In my case, watching Gilmore Girls with my mom had me motivated to go to Harvard at age nine. Even as I got older, and realized that there was more than Harvard (and that they have a 5% acceptance rate), I was still focused on college. I began reading things online and finding information about college in the 8th grade. I wanted to feel prepared. It never occurred to me that no other 8th grader was thinking about Harvard or college in general, but now that I am nearing the end of my time preparing for college it is becoming clear to me that many people are not as obsessive about being prepared as I am. Here’s a guide for all the normal non-obsessive people out there who are looking to start their college planning now!
Something I would suggest to anyone of high school age is to go see your counselor! My school has regular counselors as well as one specific “college and career counselor.” In my experience, the regular counselor assigned to me was useful in my earlier years (Freshman/Sophomore) because they were able to help me create a plan for the courses I should take throughout high school. Having a general idea of what you’ll be doing each year makes registration time much easier. However, in my junior year I began to frequent the college and career counselor and found her more useful at that time. Whether or not you have a specific college and career counselor, you should be able to talk to some sort of a counselor to gain information on whether colleges are going to be visiting your school anytime soon, information on state specific college funding programs (such as Hope Scholarship in Georgia), and access to resources that you would not otherwise be able to use. My counselor was able to supply me with a college planning notebook that outlines all the steps you should be taking and gives you a place to keep track of potential schools, scholarships and more.
Another way I started gathering info was simply by looking things up. Google can be a little out there, giving you too many results often not tailored specifically to what you need, but I found Pinterest to be very helpful. There is a multitude of boards with articles about college or info-graphics giving you the lowdown on scholarships. This is quite daunting in the beginning because of the amount of information available, but as you find out more in your college journey, it will become easier to pinpoint just the resources you actually need.
Even without very specific information or ideas about college, you can begin to look into what schools might interest you by simply going onto the websites of schools in your state or that you’ve heard of. Through college websites you can read about the majors they offer, see pictures of the campus, and sometimes there are virtual tours available. When you’ve looked at a few schools and gotten an idea of which ones you like more than others, you can look up their freshman profiles to compare yourself with the statistics of the most recent batch of acceptees.