Campus Visits

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Is Freshmen Year Of High School Too Soon To Prepare For College?

This past Wednesday, the NY Times ran a piece titled, College Hunt Starts Earlier at New Breed of Schools. The article focused on how some for-profit schools in New York City were starting a formal college search process for their freshmen. At one school, 7th and 8th graders are even allowed to take a three day trip to visit college campuses. While I believe there are true benefits of starting your college planning prior to junior year, I think taking 7th and 8th graders on campus tours is pushing it a bit.

But when is the right time to begin your search? Do you really need to start when your son or daughter starts their freshman year? With the pressure of getting into a good school getting more intense each year – can you afford to wait until junior year?

Well, here’s my take on it.

I don’t believe in pushing a formal college search process on freshmen because, in my experience, it’s too soon and they’re just not ready for it. There will be plenty of time to be stressed out when they are juniors and seniors and the college process is really moving along full-steam.

Having said that, I strongly believe that freshmen should at least be thinking about the things that are most important to them. What subject areas are they more interested in and why? What activities might they want to get involved in? Are they interested in playing for one of their school’s sports teams? Is there a hobby that they spend a lot of time with? It’s this exploration and fleshing out of who they are and what’s important to them that can be so helpful not only with leading into conversations about college, but for their overall development as well.

For freshmen, and even sophomores, creating opportunities to get them thinking about who they are and what’s important to them is what’s important. This way, as they prepare for each successive year in high school, they can make informed decisions about which classes to take and how much time and energy to devote to their sports and activities. And that’s the key here: making informed decisions. When nearly 50% of students fail to graduate from the schools they enrolled in as freshmen, knowing who they are and what they want out of their college experience is such a valuable exercise.

So, if you have a freshman or sophomore, try just having some conversations about school, get them talking about the things that are important to them and try to have some fun with it. Lastly, let it be okay for the craziness of the college search to be put on hold until they are entering junior year. You will be glad you did.

If you have any questions on what you should or should not be doing at any stage of the college search process, you can reach Eric at

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Four Tips For High School Juniors

High School Juniors! The time is here. As you watch your friends in the senior class find out where they are going in the fall, I hope you are already planning out what you need to do over the next year to get your college process moving.

If you haven’t, here are four things you should be focused on right now:

1. Standardized testing – Both the SAT and ACT have test dates coming up later this spring. The SAT will be offered on May 5th and June 2nd while the ACT will be offered on April 14th and June 9th. Keep in mind that you need to register online for both and the deadlines are typically one month prior to the test date. If you’re not sure which test you want to take – or which one you might do better at, now is the time to take some practice tests.

2. Talk about money – despite the fact that most people hate to talk about money, if you haven’t already talked about cost, now is the time to do it. The average four year cost for public schools is over $60,000. For private schools, it’s nearly $150,000. Knowing what you can afford now will save you a lot of time, stress and heartache when you start building your college list and visiting campuses. Keep in mind that paying for a college is very much like paying for a car – very rarely do you pay the sticker price.

3. Campus visits –Even if you don’t know where you want to apply to yet, you are fortunate to have so many schools within driving distance right here in Connecticut. Want to get a feel for a large, research university? Go visit UConn. Think you might have what it takes to get into and make it at an Ivy League school? Schedule an information session and tour at Yale. Want to see what a highly selective, liberal arts college might offer you? You can visit Wesleyan or Connecticut College. A private, comprehensive university? The University of New Haven is your destination. A regional, state university? CentralEasternSouthern or Western would fit the bill. I think you see where I’m going with this.

Visiting schools is one of the best ways to figure out how you feel about a school before investing your time in applying. Just be mindful of when schools are on spring break. While some may still offer tours, do you really want to see an empty campus?

4. Senior year courses – planning for next year’s courses should be happening soon and if you read my blog post from last week, you will know that colleges are looking at your senior year course load and grades. AP and honors courses are great ways to demonstrate your academic abilities. Scores of three or higher on the AP test (for very competitive schools, you will need a four or higher in most cases), can earn you college credit.

Another great way to show off your academic skills and earn some credit in the process is to take UConn Early College Education courses, otherwise known as ECE courses. The ECE program allows motivated high school students to take UConn courses at their high schools for both high school and college credit. For example, students at Cheshire High School can elect to take Child Development & Human Growth and British literature in addition to several AP courses.

Considering there are so many steps to finding the right college for you, getting started early can help ease the stress and anxiety of the process.

If you have any thoughts or perspective on things juniors should be doing now to help get their college search moving along, please use the comment section below.

You can also email me directly at

Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

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