Many parents ask if there is a “right time” to begin the college planning process. There really isn’t a “right time”, but it is never too early to lay the groundwork for a successful search. Here are some steps to take while your student is a freshman.
Visit your counselor or meet with an independent counselor and create a four-year academic plan. Think about what you’d like to accomplish in the next four years. Make sure you know which high school courses are required by colleges, and that you’re taking the right classes as early as the ninth grade. Get to know the levels of courses offered by your school, College Prep, Honors, AP, IB. Take challenging classes in core academic subjects. Most colleges require:
4 years of English
3 years of Social Studies (history, civics, geography, economics, etc.)
3 years of Math (you must take Geometry)
3 years of Science
2 years of a Foreign Language
1 year of Visual and Performing Arts
Begin to reflect on what interests you. Pay attention to careers and jobs that you hear about. Ask questions and read Google descriptions about those careers that interest you. Make a list of your interests. Math, music, history, volunteering, building, reading, etc. Both those skills and strengths that you like and that you don’t.
Create a four-year activity plan. School isn’t everything. College Admission Representatives like to see students who branch out and embrace a few activities, both in school and in the community. Remember, it is quality over quantity. Connect with a group, club, organization that you can embrace for the next four years. Picture opportunities where you might be able to grow into a leadership position. Think about sports, debate teams, music, theater, non-profits, church, jobs, etc. Pick a few things to try this year. Find something you feel good about.
Freshman year is a bit too early to take standardized tests, but you can begin to prepare by reading, and studying. Turn your homework in on time and participate in class. Connect with teachers. You may need them for a Letter of Recommendation later in the process.
If you’re goal is to play sports in college, review the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility requirements.
Begin an honest conversation with parents or guardians about the costs of college. Do some research. Google Tuition & Room and Board for in-state and out-of-state schools.
Visit a few colleges. Local colleges are great to visit to get an idea of size and the differences between public and privates. If you’re on vacation and there is a college close by see if you can visit or drive through. It will help you to identify what you are looking for in a college.
Above all, take 9th grade to explore interests, reflect on options, research colleges, study and adjust to high school!