There may be those who will find my answer to yoir question a bit odd, but I believe in starting the college search process in the SPRING of your SOPHOMORE YEAR -- make a list of schools that you would want to apply to and visit as many as you can or make sure that in FALL of your JUNIOR YEAR you meet with the area rep for those schools that visit your high school. Sit for the PSAT in October ( hopefully you took them as a SOPHOMORE FOR PRACTICE -- remember these scores do not go on your transcript so no one sees these scores except you and your parents and your school counselor) and review the JUNIOR YEAR scores when they are returned to you in DECEMBER. Based on your scores you will receive admission materials from colleges ( some you may never have heard of before). You can project a possible SAT score based on your PSAT. Make a decision when to sit for your first SAT and refine your list of schools based on your current GPA, RIC , possible SAT/ ACT score and your likes and dislikes of the colleges on your first list ( that first list should contain "dream schools" and at least 15 - 20 other schools ). So, now it is after your first SAT and you have scores back , refine the list again. SPRING of your JUNIOR YEAR visit schools, go to Open House programs and if you can not visit a school go to your closest National College Fair hosted by the National Association of College Admission Counseling or your local high school fair and make connections. This is also the time to ask teachers for recommendations --remember the more popular the teacher the more students will ask for a recommendation. If you have to sit for another SAT or ACT or Subject Tests in the SPRING be sure to have a schedule worked out well in advance. I do not recommend visiting schools in the summer months ( few students on campus, no social activities). If you have to visit schools/ interview in the FALL of your SENIOR YEAR ( call the admission office in the summer to schedule these events). When you return back to school AS A SENIOR double check with your teachers for recommendations and alert them if you are appling Early Action or Early Decision. Make an appointment with your school counselor to review final college list ( if your counselor is at school in August see them at that time) Start the Common Application in August . FALL of your SENIOR YEAR work on your applications -- do something every day ( essay questions, personal statement, completing the application) be sure you know that process for filing your applications with the Guidance Department - if applying on line be sure to tell your school counselor, complete your release of records form for each school you are apply to in the fall. Have a goal to have all apps out by November 1st. It is a busy time senior year, especially the first three months. Stick to your calendar, stay motivated, meet with your counselor as often as you need to, ask questions and do not get distracted. Be one of the first among your friends to complete all applications ( all are done correctly) and enjoy Thanksgiving and the holidays in December. Wait for the acceptances to start coming in!!