Start college planning before the deadlines snowball

College planning can be a bit like a snowball rolling down a hill – deadlines are stacked on top of each other and as you speed down that slope, the snowball is going to grow. If you wait too long to begin planning for college, you and your student could end up rolled over by that massive snowball before you know it.

It is crucial to begin your planning for college before things get out of control. While you can always begin earlier, you and your student essentially have to start looking at schools and allocating funds once he or she finishes sophomore year. Families that begin planning for college now are less likely to be overloaded with stress later on, and as a result, have a better chance of hitting deadlines. This way, your student can concentrate on their grades, athletics and other extracurricular activities including identifying their best-fit schools.

"Start planning for college before things get out of control."

Speaking of best-fit schools, starting early will give your family opportunities to look at more schools, and as result, hopefully pick one that suits your family's needs in terms of academic experience, athletics and scholarship offerings and overall affordability. Additionally, kicking things off as soon as possible will allow you to cast a wider net in terms of the plethora of financial aid options out there that many families simply pass over in the rush of late stage college planning.

What you should be taking care of junior year
So, what exactly should you and your student start taking care of at the outset of junior year? Below is a list of everything that's essential in the third year of high school:

  • Make sure your student begins meeting with their guidance counselor, who can help your student stay on top of things in school.
  • Register for the PSAT, an essential warm-up for the SAT.
  • Mark down SAT, ACT and SAT Subject Test registration dates.
  • Begin browsing financial aid and scholarship options if you haven't already started.
  • Consider a test-prep tutor or in-person or online course.
  • Start scheduling college visits (spring break is the perfect time).

And those are just the essentials. A lot goes into college planning, which means if your student is a junior and it is November, you should have started many – if not all – of the items on the above checklist. Consider that your snowball has begun rolling and before you know it, it will be too big to get a handle on.

Calling in the professionals
One way to ensure you stay on top of everything and find time to develop an effective college funding strategy that maximizes your savings is to schedule a meeting with your Smart TrackTM college funding expert. For even more advice, don't forget to check out our Smart TrackTM Minute video series. These professionals have the knowledge, experience and tools needed to ensure that you stay on top of everything, and don't get rolled over by the rolling snowball of deadlines and requirements regarding applying for and funding college.