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When Should My Teen Start Their College Search?

There isn't a specific time students have to start the college search, but our experts have advice for parents on when and how their students can be planning.

Charlotte M. Klaar, PhDCharlotte M. Klaar, PhD
Director
Klaar College Consulting LLC
The college search should begin in earnest in the second half of junior year. This can be preceded by a year or so of unofficial college visits so that the student can see various types of colleges (city, rural, large, small, etc.). One thing that I caution my client families not to do is to immediately begin the college visits with Ivy League schools or schools of that type. Of course your child is going to like these colleges. Realistically, even if he is qualified to attend them, what are his chances of acceptance? Don’t discourage him before the process begins.

Kelli DolanKelli Dolan
Senior Assistant Editor, CollegeXpress
The college search can start any time in high school—but no student intending to go to college should start any later than their junior year. Starting as a freshman may seem excessive, but when we say “start,” we simply mean freshmen should make smart academic choices that'll benefit college admission later. Freshmen can find their academic strengths and plan future course schedules around their burgeoning major and career interests. They can join clubs and be consistent with them over the next few years to display their dedication to extracurriculars. Freshmen students can even start searching for scholarships to put away for the future! It’s really never too early to start planning for college, but there certainly is such a thing as too late.

No matter what grade your students is in, you can use our Ultimate College Planning Checklist for all four years of high school to help them stay on track.

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