For most high school students in their freshman and sophomore years, college may seem to be hovering in the far distant future. And parents, reluctant to pressure their children, may not broach the subject. In truth, it’s almost never too early to at least begin the process of choosing a college.
While your children are young, an occasional visit to a local college or university can kick start the thought process without pressure. If the family is traveling on vacation, try stopping at a school or two in other locations and ask your student what they think.
Conversations about college can become more frequent as your son or daughter enters middle school. Encourage them to give some thought to what type of school they might like to attend, or have some general talks about where in the country (or the world) they might see themselves going to college. Eighth grade is also a good time to talk seriously about the choice of courses in high school and firming up plans for extracurricular and athletic activities.
As your student moves into the world of high school, more concrete questions might crop up, and it is a good time to bring up the topic of financing college in a non-threatening way. You will regret it later if the subject of paying for college doesn’t come up until their senior year. Make sure your student knows they should be looking at all possibilities, and stress that there are many factors at play in college choice. The summers during high school offer the chance for students to consider taking advantage of a program or two on campus at colleges and universities, whether athletic or academic-based. This will offer the opportunity to “test drive” a school, live in a dorm, and get the feel of being a college student.
Though it’s impossible to eliminate stress completely when it comes to college admission, beginning to tackle the topic early can at the very least help to ease the whole family gradually into the process.