There’s nothing surprising about this story. Anyone will tell you that starting early produces better work, and makes the process less stressful. Except when it comes to applying to college. The common wisdom is that starting too early puts pressure on students, and causes unnecessary stress. But I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. That doesn’t mean you need to prep for the SAT your freshman year. But not thinking about the SAT until the end of your junior year diminishes the amount of time you have to make the best choices for you. I work with some students as early as freshman year, not to stress them out, but to give them good advice that will ensure they have as many doors open to them as possible. Knowing what’s coming during high school allows students and families to plan ahead and take advantage of all the support, resources, and opportunities available to them.
Starting to think about applying to college earlier allows students to find schools that are a better fit, produce better applications to those schools, and feel more confident about their applications. To that end, I’ve put together a timeline for all four years of high school, basically what you should be doing when. Start with your year to get a sense of what you should be doing right now. Then, take a look at the upcoming summer or school year to see what’s ahead.
If you’re feeling anxious, the best thing to do is begin tackling the items on your list. That might mean signing up for an upcoming test prep class, or submitting applications for a part time job, or scheduling an appointment with me where we can talk through your goals and make a plan. The point is, you’re never going to regret starting the process now. But you might look back and wish you had started sooner.