Updated: Feb 7, 2021
Once January and February roll around, there are definitely a few things that you can start doing to get the college process started, but there's no need to get too stressed out at this point!
Here are my top 4 things you can do:
1) Keep working on keeping your grades UP as best you can. I know that the pandemic is making it harder to keep up the motivation, but keep the end goal in sight. Grades are what college admissions offices look at the most (along with the rigor of the classes you're taking).
2) Start compiling details about the activities and jobs that you've been able to take part in during high school. Be specific with details and time commitments. Having a record will make it WAY easier to fill out the activities section on the Common App later on. If you go to the Free Resources page on my website, you will find a simple handy-dandy form to use.
3) Start thinking broadly about what you might want in a college. How close to home do you want to be? Do you want a large university where you take more lecture classes or do you want a smaller liberal arts college where you get to know your professors really well? Are there certain locations that excite you? Types of weather you want to avoid? Do you want your teachers to be full professors or are you ok with teaching assistants (who are grad students)? What kind of social scene do you want? Are you interested in fraternities or sororities? You don't need to know the answers to these kinds of questions yet, but it's good to start thinking about them. Remember that this is a process that will unfold over many months. And remember that you get to change your mind!
4) Start thinking about how you'll go about visiting colleges when the time is right. The pandemic is making visiting colleges difficult, and most campuses are not allowing visitors, so it's probably most realistic to wait to visit until after the pandemic has calmed down. Even driving around campuses right now may give you a false sense of a particular college. Some are ghost towns, and you won't get the right read on the college community. Hopefully we'll be able to visit during the summer. In the meantime, you can think about whether there are particular regions or cities that you could visit and get to see various types of colleges. Where can you see a larger university and a smaller liberal arts college? Getting a sense of what kind of college is most appealing is the first step. Don't worry about visiting particular colleges yet...