How to Motivate Juniors to Start the College Process

Teen girl looking out the windows. She has a pencil in her hand and a notebook in front of her

How to Motivate Juniors to Start the College Process

Published July 18, 2023

Teen girl looking out the windows. She has a pencil in her hand and a notebook in front of her

A parent in our PFC 101 community group recently asked what to do when her high-achieving high school junior had no motivation to start searching for colleges.

It can be hard to motivate high school students to begin the college search process. 

A member of our Paying for College 101 community said her high-achieving junior has been pushing back on her requests to get started. Her question to the group: How do you motivate a kid to get interested in even doing a Google search about colleges when she thinks her mom is too ahead of the game?

Here are some of the groups recommendations: 

Take the Lead 

Some parents said they had to step up and start the college search for their students. 

Andi B. said she started researching schools for her son when he was a junior. She also planned trips to see the schools, which really pushed him to take an interest. 

Margo W. acknowledged that her student wasn’t ready to discuss college junior year, so she came up with a list of colleges that she gave her daughter in fall of senior year. Similarly, Claudine G. suggested that parents can sign students up for open house days at schools for the whole family to attend. 

“I started by getting my daughter thinking about what she wanted to major in,” said Robert P. “Then I started research on my own. Once I found a few schools, I pitched them to her.”  

Make it fun 

Who doesn’t love taking a trip? It’s always fun to explore a new city and take in the sites. It worked for Mia C. She suggested going on day or weekend trips with teens that include a visit to one college. 

Others said it’s always more fun to take a friend along. Elizabeth K. said her student became motivated after going on college tours with friends. They all took a road trip together to schools. It made the visits more fun, and gave them a chance to talk right after the visits, too.

Many parents felt that it’s better to visit in the warmer months, when the weather is good and campuses look their best. “Go visit a few schools in the spring/summer when campuses are beautiful – let her bring a friend and the excitement will happen!,” said Sarah P.

Treat Them like a College Student 

For some students, they don’t realize they want to be a college student until they get to pretend to be one. 

Bev H. said her student did a five-day program at a college the summer before senior year. It involved living in a dorm, eating in the cafeteria, and working on group projects with other students. That program is what pushed her daughter to check schools out. “She loved it and realized she was ready,” she said. 

“Go to a college fair so she can see and talk to people,” suggested Addie G. 

Rachel F. gave her high school student deadlines to motivate him. He was tasked with researching majors and had a due date to come up with a list of five majors and colleges to apply to. “It was kind of a tough love situation, but he took the whole process in his hands after that!” 

A few parents suggested working with a college counselor. They can answer any questions students might have and be quite encouraging!

Leave Them Be 

It’s okay if your high school student isn’t motivated just yet to search for colleges. There’s still plenty of time, other parents say. 

“I vote for mom to chill out. You can’t want it more than she does,” said Marsha K. 

Kristi N. noted that this is the student’s journey, and they will own it in their own way.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

10 Ways a Parent Can Help Their Student Prepare for College

College Planning Mistakes: Common Pitfalls Parents Can Avoid

College Countdown Gift Ideas for Parents of Seniors




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