What???? It’s almost winter break – why would we want to think about college?
What???? My son is only a Junior – we’ve got plenty of time!
What???? The high school will take care of all of that, right??
What???? My daughter will go to community college – we don’t need to think about that!
Let me tell you why NOW is the time to be thinking about college visits.
Senior year is crazy. Public school, private school, home school – it doesn’t matter. Senior year will be crazy. You will kick yourself for leaving the college visits until your student’s Senior year. You will be stressed out trying to fit them in among other activities and frankly, it will be too late to get the best advantages in applying to the colleges they really want to attend. And yes, your student’s high school may help with some visits, but usually just to colleges very close by. No, they will not help with the whole process except in a pretty general way.
For “Early Action” or “Early Decision” at the majority of colleges, November 15-December 15 are the due dates for applications. This gives you the best shot at admission and at financial aid. There will be essays to write and transcripts and letters of recommendation to gather and maybe even a portfolio. This all takes time – added to the schoolwork and activities your student is already doing. Being able to get a head start in summer is a big advantage. Narrowing your students’ choices allows you to get going early.
If you start looking at colleges now – online or in those brochures that have probably been arriving since your student took the PSAT – you can start making a “wish list” of campuses he would like to visit. Colleges closer by will be easier – you can take a Monday or a Friday and go check them out – maybe only missing ½ day of school or activities. Colleges further away will require a plan – and possibly airline and hotel reservations. A good time to go is during high school spring break – particularly if it falls on a different week than the college’s spring break so your student can sample a class or two and you can have a tour when students are still on campus. Three day weekends are also an option, but check to see if there is enough going on at the campus to make it worthwhile.
Many colleges have “preview weekends” specifically targeting high school juniors and often scheduled around Monday holidays. Now is the time to check into those and make a plan. There are many online tools for narrowing your college choices – you can google to find one or you can try the one on the College Board website (they are the ones who administer the SAT tests): https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges/how-to-find-your-college-fit/college-search-step-by-step
These search engines can help your student consider some questions they might not otherwise think about. How far away from home does she want to be? Does he see himself as a small town guy or a big city guy? Does she want to live on campus or off? Does he see himself on a big campus (small fish, big pond) or on a small private campus (big fish, small pond)? Does she want to be near the ocean…the mountains…in a moderate climate…in snow…and so on.
A great way to connect with colleges that are far away without having to travel is by attending one of several College Fairs near us. Santa Barbara hosts a College Fair usually in November and a Christian College Fair in September. Too late for your junior this year, but timely enough for her senior year if she has narrowed her choices and there are colleges too far to travel to before she decides where to apply.
As you help your student narrow his choices, dream big! Don’t be afraid to consider options you think you can’t afford. You may be very happily surprised that an expensive college that is a good match for your student will be willing to work with you to get your student on their campus. The College Board Website has tons of useful info to help you with the process including timelines.
Community college is the goal? It’s still good to look forward to the next step. Now is the time that the four-year colleges are targeting your son or daughter who is a high school junior or senior. Now is the time he will be “wooed” to see himself graduating with a degree. If that is her ultimate goal, it’s important for her to gain a vision of herself on that four-year campus in just a couple of years. This can make the difference when he’s slogging through some of those General Ed classes and the “real world” begins to look more appealing without homework. A good four year college admissions counselor will be happy to meet with and stay in touch with a Community College student whose goal is to be a student on their campus.
How can I help? I am available to consult with you and your student to help you make a plan for your student’s college march and to help you implement any or all of the process. I can simply help you make a timeline with the steps for your unique student and then leave it to you and him to handle. I can coach your student through her college admissions essays and résumé and help her edit them to proper form and size. I can manage the application process – gather needed materials, package and submit the applications. I can help you with the financial aid process and even manage scholarship applications for you – including coaching your student through his essays.
If you just have a lot of questions, an introductory meeting is available at no charge – I will be happy to meet with you and your student for an hour and answer any questions I can during that time – then you can decide if you need my help for any or all of it.
Happy college hunting!