The Ultimate Guide to Prepping for College: 9th and 10th Grade Edition


As a 9th or 10th grader, it can feel like it’s too early in the game to start worrying about the actual process of applying to college. And you’re right. Your goal in the first two years of high school should really be to lay the foundation for success--focus on doing your best in school and finding the extracurricular activities that you enjoy--so you can develop your interests and grow as a student.

Still, as a 9th and 10th grade, there ARE specific steps you can take to give yourself an advantage in the college admissions process.

It’s well known that students who excel in 9th grade are far more likely to enroll in college after high school, and remain in college beyond their freshman year than their peers who struggled through their first year of high school. So to get you started right, here are some steps you can take as a 9th and 10th grader to prepare for the college admissions process.

Plan out your curriculum

You want to make sure you are meeting the minimum requirements, not only to graduate high school but to attend your ideal program. For instance, some programs require four years of taking a foreign language in high school. Keep that in mind as you’re planning your curriculum.

  • Take a look at course offerings

    Are there courses offered in senior year that look interesting to you? Child Development, Auto Shop, Web Design? Take a look at the prerequisites you need for each elective or course and make sure you’re signing up for those courses in the earlier years. You don’t want to make it to senior year and realize you’ve lost the opportunity to take a course you had your eye on just because you didn’t take the prerequisites.

  • Make a list of the classes you must take each year

You only have a certain amount of credits you can take each semester. Make a list early on to help you stay on track.

Photo by  Mel Poole  on  Unsplash

Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash

Explore Your Interests. Get Involved.

  • Now’s the time to explore

    Instead of waiting until junior or senior year to think about what’s going to go on your resume, incorporate extracurriculars as a natural part of your high school experience. Find out what your friends and classmates are doing. Ask yourself what kind of topics you’d be interested in.   

  • Make the most of your summers and breaks

Shadow a family friend at their job to see if you’d be interested in their industry or career. Volunteer at a local shelter. Make the most of your time away from academics.

Build Relationships

  • Meet your guidance counselor

Set up a meeting to introduce yourself early in your high school career. Discuss your planned curriculum, mention what you might want to study in college. They will give you guidance and be an excellent resource for you come college application time. Plus, since colleges require a recommendation from your guidance counselor, getting to know them sooner will help establish your relationship and help them authentically speak to your strengths.

  • Get to know your teachers

If your teacher offers office hours or after school extra help, stop by and spend some time building a relationship with them. Not only will you have a chance to get help with the concepts you’re struggling with in class, your teacher will also get to know you as a student outside of the classroom setting.

Take the PSAT

In your sophomore (and junior) year, be sure to take the PSAT. This will give you the opportunity to assess which subject areas you need to focus your studying on and provide a chance to practice timed testing.

Extra Tips

  • Read everyday. Reading more often will help you prepare for timed tests. It will also help you narrow down your interests and prepare you for reading more lengthy and complex texts in college.

  • Keep track of your accomplishments and activities. It’s easier to keep track of the highlights as you’re going, rather than having to look back and remember.