It's Never Too Early!
If you take just one piece of advice from this book, let it be this: Start early! The more time you give yourself to research schools, think about your options, write essays, and search for scholarships, the better off you'll be. Many of us learned this lesson the hard way, so take our word for it and avoid last minute stress, anxiety, and worst of all, missing out on an opportunity because you waited too long.
If I could've done one thing differently it would have been to get a start on the whole process earlier.
How early is early? You shouldn't go crazy with it, but start thinking about college during your sophomore year. Do a bit of research, take the PSATs, and give some thought to the type of college that might make sense for you. By the second semester of your junior year, your college selection and application process will be in full swing, so get there prepared and with your mind focused on the right goals.
In the next section we put together a timeline to help you organize the many tasks you have to complete as part of this process.
Create a Realistic Timeline
The college selection and application process is a long one and you'll feel more confident and relaxed if you break it down into smaller goals and plan when you need to get each one done. Get a planner or a desk calendar and create a realistic timeline that gives you enough time and includes every important step, from studying for standardized tests to going on college visits. Having a visual picture of this timeline will be really helpful.
Start with some deadlines that are set in stone, like when applications are due for Early Decision/Early Action and regular admission. As you start to find out when other events like college fairs take place, you can add them to your timeline. Once you know these fixed deadlines, you can create your own personal deadlines around them, like when to start researching and visiting schools.
Make sure that you revisit your timeline often and make any required changes. You might, for example, decide to take an additional SAT II subject test midway through your senior year. You should always put any major step like that on your timeline and leave yourself time to prepare.
It's a good idea to get into the habit of setting a specific and achievable goal for each week, like finishing an essay or working on vocabulary for the SATs. That way, you're not overwhelmed and you have a feeling of accomplishment, which we've found is pretty important.