Hi there! I saw this question (and the very in-depth and informative answer by @Garethfx!) and wanted to chime in here quickly. There is a lot of confusion around when to start thinking about college because families usually see SAT/ACT prep as the starting point to the college admissions process. (And that is probably because that is when their high schools put a real emphasis on college for the first time.) And maybe that worked 10, 15, 20 years ago. But now - considering how competitive colleges are - SAT/ACT prep shouldn't be the starting point... it should be the MID-point in the college admissions process.
Think about it: when your student applies to college, the admissions officer is going to be looking at their ENTIRE high school career. Not just 11th and 12th grade! So why wait until 11th grade to start thinking about/planning for those college applications?
It is important for families to start thinking about college the moment their students enter high school. Now, that doesn't mean you should have a final college list by the time your student hits 10th grade. That would be silly. But there ARE things your student should be doing each year to get on track for college, on which they can continue to build as each high school year passes.
Here's a quick breakdown of where to focus, year by year:
GRADES: While it’s true that junior year is most heavily scrutinized by college admissions committees, grades during freshman year matter. Students must focus and make sure they're working to their highest potential.ACTIVITIES: College admissions committees want to see that students are active throughout all four years of high school. Freshman year is a time to dabble, trying out many activities to see which ones they like best. Once they figure it out, they should focus on devoting a lot of time to those pursuits outside of the classroom. It’s depth not breadth that counts.Sophomore Year:GRADES: Students should always, always, always focus on keeping their grades up. And not by picking easy classes they can coast through. They need to be taking the toughest course load that they can handle...and working hard in them. Anything less spells L-A-Z-Y to AdComs.
ACTIVITIES: During sophomore year, students should be continuing their freshman year activities with an eye on leadership positions. If they really love student government or Key Club, they should consider running for elected office. If they're enjoying a community service activity but feel like they could do more, they should look into avenues of increasing their participation and presence. Or start their own activity! Nothing says leadership more than building something from nothing!
STANDARDIZED TESTING: The first standardized test students will take will be the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) in October. The score on this will determine whether your student is eligible to be a National Merit Scholar. It can also mean money towards college for about 800 National Merit Finalists (!), but even being named a semifinalist is an excellent distinction.
After the PSAT your student will take the SAT and/or ACT. We recommend that students take either one for the first time during the second half of sophomore year or the first half of junior year, at the very latest. You want your student to have as many chances to maximize their performance and create the best ‘superscore’ possible.
GRADES: Ideally, your student's grades have been solid throughout high school. If they haven’t, here’s the chance for him/her to prove himself/herself. The next best thing to a GPA that is consistently high is one that improves over time. It shows that the student has recognized his/her faults and increased his/her efforts accordingly. Also, their course load during junior year should be as rigorous as possible. Students should challenge themselves with the most difficult courses, including honors and AP Classes.
ACTIVITIES: Just like with academics, activities should be maxed out during junior year. In school-related clubs, students should angle for a leadership position or two (or more!). Becoming a leader within a club they love isn’t about the title; it shows that the student is passionate about the activity, and in the minds of admissions committees, this passion translates to meaningful participation in their future college community.
STANDARDIZED TESTING: Students should plan on taking standardized tests more than once during junior year. For SAT takers, they should consider taking the test in January then again sometime in the spring. If they haven’t achieved the superscore they desire, they can take the test a third time in October of their senior year—after some summer prep work, of course. The same advice goes for the ACT. Finally, students aiming for Top 25 colleges should plan on taking the SAT II during junior year, likely in the spring.
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: While you shouldn’t start filling out any applications just yet, junior year is the time to begin seriously considering college admissions. This means doing some research ASAP. The best place to start is the Internet, scouring the websites of schools you’re interested in. These sites are incredibly helpful, with information on academics, activities, and even virtual tours. You should also plan on visiting colleges with your student, if possible.
RECOMMENDATIONS: By the end of junior year, students should have a list of 3 recommenders. They don't HAVE to lock them down just yet, but they will look incredibly mature and serious about this process if they do. And that can go a long way in those recommendations!
As you can see, there is a LOT to do. And waiting until Junior year to do it puts students at a disadvantage. So if you are already wondering when to start thinking about college... well, that means it is indeed time to start thinking about college :)
Actually, you can be thinking about college anytime. The levels of thinking about college is what you should be concerned about. You do not NEED to start thinking early unless you have an urgent desire to get out of state. Elementary students should just hear about college. Middle school students should be developing interests and realizing what colleges are near them and what a scholarship is. High school students should slowly build from there, starting sophomore year when they are already used to high school (work load ya know). So, middle school is a really good time to get semi-acquainted with the whole process.Answer
I think the best time to be thinking about college is 7th or 8th grade year. A student doesn't need to know what they want to do, but just start exploring what colleges are out there and what majors are offered by different schools. A student should seriously start looking into colleges and majors at the beginning of their junior year and apply the beginning of their senior year. I recommend visiting colleges the summer between a student's junior and senior year. I, personally, was thinking about college in fourth grade! I don't think a person is ever too young to be thinking about college and exploring their options.Answer
At 10 you are probably too young to think about it seriously, but really there's no reason not to be mulling it over as you mature.Answer
Your never to young to start planning ahead, just don't dwell on it to much until you reach your sophmore year of high school, then start your hardcore planning.Trust me.Gifted Students
Highly gifted students can need college very early; many attend as early as age 10. If you need to go to college this early, an SAT or ACT with scores better than average is extremely helpful. For more information about giftedness, look at http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/. (In response to this ^, No. Do not send your kid to college at ten years old, A child could be a genius and do fine with the course work, but they would do horrible socially because they have nothing in common with the rest of the students. College is at least as much if not more a social experience than it is a learning one. In conclusion, bad idea)
In response to the response: A child who is ready for college at 10 is likely to be a poor social match with a bunch of 10-year-olds anyway. We have had excellent luck sending our child to community college while still living at home starting at 11. He had no friends at the college at first, but now that he is 16 he has a few. He was always able to work with the other college students just fine in group projects and in his tutoring at the tutoring center. His friends are elsewhere. When he is traditional college age, he will choose his four-year college and go away. We know several people who have had equally good luck. I'm not aware of anyone for whom this hasn't worked well.
Reply: I could have graduated early and left home but didn't. It was the right choice for me for the reasons stated above. That doesn't mean it is right for you. A 14 year old recently sailed around the world alone. Follow that kind of passion if you have.Answer
You are never too young to think about your future.Just don't think about the negitives.Answer
You can start thinking about it at anytime, but don't start planning until 8th or 9th grade. You need to at least have in mind then whether or not you want to go to college and if you do, if you want to go to an Ivy League school, a private school, a public school...once you have made these decisions, it will help you choose whether or not to take advance placement or honors courses. It will also guide you on how hard to study for the SATs.
It depends on which college you want to go to. If you want to go to a good college then start getting good grades in middle school. Advanced courses in middle school means more difficlut classes in high school which helps your transcript. High school grades are the only ones that matter though.Answer
The more early you think about colledege, the better it is.AnswerBegin now. College success requires a mature mindset and the sooner you begin to think about who you are, want to be and how a college might help you get there the better off you are. This is a complicated journey so don't be discouraged. You are already taking a big step by asking the question.
Don't focus on majors, focus on what you like to do and see what classes explore those things. Interest inventory tests can help you get started with some suggested careers if that helps ground your search.
A few tips:
Don't rely on anyone but you to get you to your goal. Counselors are over burdened and colleges are businesses that are looking for your money. Parents often don't know how to ask the right questions for today's college demands or aren't able to give it as much attention as they would like to.
Visit schools if you can. Think about the time of year you are visiting and if that represents what your experience will be like.
Compare job placement rates and graduation rates between different schools.
Think about the return on you investment in school - think of it as purchasing educational services. Will your career pay off your bills? You might be surprised. Quite often a bus driver makes more than a graphic designer.
Think about your heroes and people whose work you like. Find out how they got there. You might be very surprised.
As a college consultant, I don't think you need to think about college until you are a freshman in high school. The first two years of high school you need to make sure you are taking the most challenging courses you can, getting the best grades, and beginning to pursue some extracurricular activities that interest you. As a high school junior, you need to begin thinking about the kind of college you might like to attend, take a test prep course for the SAT and ACT, and look for ways you can pursue leadership positions in your extracurricular activities. At this point, you will begin your college search and seriously get
+++ My opinion about this topic being a high school student looking into colleges a lot this year....
I have attended a Career Center for the last 2 years and have really had an eye opener. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to go into classes as early as 3rd grade to discuss career choices, its just a first look but its great to see how small children are interested in different career options. I have gone to 8th grade classes as well as produced a video and PowerPoint regarding "first looks and experiences in career fields"... if you choose a career center you get a first look, and if you like it, you get college credit that transferes to some colleges as well as helps you get "base" knowledge in the career choice. With that said, I am glad I chose a career center to see if "teaching" is really what I want to do... now that I have done that and KNOW I want to be a teacher, I wish I would have looked into SPECIFIC colleges and scholarship money my sophomore year, and latest junior year... I am doing a lot of work now but have found some great opportunities for junior students! The earliest the better in my opinion.
*** NOTE it is my opinion that the answer someone put above ... have a baby... that is NOT the answer at all ... though we see those WITH babies at a teen age... get more funding than we do.. but really???? That does not out weigh the stress and disfunction that family will have... DONT have a baby for that reason, that's a whole new question.
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