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The College Process: How Early Is Too Early?

- 17 February 2014, 03:02

Two weeks ago, I got a call from the dad of a 5th grade boy.

“Don’t laugh!” he said. “I know it’s a bit early, but we want to know if you’ll see us anyway?”

“Of course!” I said. “When do you want to come in?”

The truth is, we were both laughing!

Fifth grade is a little early to be thinking about college, granted, but this particular dad had a point. The school his son was attending was so intensely competitive that his son had to quit tennis and give up chess just to keep his grades up.

“Do you think I made the right decision? He used to study chess with a master. He was good at it – and loved it. And tennis is his passion. He would play all day if he could.” Tears in his eyes, he pretty much knew the answer to his question.

We were laughing – and we were also crying.

The College Process – and the hype around it – has gotten ridiculous.

From where I sit, it’s a question of balancing knowledge with anxiety. Personally, I like to find out what I need to know way in advance so I don’t need to worry that I’m missing something. It’s all about calming the nerves and doing what’s necessary rather than pouring kerosene on the fire.

For this reason, I advise parents to come in if they’re nervous, so that at least they know what the road ahead looks like, when they’ll need to do what.

While it is true that “it ain’t no use putting up your umbrella until it rains,” I also think it is true that “Fools worry and the wise prepare.”

The college timeline involves a great number of fairly complicated elements that require advanced planning. Summer internships, for example. Usually by March 31, these applications are due. Summer — and particularly the summers between sophomore and junior year and junior and senior year — is a great opportunity for students to get a taste of campus life, to intern in a field of interest, to travel, to build houses for people who could really use them.

And then there’s test preparation? When is the best time for that to begin?

And how about visits and interviews? Should students prepare for them? When should students visit the schools they may be interested in?

And of course, the big cahuna — the college essay. When should students start working on those?

So many questions, so little time!

How early is too early to start The College Process?

Never, really.

Especially if it will put your mind at ease.

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