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>>I've got a freshman in high school next year. When do you first start looking at or doing basic research on schools? As a single mother, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to afford. Any beginning guidance would really be appreciated. <<

In sophmore year my daughter had to do a project in English that researched a possible profession, the college degree required, the starting positions and salaries and 10-yr later positions and salaries. That really helped her focus on her personal strengths and interests.

That year they also took the PSAT on a practice run in preparation for the real thing in Jr year. Those scores were really valuable, for they gave us some indication of where she ranked on a national scale as far as college admission and scholarship potential.

We visited the large local State U that fall, just to poke around. (Sort of a waste of time but the idea of living away from home before too long was planted.)Fall of Jr year we visited another large State U with a more focused mission of what to ask and what to look for. Spring of Jr year we saw 3 others in depth and we hope to visit several this summer, now that we know what is important to her.

Freshman year is critical in that the student must select a path, how demanding a curriculum is selected will have a lot to do with the grades and class rank and the options down the line.

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