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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

9th Graders: How to Approach High School Successfully

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Many students getting ready to start high school this fall wonder how they can ensure that the transition goes off without a hitch. After all, the double whammy of more responsibility and less oversight can leave some students feeling overwhelmed. It’s now up to you to structure your own time and study routines, and how you approach this now can make all the difference in how successful you’ll be.


Luckily, at CollegeVine we’re old pros at this sometimes intimidating transition. To learn how you can hit the ground running when you begin high school, don’t miss these top seven tips.



1. Be Realistic About Time

Losing track of time or underestimating the amount of time that you need to get ready or travel to school are easy ways to start your day off on the wrong foot. High school often starts earlier than your middle school or junior high did, so you’re going to need to get out the door on time.


One way to ensure that you know when to get up and when to leave is to a dry run a week or so before school. Keep track of how long it takes you to get up and go through your morning routine. Then time how long it takes you to get to the bus stop or school. Account for traffic and leave a time buffer so that you’re certain that if you stick to your schedule, you’ll make it on time.


Don’t skimp on planning your morning timeline, either. If you know that it usually takes you 20 minutes to shower and get dressed, don’t count on hurrying through the routine in 15 minutes when time really matters. Instead, get up five minutes earlier so you’ll have the time you really need.



2. Get a Planner

You’re going to need to keep track of your own assignments and commitments, which means having somewhere to record them. Purchase a planner ahead of time and start using it over the summer so that it becomes a habit.


Ideally, look for something that has large daily blocks with room for assignments in every subject. Use color coding when you write them down to keep track of them. Alternatively, consider an app in which to write your assignments and schedule. You can usually sync this calendar across your devices and set notifications for important deadlines and events.


Get in the habit of recording your assignments while you’re still in class. This way, you’re sure to leave class with everything you need to be successful in them.  



3. Time Your Assignments

At the beginning of the year, time how long your assignments are taking you. You should know about how long it takes you to do things like read 20 pages in your science textbook, to complete a math problem set, or to write a five paragraph essay. Keeping track of how long these common tracks generally take will allow you to better budget your time for them in the future.



4. Set a Realistic Wake Up Time

Some students tend to think that the easiest way to be more efficient in time management is to create more hours in the day, but if you count on getting up early every morning knowing that you’re not a morning person, you’re probably going to start your days with a deficit.


Rather than relying on earlier than normal wake up times, be more cognizant of how you use time throughout the day. Five minutes of free time here and five minutes of free time there can really add up if you’re conscious about making the most of them. This way, you won’t continually start your days feeling guilty for not having dragged yourself out of bed an hour earlier.

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5. Be Strategic About Work and Play

The old saying about all work and no play is true. You can’t expect to spend all of your free time engaged in school work and extracurricular commitments. Instead, make room in your schedule for social events and other downtime.


For example, if you want to go to dinner the movies on Saturday night with a group of friends and you have a football game on Saturday morning, plan on spending Saturday afternoon getting caught up on homework and putting in some study hours.


At the same time, account for study breaks in your schedule too. Getting up every half an hour to an hour to do something quick and active will keep you more focused during your actual study time. Try not to get engaged in video games or social media. Instead, do something like have a quick snack or go for a walk around the block.  



6. Make Your Environment Work For You

Saving a few minutes here and there can add up to hours over the long run. One way to do this is to create a productive working environment. Have a dedicated study space in your home and stock it with the tools you need to be successful. Choose someplace that is quiet and otherwise free of distractions. Make sure there are things like pencils, pens, a calculator, and any other reference tools you might need. Then, when it’s homework time you can sit down and get straight to work without having to hunt down any supplies.



7. Get a Big Wall Calendar

A planner or calendar app is great for getting a glimpse of what you can expect on any single day, but it doesn’t provide a great view of the big picture. A big wall calendar with a monthly view gives you a good idea of what you can expect over a longer period of time and allows you to write down commitments that are further in the future someplace where you’re bound to see them repeatedly. Seeing this everyday in color can help you become a strategic planner without always having to refer to your handheld planner.


Ninth grade is the foundation of your high school years. While you’re bound to experience a period of adjustment, there are many strategies for starting off on the right foot. By establishing good time management and organizational habits now, you’re laying the foundation for a strong future in high school. 


Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.


To learn more about ninth grade, don’t miss these CollegeVine posts:


Starting 9th Grade: 6 Things You Need to Do To Own Your Freshman Year

8th Graders: Here’s How You Can Prepare for High School This Summer

Make the Right Moves: Your 2018 Freshman Year Action Plan

5 Tips for Incoming High School Freshmen

What To Expect Your Freshman Year of High School

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.