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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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