I don’t recall ever having parents regret starting the college process too soon.
I certainly know hundreds who have regretted starting too late.
By college process, I don’t mean that you should start touring colleges with your 8th grader.
Instead, as parents, you should start considering what themes would generally make sense to serve your child’s best interest and what your child needs to do to ensure that he/she can transition into the right college based on those themes sometime in 10th grade.
If you did not start yet and your child is in 11th grade, then start… now.
Why? You will discover if you have not already that junior year is the busiest high school year by far and that the biggest time drain of the college process – visiting colleges – faces several big obstacles: (1) high school and college calendars coincide. So while it would be brilliant to be able to visit colleges during the summer and during holiday break, those visits will be to empty campuses and thus not full helpful (2) your child’s schedule classes/sports/work/music/theatre will get in the way scheduling college visits (3) your schedule – your job/taking care of your other children/taking care of your parents etc. – will also make scheduling difficult. For this reason, you need to be make the most of your limited windows for visiting. Figuring out the way to maximize your time will be vital.