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When is it too early to start touring colleges?

Auden Elliott, News Editor

College tour pictures plaster your instagram and parents and relatives start asking you what school you want to go to freshman year; the question begs to be asked: When is too early?

As the enrollment rates for American colleges have increased by 15 percent in the last 30 years, more and more students are considering college as an option, and students are touring colleges earlier and earlier.

Families plan their summer vacations around a list of schools that may or may not be “on the way” to their final destination. This focus on touring colleges has become not just necessary, but popular. This fad has found its place in the social media account of juniors, sophomores, and sometimes freshman.

Experiencing the culture of different colleges can be a good thing, though. Starting to understand early what you do and don’t like can help you make the decision your senior year. Even if you are just tagging along with your older sibling who is starting their college tours, it can be beneficial to have an idea of whether you like a college before you experience the stress and pressure of your final year of high school.

This is a decision that will surpass the four years that you spend at the school. Cramming all of these tours into the summer before senior year is not only stressful, but can make your college search process a more overwhelming experience than the exciting one that it should be.  

While touring colleges may never have a start date in your high school career, worrying about admission and preparation for you application certainly do.

I distinctly remember my elementary school music teacher threatening my fourth-grade class that not only would we not succeed in high school, but we wouldn’t get into a good college if we didn’t join her fourth and fifth grade choir. Not only did this work on me, but I was petrified into attending every single morning practice.

This is just one example of teachers and parents using our anxiety over college as a bargaining chip. Even in elementary school, we were familiar with the routine of asking where a neighbor, friend, or sibling are going to college. No matter how much you hear the question, you can never be ready enough to answer that question yourself in 8th or 9th grade.

It is never too early in high school to become acquainted with what qualities you value in a potential school, but when studies show that the percentage of students that have “high” or “very high” stress levels over college applications has increased from 56 percent to 73 percent since 2003, there is certainly a line that has been crossed on how early we put pressure on being “qualified enough” for our dream schools.

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When is it too early to start touring colleges?