When Should I Start Touring Colleges?

Let’s start by saying that if you’re reading this right now and you’re a junior, you should have started yesterday. But to be fair, this is a question we often get from everyone from parents of students in 8th grade to high school seniors, so we’re going to expand on this.

As it goes for college tours, you should start before you think you should start. The ideal time to start the process is first semester of sophomore year of high school. But before you ask…

Isn’t junior year “the college year”? Can’t I just wait until then?

It wouldn’t be a good idea. You’ll have more than enough on your plate.

I want my kid to get ahead. Can’t we start freshman year?

It’s probably too soon. A freshman is still adjusting to high school, so the touring process can be very overwhelming. Plus, they’ll have a hard time relating to students on campus because of the age gap.

Here’s why sophomore year is best:  

  • The college process has been slightly demystified. A high school sophomore has friends, or at least acquaintances that are applying and/or going to college within a year. They’ve heard about it and have probably started thinking about what the college process will be like for themselves.

  • The first tour is still going to be overwhelming, but time will be on your side if you start sophomore year. You’re going to realize just how much you don’t know about the process, but you still have time to figure it out.

  • Because you still have ample time left, you can go to the college around the block. Or a few exits down the highway. Pick any college to get the process started. We’ve written about how the first college you tour should be the one closest to your home. This is because the goal of the first college tour is not to find the end all be all, it’s to create a basis for comparison for all tours to come.

All this adds up to the fact that starting college tours as a sophomore makes for a much less stressful experience. During your first tour, tune into what you like and don’t like about the school. Better yet, bring along our college visit notepad. We suggest writing things down as your tour and immediately after: if you take detailed notes you’ll be better suited to pick out subsequent schools to look at. 


Want help figuring out where you should tour? Reach out here.