When is the best time to start planning for college?

<p>Hey guys,</p>

<p>A question for the parents on this forum. </p>

<p>I have a nephew who is just starting 4th grade. His parents are starting to plan for college now. </p>

<p>By planning, I don't mean saving financially but looking into SAT courses, planning school trips, and thinking of hiring a college admissions expert.</p>

<p>I felt that this was a little too early but they believe that you can never be too early in planning for the future. I mean, he is a precocious bundle of joy (whose child isn't right?) and without a doubt advanced for his age but is this a little too much?</p>

<p>My question to you guys:
When do you guys feel is the optimal time to start planning for college with your children?</p>

<p>The parents need to get a life.</p>

<p>What the?!?!!
That is ridiculous. That poor kid :frowning:
I think 9th grade, second semester or summer after is the time to start BARELY dipping toes into the waters of touring, SATs, etc.</p>

<p>@emilybee hahah these are my aunt and uncle you are talking about but thanks for your constructive comment. The parents both have blue collar jobs that take up most of their time. They don’t really have time to discuss the intricate plots of the real housewives of atlanta while sipping $6 cups of starbucks or browse local forums submitting useless comments while yelling at the gardener through the intercom that you wanted forest green not moss green. But agreed, they need to get a life.</p>

<p>@harborceal I almost feel the same way. They have his schedule jam-packed with violin and extra tutoring. I’ll give them that they make sure to throw in sports into this schedule (swimming and tennis) but shouldn’t kids this age be allowed to have fun and waste time?</p>

<p>I don’t think what they’re doing is inappropriate.</p>

<p>Since their own background is blue collar, and they may not have gone to college themselves, they’re probably not very well informed about the process of preparing for and applying to college. It would be good for them to develop some knowledge of the subject before they need it. And some of what they learn could come in handy quite soon. </p>

<p>For example, as they become aware of the importance of a rigorous curriculum in high school, it will be natural for them to encourage their son to do well academically (and if necessary, advocate for his placement in top-track classes) so that he will be well prepared for rigorous classes by the time he gets to high school.</p>

<p>9th or 10th grade. Starting this early is going to lead to massive burn out.</p>

<p>Why can’t parents let kids be kids? Good grief.</p>

<p>Just by encouraging their child to do his best, and talking about going to college in the future as an expectation, they will be doing the early prep work. They don’t need to push anymore than that. Help the kid discover his interests and get really good at something, whether it’s a sport or music,etc. is important as he gets older. I think 8th grade is an important time to really stress grades, since success in 8th grade will set a student up for the better high school classes/honors, etc. Starting to visit colleges when they are near a vacation spot is better than making the visit the actual vacation at the younger age. My soon to be 8th grade son attended a 2 week summer science camp at Worcester Poly Tech, and now can’t wait to go to college, and wishes he could just go now! That’s the perfect motivator, in my opinion. Then, to make sure a 9th grader realizes that 9th grade counts and isn’t a year to goof off is the next goal. Some areas are big on SAT prep, and some aren’t, and colleges know that kids from certain areas were more likely to take a prep course and view the scores accordingly. In our area, most kids don’t take a prep course, and colleges know that too. Most people around here don’t even know what the ACT is, and don’t take it. If the parents start pushing too early, junior will rebel if they aren’t careful. He isn’t even the age yet to really see a future, so they just need to hold off or they’ll scare him. Helping him identify things he enjoys and is good at, and nurturing those abilities should come first.
At the same time, they should realize college isn’t everything these days. I wish my S who wants to be a civil engineer would also consider learning a trade, like becoming an electrician or plumber. We just needed a plumber, and paid him more for an hour of work than my H or I make, and we both have degrees and I have a Master’s! Computers won’t ever be able to unclog a drain!</p>

<p>I agree that this child is too young to really be planning for college. however, there are a couple of things one can do at an early age to help their child along. If the child is qualified for advanced classes, some of them start as early as 3rd or 4th grade, so you want to pay attention. Foreign language is another area where if you don’t have someone helping you may get in trouble. I didn’t pay much attention during my first son’s search for colleges, but I understand from others that many schools expect at least 3 years of foreign language in the same language. Speaking of music lessons, My kids were not particularly good and dropped out by HS, but I understand that sometimes playing an under-represented instrument wil give you a better chance of getting in at some colleges. I have heard the same for sports.</p>

<p>Personally, I didn’t realize that there were colleges other than HYPMS that were actually worth going to until tenth grade, but I think I’m doing pretty well so far. Lol. </p>

<p>Don’t follow my example, but 4th grade is definitely too early. Ninth grade sounds right.</p>

<p>Their kid’s gotta be pretty smart to do well on the SAT in 4th or even 5th grade. And unless they’re booking hotels 7 years in advance, what do they think they’re going to be doing on their college visits?</p>

<p>I’m legitimately curious.</p>

<p>I don’t think it’s ever too early for parents to educate themselves. Most of all, they should be saving for college from the time a child is born, better yet before that. I think it’s good to expose the child to college settings, by going to concerts, art exhibits, and sports events on college campuses.</p>

<p>However, going beyond this is overkill and may well result in a highly pressured situation for the child. SAT? College admissions counselor? For a fourth grader?</p>

<p>The earliest college visit we made was a sophomore spring semester visit because we were already in the vicinity. The rest have been in their junior and even senior years. We had always emphasized the importance of good grades, but we didn’t discuss the importance of grades as they related to college until the eighth grade. One child felt immense pressure in the ninth grade when other people started asking, “Where are you interested in going to college?” and we knew to wait another two years before broaching that topic. Two years later that child was ready to start the college search.</p>

<p>For these parents it is not too soon to explore what college is all about. Talent searches offer the ACT and SAT to middle school kids and the EXPLORE 8th grade version of the ACT to 4th and 5th graders for gifted and talented summer programs and determining academic needs.</p>

<p>Visiting college campuses while on vacations will help the parents learn what they are like. 5th graders need to be taking the mosre rigorous courses in middle school when they are given choices to best prepare to take the most rigorous HS courses. It is better for these noncollege pare4nts to be aware of planning ahead instead of finding out their capable child could have taken courses in middle school to be able to be on track for college in HS.</p>

<p>I’m sure every college student did more than the basics in school and beyond. Most good students can use more than the schools give- kudos to the parents for enriching their child’s life. As this child grows activities will be requested and refused. Middle school and beyond there will be many more opportunities.</p>

<p>Don’t worry. The parents are at the beginning of their learning curve and will get up to speed this way. Some of us forget all of the little things we absorbed by having college in the family.</p>

<p>You could say we started planning when son was an infant- he was expected to go to college from the day he was born. We had a head start on these parents because we already knew the ropes. We chose daycare and public schools with his future in mind.</p>

<p>I could joke and say I started mine in kindergarten- but at that point, all we were hoping for was early love of learning and willingness to tackle new tasks. In that respect, I’d guess many parents here are on the same page. I will admit when we went to the Starbucks near the local Ivy, I’d point out all the neat kids studying. (Matter of fact, I still do and mine are already well into college.) </p>

<p>We all set hopes early and we aren’t Tiger Parents for it. What OPs relatives will find out in a few years, is that kids develop their own willfulness and idiosyncracies. Unexected talents and weaknesses. Things level out, one way or another. My advice OP, is that when you’re around, let him get a more fun view of normal.</p>

<p>Mine were never interested in studying for SATs. One has a lust for learning and the other is still figuring herself out. We started college visits just before 9th, but we’re in a high concentration region and DH had his own reasons to be in those spots and simply took them along. No tours until later. (One of the first schools D1 saw in this casual way is everyone’s dream school and seeing all the eager-beaver wannabes on the tour completely turned her off to that school. In that respect, it was a good move.) Far better than obsessing is take young kids to the library often and instill a love of reading.</p>

<p>If planning for college means educating the parents on the current situation, then by all means start early, and keep up with it as it changes. It takes a while to realize that things have changed since you attended. </p>

<p>The obvious caveat is that your own ideas and projections may not coincide with either the student’s abilities, or his inclinations.</p>

<p>But being informed is always a good idea. There are so few people who are…and it takes time to educate yourself.</p>

<p>A library is accessible. A card is free. Many public libraries have activities for children, in addition to the shelves of books.</p>

<p>If parents can’t take your cousin because of schedules, would they let you do it? Introducing him to such a pleasure would be a real gift.</p>

<p>Reading is fundamental. My kids had a book in their hands as soon as they could hold one. Read, read, read…</p>

<p>The most important thing for a fourth grader is to learn to LOVE LEARNING. Think, analyze, read. Talk, be inquisitive. Become worldly - whether through visiting places (within what the family can afford) or through books. Get involved with whatever their interest is - sports, music, science - and within their means. The lessons that can be learned at this age are about commitment, responsibility, pride in oneself (and in one’s school work). A 9 or 10 year old just needs to learn these things from his/her parents. The parents need to be supportive, involved (not over-involved) and, above all, be good role models. And the parents need to start saving money for college. It always costs more than you think.</p>

<p>One college t-shirt is always cute too… my DS had a Harvard t-shirt when he was little … just part of me setting the expectation to attend college and reach for the stars.</p>

<p>My D qualified for the Duke TIPS program in 5th grade. We didn’t really know what it was, school didn’t elaborate, and we didn’t research. Looking back, that’s the only regret we really have as far as educational prep. I’m not sure missing out has really affected her as far as college goes. We took our first College tour the end of 10th grade to an awesome school. She hated it, haha. She also took the ACT end of 10th to qualify for a concurrent college class. She did very well. </p>

<p>My advice for your nephew mirrors the above. Parents should research for their own knowledge, but kids aren’t ready that early for SATs . College also means moving out of the family home, and those emotions are all tied up into the search and planning for college. It creates some insecurity for HS Seniors–I sure wouldn’t want to introduce that anxiety to a 4th grader!!</p>

<p>I should think that for a fourth grader, the emphasis should be on planning for middle school. From what I have seen, parents who have not themselves gone to college too often underestimate the value of being among peers with high ambitions,in a strong district or at a private or magnet school. Take a look at outcomes from the local schools - it is not too late to move to a better district, although this could mean moving into smaller quarters. There is a reason why housing in our district is very expensive! </p>

<p>I would also get an educational evaluation, if the parents have any concerns that the student is not being challenged, or is behind classmates either at their own school or schools in other districts that send large numbers of students off to college. Now would be the time to address any learning disability, if at all possible. Also a good time to address any special
talents or interests that emerge (even or especially if there are learning disabilities) whether or not there is a structured program available for the student, to keep the child engaged in learning. There is plenty available online for the inquisitive student, in addition to what is available at the public library.</p>

<p>My biggest regret is that I did not encourage frazzled kids to accelerate further in math. The calc teachers at their high school were superb. But, this decision could have been made at any time before tenth grade,for a student on track to take AB calc as a senior. At least in our district,students can accelerate by taking summer classes.</p>