College Preparation in 9th Grade

9th Grade Matters for College Admissions. Here's How to Make the Most of It.

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College seems a long way off in 9th grade, but you need to start thinking about it seriously now. The reason is simple—your 9th grade academic and extracurricular record will be part of your college application. Low grades in 9th grade can seriously jeopardize your chances of getting into the country's most selective colleges.

The primary advice for 9th grade can be boiled down to this: take demanding courses, keep your grades up, and be active outside of the classroom. The list below outlines these points in more detail.

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Meet With Your High School Guidance Counselor

An informal meeting with your high school counselor can have many benefits in 9th grade. Use the meeting to find out what types of college admissions services your school provides, what high school courses will best help you reach your goals, and what successes your school has had in getting students admitted to selective colleges and universities.

Make sure your counselor knows what your plans are for college so that he or she can help you get the courses that will best help you reach your goals.

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Take Challenging Courses

Your academic record is the most important part of your college application. Colleges want to see more than good grades; they also want to see that you have pushed yourself and taken the most challenging courses offered at your school.

Set yourself up so that you can take full advantage of whatever AP and upper-level courses your school offers. Most 9th grade students don't take any AP courses, but you want to take courses that will allow you to take Advanced Placement or dual enrollment classes in the future.

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Focus on Grades

Grades matter in your freshman year. No part of your college application carries more weight than the courses you take and the grades you earn. College may seem like it's a long way off, but bad freshman grades can hurt your chances of getting into a selective college.

At the same time, don't stress if you get grades that are a little less than ideal. Colleges are happy to see an upward trend in grades, so successful 10th and 11th grade classes can help make up for small missteps in 9th grade. There are even some colleges that don't look at grades from 9th grade. The University of California system, for example, calculates your GPA using sophomore and junior year grades.

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Continue With a Foreign Language

In our increasingly globalized world, colleges and universities want their applicants to have command of a foreign language. If you can keep taking a language all the way through senior year, you'll be improving your chances of admission, and you'll be giving yourself a big head-start for meeting the language requirements in college. You'll also open up additional of opportunities for study abroad.

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Get Help if You Need It

If you find you're struggling in a subject, don't ignore the issue. You don't want your difficulties with math or a language in 9th grade to create difficulties for you later in high school. Seek out extra help and tutoring to get your skills up to snuff.

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Extracurricular Activities

By 9th grade, you should be focusing on a couple extracurricular activities that you're passionate about. Colleges are looking for students with varied interests and evidence of leadership potential; your involvement in activities outside of the classroom often reveal this information to the college admissions folks.

Keep in mind that depth is more important than breadth on the extracurricular front. The best extracurricular activities for college can be anything as long as you excel and work your way up to a leadership position.

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Visit Colleges

9th grade is still a bit early to shop around for colleges in a serious way, but it is a good time to start seeing what types of schools strike your fancy. If you happen to find yourself near a campus, take an hour to go on the campus tour. This early exploration will make it easier to come up with a short list of colleges in your junior and senior years.

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SAT Subject Tests

You usually don't have to worry about SAT Subject Tests in 9th grade, but if you end up taking a biology or history class that covers SAT Subject Test material, consider taking the exam while the material is fresh in your mind. 

That said, this option isn't important for everyone. Most colleges don't require Subject Tests, and it's primarily highly selective schools that recommend or require them.

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Read a Lot

This advice is important for 7th through 12th grades. The more you read, the stronger your verbal, writing and critical thinking abilities will be. Reading beyond your homework will help you do well in school, on the ACT and SAT, and in college. Whether you’re reading Sports Illustrated or War and Peace, you’ll be improving your vocabulary, training your ear to recognize strong language, and introducing yourself to new ideas.

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Don't Blow Off Your Summer

While it may be tempting to spend your whole summer sitting by the pool, try to do something more productive. Summer is a great opportunity to have meaningful experiences that will be rewarding for you and impressive on your college application. Travel, community service, volunteerism, sports or music camp, and employment are all good options.

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "College Preparation in 9th Grade." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). College Preparation in 9th Grade. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "College Preparation in 9th Grade." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).