When Should You Start Visiting Colleges?

When should families start visiting colleges?
A parent recently asked me that question and I’m going to respond by sharing the advice of Kris Hintz, a very smart college consultant in New Jersey, who addresses this issue in her upcoming book – the title is still not firmed up or I would share it. Kris believes that until a teenager is a junior, you should make any college visits very low key. Here is what she said:

Are Sophomores Ready for College Visits?

If you visit campuses when your child is a sophomore, make it part of a fun family trip and low key it. It is anxiety producing for your sophomore to seriously consider the idea that high school will end and he or she will be moving away from home.
Teens live in the NOW; therefore college is a remote, surrealistic concept for sophomores. If a desirable college is a convenient stop on a family trip, walk the campus but you don’t need to enroll in an information session just yet. A low-key campus walk can help a student file away mental pictures of what an acceptable college might look and feel like. That’s all you want right now.
If other families are visiting campuses this early, you may feel like you are remiss by not doing so. We are all affected by our peers, parents as well as children. Misguided parents who are prematurely stressing about the college process are doing harm, not only to their own teenagers, but to the whole school community by escalating the hype. Try to follow your own inner compass. Restraint will serve your adolescent best.

Researching Colleges on the Sly

If you want to do advanced research on colleges that fit your child’s interests, make it stealth research only. With some exceptions, it’s too early for most sophomores to care. They have other things to worry about that are more pertinent to being sophomores.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of Shrinking the Cost of College, a workbook available on her website. She also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. On Twitter follow her @CollegeBlogs.

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Why Too Many College Students Aren’t Learning
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  1. This is great advice for parents who may be curious; but I’m currently a sophomore in high school and I’ve actually taken it upon myself to research colleges early on. So when should I begin speaking to my dad about visiting colleges? Should I start now, or wait until my junior year?