen the stress of the application process.

K. Patricia AviezerK. Patricia Aviezer, MS

Inside Track to College, Inc. 
Start with you! Exploring your learning style and what environment will optimize your learning is important. Then visiting colleges to “feel” the campus and observe the types of students who attend are important steps to take as a foundation to developing the college list. Start as early as middle school to visit local campuses and attend their information sessions to hone your ability to evaluate which colleges are best for you.

For more expert advice, explore our Ask the Experts section!

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