With summer winding to a close, school is on the minds of everyone from students to their parents to every single retail outlet in the United States (and even some outside). There’s not a soul in the States that isn’t keenly aware of our public education schedule, and the impending doom of standardized exams and surprise tests that are all but already upon us. For many, however, the talk of school never stopped. If anything, it got more intense, what with up to sixty thousand dollars being on the line for most involved. Millions of seniors kept the conversation going by spending their summers stepping onto prospective college campuses for the very first time. “Those poor souls,” you’re probably saying. “Those late souls,” is my reply.The best possible time - hands down - to start touring colleges and really looking at your options is definitely earlier than you started. Guaranteed. The age old rule of thumb - early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable - has never been more appropriate for a scenario.But by touring as a junior, I gave myself an entire year to process it. It gives space to really analyze what it is you want out of your college experience, and where you can actually get that. Everyone dreams of attending their perfect school, but starting early gives you enough time to go out and actually find it. Just because the school can play the history card, or the low-blow of a low acceptance rate, doesn’t mean it will be the perfect place for you. There are more factors to consider than a brand name or the local university everyone you know attends when four years of your life are at stake. Starting (and staying) ahead of the curve also leaves time to choose classes according to the specific prerequisites of the colleges or majors you want to apply to, as opposed to just taking whatever because you’re “undecided anyway.”There’s nothing wrong with hesitation on declaring a major, but the extremely selective and extremely sought after colleges often require a certain level of competency in math, or a specific amount of lab sciences, and it may vary depending on where you apply. By the time senior year rolls around, there’s not much you can change on your college application, most of which are due in the fall, if you just found out what classes they wanted a month ago. But if you were to have found all this out last year, or even as a sophomore, and scheduled for the future, it makes the application process that much easier. Starting college funds as a baby are extremely popular, but planning ahead academically from junior year, ideally sophomore, is just as important. It’s downright imperative seeing as more and more qualified students enter the application pool each year. Racing around campuses and sitting through information session after information session wears on even the most eager of teens after a while. And that’s not even the half of it. Once you see all these schools and their requirements, their assets, their drawbacks, you’ll need to apply.
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