Ask a Collegiette: How Early Should I Start Looking at Colleges?

Ask a Collegiette, college search, looking at college Are you a smart and savvy pre-collegiette looking for answers to some of your most personal questions about college? You know, the ones about boys, classes, roommates and parties that your school’s guidance office can’t help you with? Jen is here to answer those questions! Whatever your concern, she’ll do her best to help you so you can make sure you don’t just survive college, but rock it!

When should I start thinking about what colleges I want to apply to? I’ve been worrying about it since I was in the sixth grade! (To be fair, my brother was a junior at that point.) I'm a sophomore, and I've just started thinking that I'm worrying too much now. – Lila


Wow, you were definitely on your A game thinking about college at such a young age! I have an older sister who is five years older than me as well, so I understand how having someone in the house going through the college process can make you start thinking about it more.

As a sophomore, I think you’re at the perfect age to begin considering and researching your options. However, even though this is true, you’re not at a point in your high school career where you need to be worried about choosing a college just yet. This should just be a time when you explore your options and take a tour of schools you might be considering.

If you haven’t gotten to a point where you’ve already considered specific schools yet, you can always check out one near your home just to get a feel for what college is like. You can also think about a few basic college-related questions, such as whether or not you’re comfortable going to college out of state if necessary, and what type of qualities you’d like your future school to have. Another idea would be to talk with your parents to get a sense of your financial situation, since it’s a necessary conversation to have when planning for college and it’s better to start it now rather than later.

When you were a freshman, all that mattered was adjusting to high school and maybe finding a few clubs to join to boost your experiences and your resume. Now that you’re a sophomore, I’d suggest building onto the extracurricular activities you may have found. This means you should make sure you’re at all the meetings, and you could also consider running for a leadership position in whatever club or activity you are part of. You can consider taking the PSAT, which will help you to understand what the SAT will be like when you take it your junior year.

Plan a meeting with your guidance counselor as well, since he or she will be able to answer all of your college questions and can help relieve any anxiety you might be facing related to the college application process. A great small step to take would be to make a free account on the College Board website, where you’ll be able to research different schools and have access to various college prep materials.

Above all, just continue enjoying your time in high school while you have it, since it goes by so quickly! Make sure you watch all of your favorite shows on Netflix while you still have extra free time, and go on lots of little adventures with your friends whenever you can – try and make every little moment Instagram-worthy!

It seems like you’re a planner, so if you want to learn more about what your next two years in high school might be like in terms of college prep, here’s a little bit of insight to calm your nerves: As a junior, you’ll need to make sure your grades are good, you’ll take your SATs and you’ll really begin to buckle down in your college search, taking tours often and finding out what sets a good applicant apart from the crowd.

When you’re a senior, you can begin your actual college applications in the fall, and once you receive acceptances, you’ll make a decision of where to go to school. If you apply early action or early decision, you should know of your acceptance before winter break, but if you’re applying during the normal application period, you should know in the early spring. An early-action application means you can apply to school(s) and know of your acceptance early on without being tied down to the school(s) if you do get accepted. Meanwhile, when you fill out an early-decision application, you’re obligated to go to the school you’re accepted by, so only do this if you’re 100 percent sure you want to go to a particular school. During the latter half of your senior year, you’ll work on your pre-college life skills and master them before you arrive on campus.

My biggest advice for you is to take a deep breath and relax, since even asking this question shows that you’re responsible and proactive, which is awesome! Enjoy the rest of your sophomore year, and remember to have fun!

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