I recommend all students and parents start activities for the college admissions process in 9th grade. At first glance, this may seem ridiculously early, but in truth, it is the time to create a plan which will allow for flexibility and changes to the program. Believe it or not, there is much a student can do in 9th grade to help him/her in the upcoming college admissions process. Below is a list of some of those activities:
Course Selection: In 9th grade, a student should start looking at the courses available over the four years of high school and create a general plan of study for each year of high school. By carefully planning all four years of classes, a student can maximize his/her GPA and explore classes to support potential college majors. For example, if a student wants to be an electrical engineer, it would be critical that the student maximize STEM-related classes taken in high school as he/she plans which math and science classes to take. A student who plans to study electrical engineering may take AP Physics in lieu of AP Biology.
Exploring Majors: A student should start thinking about college majors. This is the time for the student to explore areas of interest through his/her studies and explore various majors and careers that support those interests. A student should look into potential career paths and the education needed for those career paths — job shadowing, and potential internships — to support those career interests.
Standardized Testing: A student should also take practice SAT and ACT exams in 9th grade. This will help the student know which test is the right test for that student based on preference or sheer comparable score. Once the student determines the best fit test, he/she can focus on studying for that test. This test will also create a baseline for the student and determine areas of strengths and weaknesses. The test can also be used to help define the college list. Ivy Masters Learning Center can support test preparation with practice exams and tutoring.
Extracurriculars: 9th grade is also the time for a student to start finding his/her passions and delve into new areas of study and interests. Colleges take a holistic approach when evaluating a student’s college application. Admission officers want to know that a student is using his/her free time wisely by pursuing a passion, making a difference, or exploring new experiences. This is the time for a student to participate in clubs, sports, and volunteer opportunities to find activities of interest. These activities can help students become more self-aware, which can also be a foundation for the student’s college essays.
All of these steps help a student prepare for college admissions. The new experiences, the academics, the successes, and even the failures help define the college applicant. If a student waits until he/she is a rising senior to start this journey, the student will have limited time to gain these experiences. Therefore, we recommend working with an experienced college advisor to help a student create a plan and optimize opportunities in high schools to support acceptances into best-fit universities.