Early College Planning

The Need for Early College Planning

Raise your hand if someone spoke to you about college when your son or daughter was in eighth grade. Sounds a bit crazy, right? Fast forward to September of your child’s senior year of high school. How much have you learned about this process?

Just about this same time every year, I receive the frantic Facebook message or text from an unknown number asking me if I can help their son or daughter with the college process. They usually get my number from a friend or colleague who has “sung my praises,” because I had helped their high school senior get into college; if only it were that easy.

While every message mimics the same worried, 911-emergency tone, the truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s only after parents realize that applying to college is upon them that they begin to wonder why these topics haven’t been discussed before.

What Is Early College Planning?

Early College Planning (ECP) is just that: planning before kids start high school or early into their high school careers. The goal of ECP is not to overwhelm kids but to make a plan that they feel comfortable with. We want to encourage them to try new things and evolve during their four years of high school, so that they can matriculate to college seamlessly. Overall, we want them to enjoy high school and be as successful as possible. But we also need them to understand that the more information they know and understand, the easier their transition will be from year to year.

Why is It Important?

Even if you have attended a parent info session or had a few conversations with moms of college-bound kids, does the advice you receive always apply to your specific situation? Just as some colleges are not a fit for some kids, the college process should NOT be a one-size-fits-all approach.

Most colleges take a holistic approach when reading a student’s application. Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying that they look at all the parts of their application; they want to see students challenge themselves in all aspects of their lives. Colleges want to see consistency, responsibility, sincerity, and authenticity in their applicants. This can be shown in a myriad of ways.

Unfortunately, by the time most parents and students start to think about these things, much of their child’s high school career is over. The time to choose the best high school classes, become involved in certain activities, and make a timeline for researching and visiting colleges has come and gone; and the stress that usually follows is unnecessary.

Why is Early College Planning Effective?

The college application encompasses three-and-a-half years as a whole. So, when your son or daughter is in eighth grade, and they are asked to choose their classes for freshman year, it is helpful to look at those first decisions and know how they will affect them for years to come. This also includes starting discussions about extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, volunteer work, jobs, and internships.

Another critical point here is that ECP can catch academic challenges early on. By checking in regularly with parents, I can offer advice about what to do when a child is having a tough time in the classroom, whether that means exploring tutoring or academic coaching support or connecting them with our company’s network of learning specialists, therapists, or educational advocates.

The Takeaways:

  • Working with an ECP consultant is an invaluable investment in your child’s future
  • Having parents and students understand the college process early on makes high school (and eventually college) much less daunting
  • ECP gives you, as parents, the tools to understand the college process and helps your child make the best decisions for themselves
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Jennifer Gallagher is a college consultant at Vested Academics. She offers her clients expert advice in all aspects of the early college planning, college search, and application processes.

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