Making the Most of a New Year: College Admissions Advice for 9th and 10th Grade Students
8 mins read

Making the Most of a New Year: College Admissions Advice for 9th and 10th Grade Students

The start of a new year is the perfect time for ninth and tenth grade students to embark on their college admissions process with energy and enthusiasm. In fact, decisions taken by ninth and tenth grade students over the coming weeks will shape their future in a big way, which is why I’m happy to share some important bits of advice that will help ninth and tenth grade students lay the foundation for future success. Ninth or tenth grade students dedicating their time and talents to productive endeavors today all but guarantees they will have more post-secondary options tomorrow. 


Develop Effective Study Habits
Creating a designated study space, setting realistic goals, and employing effective study techniques will set the stage for academic success. In ninth and tenth grade it’s not just about the grades earned; it’s also about mastering the art of learning in order to be prepared for more rigorous coursework in eleventh and twelfth grade and beyond.


Set Academic Goals

Identify subject areas for improvement, set realistic short-term and long-term goals, and regularly assess your progress. Academic excellence is a journey, not a destination. Connect with teachers and your school counselor for one-on-one conversations to get feedback on how to reach new academic heights. Building strong relationships with these adults at school early on will help you supercharge your academic, extracurricular, and career goals. By sharing your interests and goals with your counselor, you’ll also be more likely to align your activities with your college aspirations. Discuss potential summer programs or internships with these in school mentors as well.


Build a Stronger Academic Foundation by Choosing Challenging Courses for Next Year
Many high school students are now being asked to start ranking or selecting courses for next school year. Consider enrolling in honors, Advanced Placement, or similarly challenging courses as you begin the process of selecting courses for next year. These courses challenge you academically and demonstrate your commitment to excellence. If you think you can get a B or better in a more difficult course than you currently enrolled in within a particular subject area, it’s certainly worth considering taking the leap to that more rigorous course next year. For example, if you are currently taking Standard Geometry and getting an A, it’s likely a good idea to try to take Honors Algebra 2 next year even if it means you may get a B in it. 


Explore Extracurricular Activities

Use your ninth and tenth grade years to explore a variety of clubs and activities and discover your passions. Clarify what truly interests you and aligns with your values. Don’t be afraid to step into leadership roles within clubs or sports now so that by the time you get to eleventh grade you will have a deep record of accomplishment and commitment within at least two or three different activities. Such activities could be pursued in a group or independently at school or elsewhere; what’s most important is that you engage in such endeavors earnestly. Focus on quality over quantity when selecting activities to pursue. Seize opportunities to take on leadership roles. This will enhance your college applications and hone your leadership skills, both of which will propel you further in the future. 


Build a Well-Rounded Extracurricular Resume
Your extracurricular resume, which will ultimately be used on your college applications, is a detailed summary of your non-academic achievements. Unfortunately, far too many college applicants only start writing their extracurricular resume in twelfth grade! You should start drafting your extracurricular resume as soon as you start engaging in extracurricular activities as a high school student. This could and should be as early as ninth grade. By keeping track of your accomplishments as you go, you’ll be able to share more compelling details about the depth and breadth of what you accomplish throughout your high school career. 


Begin College Research & Visits

Explore a diversity of colleges and universities online. and are a good place to start. Understand each institution’s unique features, and start considering the factors such as size, location, and academic offerings that are most important to you. If you find a few colleges that are particularly interesting to you, sign up for virtual or in person information sessions hosted by those colleges. Whenever possible, virtually or physically, visit campuses to gain insights into campus life. Attend college tours and engage with current students to better understand the culture of each institution.


Understand Standardized Testing

Familiarize yourself with the structure and content of both the SAT and ACT. Consider taking practice tests to identify which test you may prefer and areas for improvement. While many American colleges will remain test-optional for first-year applicants, certain colleges, most recently including Ivy League Dartmouth, have reinstated testing requirements in order to be considered for first-year admission. Begin test preparation by no later than the end of tenth grade. Explore test prep resources, develop a study plan, and schedule regular practice sessions so you are ready to start testing for real in eleventh grade. 


Cultivate Effective Communication Skills

Focus on developing strong written communication skills, which will be invaluable once it comes time to write essays for your future college applications. Practice being concise, clear, and detailed in all of your writing, and seek feedback from teachers or mentors to improve your writing. It’s also important to develop effective email etiquette. Learn the basics of professional email communication. Use proper formatting and language in all of your emails. Practice clear and respectful communication at all times so your emails reflect the best version of you. 


Summer Opportunities and Internships

Research and apply for summer programs related to your interests. Consider academic programs or volunteer opportunities. Seek internships or part-time jobs in your chosen field. Gain real-world experience to enhance your resume and network with professionals in your desired industry. Doing so will ensure that your future college applications demonstrate that you took initiative and had a commitment to experiential learning beyond the traditional nine-month school year.

Initiate Discussions with Parents/Guardians

Discuss college costs and expectations with your parents/guardians. Explore potential funding sources, including need-based financial aid, scholarships, savings, and loans. Consider the long-term financial implications of college choices.


Build a Strong Online Presence
Craft a positive online image. Review and curate your social media profiles. Highlight positive aspects of your personality and achievements. Use privacy settings effectively. Leverage social media platforms for networking. Connect with college admissions officers and alumni if or when you have questions and want to learn more. Consider creating a digital portfolio showcasing your work and sharing blog posts or articles on topics of interest. Demonstrate your passion and expertise through online platforms.


Time Management
Effective time management strategies are essential. Create a weekly or monthly schedule to manage your time. Prioritize tasks and assignments based on deadlines. Identify time-wasting habits and work towards eliminating them.


Balance Academics, Extracurriculars, & Life

Maintain a healthy balance between coursework, activities, and simply taking time to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. Avoid overcommitting and always prioritize self-care. Develop resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges.


If you can do all of the above in ninth or tenth grade, you are going to set yourself up to be successful in eleventh and twelfth grade and have a lot of college options from which to choose during your senior year. 


Good luck!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments