Junior year is a tough time. Classes are harder than ever, and grades are at their most important. Students have sports, plays, music, volunteering, and a host of other activities to balance. (Not to mention prepping for the SAT or ACT, and even AP tests in the spring.) Add in a social life and personal time and it seems almost impossible to fit in eating and sleeping.

The worst part? ALL of these things are important, making it difficult for students to prioritize.

So when – and how – do you as the parent bring up perhaps the most important conversation of the year?

Your junior students are anxious about this process. Especially when their senior friends start getting their acceptance letters in the late fall.

The greatest cause of this anxiety: where do they even start? How do they take the first step in this process?

The “college conversation” – discussing a school list – will be different for every family.

During my junior year, my dad first started to broach the topic while we watched college football and basketball games. Whatever teams were playing, he would say, “What would you think about going to ____?” and give me some information about where the school was located and what it was known for: engineering, liberal arts, partying, ski slopes, etc. That gave me some understanding of what was out there school-wise.

If you do not feel like you could give your student enough info in this way, try having relatives and family friends share some pros and cons on where they went to school.

To start building a list, some families may start from the qualities the student would want in a school. Questions like “Big or small?”, “Urban, suburban, or rural?”, and “What do you want to study?” are all great starting points for college research.

And most importantly: be honest. All families have some limiting factors to deal with, whether it is geography, cost, or something else. On one hand, research a school thoroughly before tossing it aside. A school’s “sticker price” tuition is high, but maybe they give substantial merit scholarship money and need-based financial aid?

On the other hand, if a school clearly cannot be an option based on family circumstances, eliminate that option upfront. There are so many outstanding options out there that will meet all of your and your student’s criteria.

Need some help getting the college conversation started? Ivy Experience offers a College List Survey, a short quiz which will return a list of 15-30 possible match schools based on a student’s preferences and qualifications, with some info on why the match makes sense. The list is meant to serve as a starting point for a student’s college research, not a definitive list of where to apply. To request the survey, contact us today!