Start planning for college freshman year

Question: When is the best time to meet with a college counselor?

Answer: I feel that it is ideal to meet with a college counselor early in the freshman year. I have learned from experience that many families and students regret that they waited to begin college planning until junior or senior year, as resumés and GPAs are fairly established by the end of junior year.  The major reason I like to start so early is to help a student and their parents begin to develop a long-range plan that will guide them as they map out courses, plan extracurricular activities, and help them think about ways for their student to develop and show their interests both in and out of the classroom. Ideally, students should have a four-year plan in terms of what courses they will take, how they will incorporate honors and AP into their schedules, and how they will balance coursework with sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer commitments, jobs and time for family and friends. Freshman year is not a time to discuss specific colleges or even expect students to have any idea what type of college they might be interested in. It simply gives the student and the counselor the chance to discuss what some of the post-secondary options might be and what it will take to be competitive in today’s climate, should the student be looking at highly selective colleges. I also like to map out what our public state schools are looking for in a student. I have found that when students have set clear goals for themselves early on, they are less likely to let their grades slip in the first few years of high school. I have also found that those very students I meet early on are more likely to establish leadership positions once he or she is a senior.

The second goal I have for this visit with freshmen is to allay parent anxiety. Most families who have not gone through this with older siblings have little understanding of the college planning process and are nervous that they should be doing something now that their child has started high school that they aren’t aware of. Once they understand how the college admission process works, parents feel more control of the situation and are better equipped to guide their son or daughter.

Joan Franklin is the owner of MI College Support, an independent college counseling practice. She can be reached at (206) 232-5626 or


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