While it’s fun to laugh about the helicopter parents who stress over their child’s pre-school because they believe it make or break chances of getting into a highly selective college, the truth is that effective college admissions strategies start MUCH earlier than senior year in high school. It’s disheartening how many students procrastinate about “all things college” until junior year, or worse, summer prior to senior year in high school. Colleges will start paying attention to your grades and activities as early as 8th grade, when some students begin to take high school classes. The summer following 8th grade is when colleges start to take notice of extra-curricular activities. Of course, character and qualities – such as grit, resilience, intellectual curiosity and passion for learning – qualities that lead to successful college graduates, are developed much earlier.
If you wait until your final year of high school to kick start your activities, interests and extracurricular pursuits, you won’t have enough time to garner the kind of solid, deep experiences that will help you show colleges what your true passions are. That’s not to say you won’t be accepted into any college, but you may face the disappointment of realizing that your dream college requires a more extensive resume than you are able to cobble together if you start too late.