When Do I Begin My College Search?
Start your search in 9th grade, position yourself to be in a competitive sports program at club level, try out for Varsity, train with professionals, work on fitness, and get your name out to College Coaches; request that they see you play and compete. Most importantly, play/compete at the highest level possible. You don't need to be the best player on your team but be among the best players! You might also want to attend a camp in the summer, or perhaps a camp offered at a college campus run by the Head Coach of the sport where you intend to compete in college.
Video is always a good idea, and of course networking with the College Coaches. A video will pique their interest and hopefully get them to come and see you compete. I would also recommend that whenever you get post season, states, regional, finals, as well as college showcases and combines, be in touch with the College Coaches. When emailing, include your video link on YouTube, and attach your updated athletic-academic profile. College Coaches are looking to identify "talented sophomores" and will keep you on their radar.
If you are a Golfer, run Track, Cross Country, play Tennis, or are a Wrestler, you will want to keep the College Coach apprised of your personal best. If you play a spring sport like Baseball, Lacrosse, Softball, etc. starting early is essential.
You may also want to visit the college or university, and you can do this as a freshman, sophomore or junior, but you must initiate the visit. College Coaches cannot actively recruit you until the end of junior year.
As a 9th grader, take challenging courses and get good grades; better grades get more attention and more money from College Coaches.
Finally, always select the college/university that has your major, the right demographics, such as location, size and environment, as well as the best academic opportunity.