While you might have a child in middle school or one that is a freshman, believe me it is not too early to start thinking college. Now don’t worry—I am not trying to scare you into prepping for tests and hunting down head hunters tonight; I am trying to convey the benefits of getting a jump start in the admissions realm.
So few families start thinking about college before junior year of high school. And when I say thinking, I mean really thinking critically about schools, majors, careers, financial aid, etc. I know when I went through the college admissions process 10+ years ago I didn’t give it a second thought until the end of my high school career. Think about it. When did you start picking your ideal schools and majors?
The thing is college admissions has changed. It is becoming more competitive at a lot of schools, so what do you do? You start your plan now. At College Planning Experts we actually have students as young as 10 years old. I know that is a little more so on the early side, but it is because those families want to feel prepared. They want to know they have a team on their side directing them towards success. If you really think about it, when do professional athletes begin playing and perfecting their sports? They start playing young and they get better at it. Isn’t a career also a profession? You should start making small steps to your destination now. It will give you a competitive edge.
Benefit number one: More options
Most students are only looking at “name brand” schools. They recognize these colleges on E.S.P.N. every Saturday, in their local neighborhoods, and from their family and friends. But did you know there are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States? That is a lot of potential schools. The trouble with waiting until the end of high school to start researching the vast options out there is that there is less time. There is less time to look through websites, stalk schools on Facebook and Twitter, visit institutions, email professors, etc. If you wait until you have 6 months to one year before an application is due you are setting yourself up for less options. Remember, high school students also have courses to take, homework to complete, and extracurricular activities to attend. They devote a lot of time to their regular lives and leave less time for college prep. While only 250 schools out of the 4,000+ admit less than 50% of their applicants (making them selective) and just 50 admit less than 25% of their applicants (making them highly selective), admissions seems tough. Well… that’s because you’re competing against all of the other students applying to the same handful of schools. Start early and find those hidden gem institutions.
Benefit number two: Better grades
Getting into college also requires students to be strong academics. If you are thinking about grades early then you have a better chance to applying to colleges with a stellar G.P.A. So many times we have had families that set college to the back of their mind, and then junior year they come in to our offices to begin preparations for school. Jeffrey, for example, came in in Spring of his junior year and his parents hired us to get him college bound. Well… Jeffrey also entered high school and had a fairly strong freshman year with a 3.5 G.P.A., but then sophomore year (with college out of sight and out of mind) his G.P.A. dropped to 3.3. Then the beginning of junior year when he got off-campus lunch privileges he began to skip his after lunch class here and there, and his grades suffered once again. Now his G.P.A. is a 3.2. Don’t get me wrong because that is still a pretty strong grade point average, but think about it. If he had the goal of college in his mind and was regularly checking in with a counselor or with his parents on his end destination, wouldn’t he have had more focus? Also, wouldn’t his parents have been more up-to-date information on admissions trends and grade averages at schools to ensure Jeffrey was properly studying and attending class? When you start at a younger age and the family is working towards a shared goal, the end result is easier. There won’t be cramming sessions at the end of junior year to try to bring up the G.P.A., lots of money spent on tutoring to relearn some of the topics and lessons that fell to the weigh side, and added stress senior year when you need to finish strong. Don’t be like Jeffrey; start thinking about how grades progress and the need to do well!
Benefit number three: More developed applicant
As the Huffington Post pointed out in an article yesterday, “Selective colleges are also looking for specialists from a well-rounded class, and a scattered extracurricular list with one-off activities isn’t that impressive. Students should focus on a few clubs and activities that meet their interests, and become deeply involved. College admissions committees love to see students attaining increasing positions of leadership in their activities, so students shouldn’t be afraid to put themselves out there in club elections or even to form their own clubs or organizations.” You get all that? Basically, if students start finding their passion at an early age they have time to build their resume. They can participate in an activity and move on to a leadership role as they get older and better. Colleges want to see that. What they don’t want to see is an applicant that did a different club or sport every single year. That shows that said applicant might not really know what they want to do in the long-term and that said applicant may not be committed to staying at their institution long enough to graduate. Too many times I see parents advising their child to participate in certain groups because it makes them look better for college. Should a child participate? Absolutely. Does that mean they need to be on the track team, sing in the choir, play baseball, lead the mock team, and head the robotics team? No. They should find a focus and stick to it.
I know this is a long post, but really what it comes down to is this: if you want to have less stress in the college admissions process then start early. It is so much easier to spread out preparations over a few years rather than a few months. You’ll have time to build a strong G.P.A., craft a wonderful list of schools, and develop your story and interests. If you’re concerned about taking the lead on this long project then hire a college planner. College Planning Experts would be happy to meet with you one-on-one to see if we’re a good fit for your family. Call us at (661)295-9946 or email us at [email protected].