You'll hear a ton of advice about when to plan for college. Some high school counselors will tell you to start junior year. A few parents might have their eyes on the prize sophomore year.
ForWord Consulting believes that college planning is a life-long process. After all, if children don't hear about colleges until high school, they might not think they can attend.
However, assuming that you're ready for the college adventure, ForWord recommends starting the real work around 8th or 9th grade with the heavy load starting at the end of sophomore year.
This means talking about course schedules, planning summer activities, considering APs, working on volunteer hours, etc.--all so that summer before senior year you're all set to apply.