When is the best time to use private college consular? Start 9th, 10, 11 grade? Or even lower than 8th grade?

1. Kris Hintz • A touch-base in 9th and 10th, but the real meetings should start taking place midway through junior year.

2. Becky Grappo • I have a few kids in my practice that are 9th and 10th graders. We don’t really do "college counseling" as much as we just have some ongoing conversations about attitudes towards school and learning, course selections, summer options, and being yourself but knowing what college admissions is all about. I like to keep it low key at this point, but it’s nice for them to have someone they can talk to about college and future plans. When I start with kids much later, sometimes they find out things they wish they had known earlier, but by then, it’s too late to turn back the clock.  

3. Joanne Robertson • I agree with Kris. Until the student has an idea of what they want to study you cannot even begin the process. Starting in eighth grade will put too much pressure on any child. Parents can certainly emphasize choices and consequences of those choices but the focus should not start until junior year.

4. Marilyn Emerson • The actual college admission process should begin junior year, but I agree with Becky that there are important conversations to be had in 9th and 10th grade. Too often parents and students say "I wish I had known that sooner," when they wait to talk about courses, extracurricular activities and summer opportunities.

5. Chris Holzwarth • Three areas that are important to address: education planning, college admissions and career development. I begin working with students and their families as early as grade 8 on education planning and sometimes, career exploration. Important to lay out and tweak plans as the student uncovers his/her strong interest areas while learning and exploring. It has been my experience that students who seek help later in high school may still be confused about their direction even after graduating from college. Good for the student to understand the layers involved in self discovery and planning before choosing colleges.

6. Amy Goldin • I have a slightly different perspective on the question. Since I work with many Performing Arts students I believe that Junior year is already crunch time for college plans. We need to remember that there are years of preparation that are required to prepare for college-level auditions. Combine that with the hugely limited time that Performing Arts students have available for college visits in their Junior year, especially if they want to visit schools specifically when performances are being presented, its clear that students who are even entertaining the idea that they might want to study some aspect of Performing Arts will be more successful in their searches if they start thinking college at least as early as sophomore year.

I believe that students pursuing the Visual Arts and athletes also need to consider college possibilities earlier than usual.

This is where the idea of using an Independent Consultant is very helpful, as it is possible that a student’s high school college counseling process is not set up to promote more intense college information for the younger students. And parents need to be more aware earlier in the process as well. Especially when it comes to considering their finances.
Having an ongoing support system as early as possible, if approached appropriately, can serve to relieve the pressure of the college search process later.

7. Erin Croddick Avery, CEP • Sherry, you raise an excellent question! Certain choices that occur prior to 9th grade can impact college options, namely, course selection. Students who may have selective, perhaps technical, colleges in their sights should consider what level of math and science (or language, etc) they would like to be taking in the senior year and plan accordingly from 9th grade on.

If a family is considering procuring the services of an educational consultant, I would like to stress that the student and consultant spend sufficient time developing a rapport over ideally, multiple years. There is no short cut to this dynamic. The more pertinent information the consultant can gather about the student, the better the college match she can help to provide. Also, the more deliberate time the student can spend, alone or with a consultant, recognizing and cultivating their own unique gifts, skills and passions, the more personal growth and development that can occur throughout the college search and application process.

8. Susie Watts • Like a lot of things, I think the time to begin college counseling depends on the particular student and circumstances. I basically suggest to students in the 9th and 10th grades that they work hard in their classes and get involved in some worthwhile extracurricular activities. Many kids are already doing that so beginning the college planning process in the middle of their junior year is more appropriate. Athletes, musicians, and performing arts students may need to begin sooner. My hesitancy is burning kids out on the college planning process before they really are ready. I do agree that parents should be actively involved in how they are going to pay for college even before the 9th grade.

9. Kathryn Favaro • The decisions a student makes during high school will highly effect their college admissions chances. So ideally a student should meet with a college counselor at the beginning of 9th grade to discuss their goals and college plans. This is an important time to plan academics and extracurricular involvement. Then meet once or twice a year to touch-base. Middle of 11th grade would be the time to start meeting regularly.

10.Kris Hintz • I do "touch-bases" in 9th, 10th and 11th Grade fall. Then we meet every month 11th Grade spring. Beginning Aug before senior year, we meet 1-2 times per month, depending on what the client wants to do. When there is sufficient rapport built up and we’re in the heat of essays, we do a lot of work in between with email editing. It winds down in December, depending on the client’s specific situation. There is a lot of telephone hand-holding when decisions come back from colleges, of course. And I keep my clients in the loop through workshops and my blog, www.positionu4college.wordpress.com.
The one thing I will say is, having a third party is very helpful going through the college process, because it is a tough time for parents and teens (the relationship is already strained for many obvious reasons!).
Also, school guidance departments (especially in large high schools) often do not have the staffs to accomodate a one-on-one relationship with the students. Most guidance counselors "do it all" (scheduling, discipline issues, emotional counseling), certainly not just focusing on college counseling. They are trying to do their best as professionals in tough staffing situations.

So the college counselor is a resource, like a tutor, to create a one-on-one relationship with the student. Certainly the information is out there and can be accessed by the student and family, but some busy families want somebody who has more expertise, somebody that does this kind of thing every day. I wrote a blog post called "College Consultants? Who Needs’em?"
<http://positionu4college.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/college-consultants-who-needsem/> which sheds more light on this topic.

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