"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." Walt Disney
A recent post brought up a good point for all high school junior and below students and parents about how to learn more about colleges and the opportunities at each institution. In order to start the process, you need to quit talking about colleges and actually begin the college search process. This means sending colleges your SAT/ACT scores (like the family from the recent post did), visit the campus to take a tour or attend an information session, sign up on a schools mailing list, etc. It is only then that a college will really start to know more about you, and can start to communicate with you. Every college will have a different time line concerning how and when they send you things, based upon their budget, their time lines, and the information you give them. But no matter what, a college can't really start contacting you unless you start the ball rolling!
We have a few families every year who are unhappy because we "heavily" recruited a friend or neighbor, but "barely" recruited them at all. When we go back and look at their file, it is generally due to the fact that we only learned about the student when they applied, and that was generally right around the deadline. In pulling up a random applicant for this coming fall, I see that she did a great job of contacting us early (fall of her junior year), and has since had about 10 different communications from our office. Contrast this with the following student in our recruitment database, whose first action was to send us test scores in late December of his senior year, and who applied right on the deadline. He has given us almost no time to communicate with him at all!
So the best thing you can do now is to start working with colleges early (soph. to junior year) by visiting the campus, sending SAT/ACT scores (remember, we only look at the strongest sub-scores, so there is no negative to sending us junior year test scores!), going to college fairs, and generally just letting a college know that you are interested. With 60,000+ prospects every year, I can't say that we will send you 2 or 3 letters every week, but you can at least put yourself on our radar. So as Walt Disney so succinctly uttered, "quite talking and begin doing!"