Not sure when it the right time to being your college search? You’re not alone. High school students often wonder when is the right time to start their college search? Should they wait till senior year, or should they begin their search in junior year? Or should they start searching even before that?
While there is no one answer that is right for every student, experts strongly advise against waiting till senior year. There’s too much to do in senior year, and there’s just not enough time to do a thorough college search within that limited time.
The best time to begin your college search is As Soon As Possible.
If you’re a junior and you haven’t started the search, get on it quick! If you’re a sophomore, consider doing some preliminary research and start taking the ACT/SAT so you can retake it a few more times to improve your score. Not even freshman year is too early to begin your college search process.
It may sound early but you’ve got nothing to lose by getting an early head start with your college search. The earlier you start, the more time you will have to complete a thorough search. With about 3,000+ colleges in the U.S., you’re going to need that time!
Even if you do not research all 3,000 colleges (and nobody is suggesting that you do) exploring just a few colleges of interest can take a whole chunk of time.
College search is a process involving several different factors, from the programs on offer and the total cost of education to the admitted student profile to the location of the campus. This can take longer than you can imagine. Trying to cram this search into a limited window of time can be incredibly frustrating. Moreover, you are more likely to miss early deadlines or overlook a few institutions that may have been perfect for you.
Take a look at the many benefits of starting your college search early:
It Allows You To Keep Your Options Open
With plenty of time on your hands, you can start by doing a broad search. Don’t limit your search to only those colleges that offer programs you are interested in. Instead, spend some time browsing through different colleges and take a look at the various programs they offer. If you come across a program that you’ve never heard of before and which sounds quite appealing, put it down on your shortlist to explore some more during the second round.
Checking out programs that different colleges appear can be quite an eye opener. After you have got several colleges on your shortlist, you can then work on narrowing that list. During this research, exploration and elimination process, you may be surprised to find that the best college for you is one that you had not given a second thought to earlier.
You Can Meet the Early Application Deadline With a Strong Application
The early application deadline for most colleges is in early November. With an head start you have ample time to work on a compelling personal essay, get the necessary letters of recommendation and submit an impressive application well before the early application deadline.
If you wait too long to begin your college search, the shorter time frame may not be enough to give your personal essay the care and attention it needs. Also, you may not have enough time to narrow down your top-choice colleges by the early action deadline, forcing you into the regular admissions (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but early action can potentially increase your acceptance odds).
You Can Plan Your College Visits
College visits are a great way to get a first-hand look and feel at the campus where you will be spending the next few years. If you start your search early, you can pick a few colleges to visit while school is still in session and students are still around. This will give you a better sense of what it really would be like to study at that institution instead of visiting a college during the summer break when no students are around.
You Have Time To Get More Familiar With The Financial Aspects
Federal student loans, scholarships, grants, private loans…there are plenty of resources that you can tap into to get some much-needed financial assistance. But exploring all of these options takes time. Where do you start? How much can you borrow? What is the loan period? What is the rate of interest? Is borrowing from institution A better than borrowing from institution B?
These are just some of the questions you will find yourself asking as you look into the various resources you can avail of for financial assistance. Finding the answers to these questions can take weeks, if not months. You cannot hurry up the process. You have to submit applications, wait for the application to be reviewed, and make crucial decisions so you don’t end up in over your head in debt.
When you start early, you can also apply to a multitude of scholarships. You’d be surprised at the unusual scholarships that some colleges offer. You may just stumble upon a college scholarship that you are eligible for and that you never knew existed. Any scholarship is free money and means you need to borrow that much less. This itself is reason enough to start your college search early.
The longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to get the financial aid you need. Some aid is given out on a first come, first served basis.
You Get More Time To Work Towards Special Requirements
Some colleges require applicants to meet specific criteria when applying for certain programs. For example, if you are applying for a Visual Arts program, the college may require you to submit a portfolio of your work. Some colleges specify further what they want to see in your portfolio. With an early start, you have the advantage of time to work on and master the pieces you want to submit as your portfolio.
This applies to any program you wish to enroll in. The earlier you know the requirements of your preferred colleges, the more time you have to work on strengthening those areas.
It’s easy to see that when you start your college search early, you have the luxury of choice and that itself can make a tremendous difference to your whole college experience.
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