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How to get Prepared for College Starting in your Freshman Year of High School

9th Grade Checklist

As students embark on their high school journey, the thought of college may seem distant and abstract. However, laying the groundwork for higher education begins as early as ninth grade. This pivotal year marks the start of a four-year exploration and preparation process that will shape future academic and career paths. Here are some essential steps to kickstart the college preparation journey in grade 9 

From Insider Higher Education: 

New research from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research suggests that the ninth-grade GPA may be much more significant than many previously thought. Ninth grade seems to pave the way for future success.

Timeline For Success in Grade 9 

• Set up a 4 year plan for high school coursework. Meet with your high school counselor or independent educational consultant no later than mid January.

• Learn about A-G Requirements for California Students – see above

• Use your summer for enrichment, and volunteer your time, develop a talent or skill.

• Identify a few Honors and AP Courses that are available to you.

• Look into taking summer classes at your school or online. Ask your school if they will transfer the summer classes to your current high school transcript.

High School Graduation Requirements vs. College Preparation: 

Learn about which courses are required to graduate as well as which courses you need to be prepared for college. There is a difference between meeting the requirements for graduation vs getting prepared for college. For students wanting to prepare for a selective college we recommend taking four years of each college preparatory subject. UC Schools will require a visual performing arts class and a college preparatory elective. The UC GPA is based exclusively on work that the student has done in their sophomore and junior year. Talk with your school counselor or Independent Educational Consultant. 

Learn about A-G Requirements :

The California State University requires the following college preparatory pattern of classes for admission:

A. History and Social Science 2 years Required (1 year of U.S. History and 1 year of Social Science) 3 or 4 years Recommended

B. English 4 years required

C. Math 3 years (4 years recommended) Engineering students should take a minimum of 4 years of Math including BC Calculus. Many students do take 5 or 6 years of math and take community college classes over the summer.

D. Laboratory Science 2 years with a lab class- 3 to 4 years recommended

E. Language Other than English- Elite colleges want to see 4 years of foreign language. 2 years of the same language- minimum (3 years recommended)

F. Visual and Performing Arts 1 year

G. College Preparatory Electives 1 year of any college preparatory subject For more information, visit Cal State Apply. University of California requirements : subject-requirement-a-g.html 

Recommended High School Curriculum for Stanford.

▪ English: four years, with significant emphasis on writing and literature.

▪ Mathematics: four years of rigorous mathematics incorporating a solid grounding in fundamental skills (algebra, geometry, trigonometry). We also welcome additional mathematical preparation, including calculus and statistics.

▪ History/Social Studies: three or more years, with courses that include the writing of essays.

▪ Science: three or more years of science (some examples include biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, human anatomy, and environmental science).

▪ World Language: three or more years of the same world language.

▪ Mathematics: four years of rigorous mathematics incorporating a solid grounding in fundamental skills (algebra, geometry, trigonometry). We also welcome additional mathematical preparation, including calculus and statistics. 

The Honors Track— 

Start on the honors track as soon as possible. Find out how to move ahead in math starting in middle school so you do not have to start with Algebra 1 in the 9th grade. The basic progression of math classes will only get you through pre calculus in the senior year which will not work for STEM majors who want to attend a selective school. Taking honors coursework helps you to build your grade point average early in the year. Find out if the honors class will give you honors credit and if it is UC Approved.

Educate yourself about AP coursework and include some advanced courses in your 4 Year plan. 

Stanford News Link 

Stanford News: ChallengeSuccess-AdvancedPlacement-WP.pdf

Research shows students who take AP courses and exams are more likely than their peers to attend college and graduate on time. Even AP Exam scores of 1 or 2 predict better college outcomes than academically similar college students who didn’t take an AP course and exam.

US News- How many AP Classes should I take

The Value of Taking AP Courses Teen Life 

Your Road Map to College starts in your first year of High School 

Academic Excellence From Day One 

Establishing strong academic habits from the outset is crucial. Ninth-grade grades lay the foundation for GPA calculations and demonstrate academic potential to colleges. Focus on maintaining good grades across all subjects and challenge yourself with rigorous coursework when possible. Building a strong grade point average is important. Look into doing a summer class for credit. Some high schools offer summer classes and if that is not possible look into taking a class online. 

Exploration of Extracurricular Activities: Grade 9 is the perfect time to explore a diverse range of extracurricular activities. Whether it’s joining clubs, sports teams, community service projects, or artistic endeavors, don’t be afraid to try new things. Use this year to discover passions, develop talents, and cultivate leadership skills outside the classroom. Colleges want to admit leaders. High school leaders will be the type of persons who are campus leaders. You should be participating in extracurricular activities during your freshman year of high school. Colleges prefer to see a sustained commitment to your activities. It’s more impressive to do one activity for four years and continue to show growth in that activity than it is to start doing a bunch of activities in your junior year

Setting Goals and Priorities: Take time to reflect on personal interests, strengths, and long-term aspirations. Set both short-term and long-term goals for academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, and personal growth. Having clear goals provides direction and motivation throughout high school. 

Building Relationships with Teachers and Mentors: Developing meaningful connections with teachers and mentors is invaluable. Seek guidance, support, and feedback from educators who can provide valuable insights into academic and career pathways. These relationships can also lead to strong letters of recommendation for college applications down the road.

Early Exploration of College and Career Options: While it’s normal for career aspirations to evolve over time, grade 9 is an opportune moment to begin exploring college and career options. Attend college fairs, explore college websites, and engage in informational interviews with professionals in fields of interest. Research various majors, programs, and universities to gain insight into potential pathways.

Fostering Time Management and Study Skills: High school demands effective time management and study skills. Use grade 9 to establish routines, prioritize tasks, and develop study strategies that work best for individual learning styles. These skills will prove invaluable in managing academic workload and extracurricular commitments in the years ahead.

Stay Informed About College Admissions Requirements: Familiarize yourself with college admissions requirements early on. Understand the importance of standardized tests, GPA expectations, extracurricular involvement, and application deadlines. Knowing these requirements allows for strategic planning and course selection throughout high school.

Embracing Growth and Resilience: High school is a time of growth, discovery, and resilience-building. Embrace challenges, learn from setbacks, and adapt to new experiences. Cultivate a growth mindset that values learning, perseverance, and personal development. 

Seeking Support and Resources: Don’t hesitate to seek support from school counselors, college advisors, and trusted adults. Take advantage of resources such as college preparatory programs, SAT/ACT test prep courses, and scholarship opportunities available to students.

Grade 9 marks the beginning of an exciting and transformative journey toward higher education. By embracing opportunities for academic, personal, and extracurricular growth, students can lay a solid foundation for success in high school and beyond. Start early, stay focused, and remember that the path to college is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Start thinking about your long-term goals and what steps you need to take to achieve them. Explore different career paths, research colleges and universities, and consider how your interests and strengths align with various options. Remember that the journey to higher education is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay motivated, persevere through challenges, and celebrate your successes along the way. Each small achievement brings you closer to your ultimate goals.

To learn more about Extracurriculars:

Also Read: Identifying The Best Extracurriculars for your College Applications