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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)

How to Learn From Your Mistakes: Making Sophomore Year Better

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Transitions can be difficult to manage, and starting high school is no exception. There are new friendships to be made, new extracurriculars to juggle, and of course not a small amount of school work to add in the mix as well. Many students have a hard time hitting their stride during ninth grade.


The good news is that there is still plenty of time to get yourself back on the right track if you had a tough time during ninth grade. In fact, ninth grade should be thought of as a time to test the waters, and if your tests weren’t successful at least now you have some information to work with as you move forward. It is possible to recover gracefully after a less than stellar ninth grade year. To learn how you can right your wrongs and move forward, don’t miss our top four tips.



1. Don’t Let Grades Define Your Worth

It’s easy to get caught up in academia and to think of your grades as a measure of your overall success, but you need to keep in mind that grades are simply a very small indicator of your academic success in one single class. They aren’t a measurement of your personal worth or of your overall intelligence. Your grades show how well you performed under very specific conditions in a very specific line of study.


In fact, it’s healthier to think of grades as a measurement of how well you played the grading game in each class. Some teachers weigh class participation more heavily than others. Others assign all weekly homework on a Monday and expect it to arrive by 8am on Friday, or else you get a zero. Some teachers even allow you to grade yourself. Whatever the grading process is, you need to learn it in order to participate actively. This year, be sure to review the grading criteria for each class you’re taking, then prioritize your work in each class according to these criteria. You’ve got to play the game if you want to come out with a winning grade.


Even so, remember that grades aren’t the end all and be all. Your GPA is only a tiny piece of who you are and there are many, many more important factors such what kind of friend you are and how you treat people you don’t know. In the big picture, grades take a back seat.



2. Take Initiative

It’s one thing to accept that grades aren’t as important as other people might make them out to be, but it’s another thing to capitalize on the resources around you to improve your grades as much as is within your power. Just because grades don’t define your worth, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do everything possible to improve them.


Start with communication. Reaching out to teachers, guidance counselors, and mentors will go a long way. If you don’t understand a particular concept or point made in class, ask for clarification. If you need extra help, find out where you can get some. If you completely bombed an assignment or test, ask if it’s possible to complete some extra credit.


Your teachers want to see you succeed academically, and they are often willing to give you some extra help to get you there. You need to be the one to reach out and ask for it, though. No one will know that you’re struggling if you don’t ask for help.

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3. Change Your Behavior (And Your Company, If Needed)

Another piece of the puzzle is your personal responsibility. There is a lot going on when you start high school, and many students make mistakes along the way. Think back on ninth grade with a self-critical eye. Where did things go wrong? What choices did you make or not make that had an impact on your year?


Consider specific aspects of your freshman year to really focus your thinking. Did you prioritize your classwork and give it the time and attention it deserved? Did you choose smart extracurriculars that were engaging and personally relevant? Did you hang out with friends who bring out the best in you and support you when you struggle? These are all personal choices that you need to take responsibility for. If you can identify areas in which you made mistakes, you’re more likely to be able to make better choices in the future.



4. Rethink Your Extracurriculars

In ninth grade, you were trying out all sorts of different activities. Maybe you took on too many. Maybe you took on ones that you later discovered weren’t very interesting to you. This year, think more carefully about which you choose to continue. There is absolutely no penalty for dropping an extracurricular after ninth grade.


During 10th grade, try to focus on about three extracurriculars that you’re truly passionate about. Ideally, one will be some kind of service project or volunteer work. The others should represent your interests and career ambitions. If you stretch yourself too thin, you won’t be able to excel in any single area. Focusing in on just a few extracurriculars that are truly interesting to you will give you the time and energy to really commit yourself fully.


If you struggled in ninth grade, don’t worry. You are just like thousands of other students across the country, and in fact, your timing is perfect. Ninth grade is the time to explore options. If you haven’t hit your stride yet, you still have three years of high school left to find it, and colleges are likely to overlook a stumbling point in ninth grade if you can establish an upward grade trend and improve on your choices and performance from there.


For more tips about hitting the ground running in 10th grade, check out these CollegeVine posts:


A Guide to Extracurricular Activities: Grade 10

How to Pick Your High School Courses Freshman and Sophomore Years

Seven Important Tasks to Complete the Summer Before Sophomore Year

An Easy-to-Use College Planning Checklist for Sophomores

A Guide to Freshman and Sophomore Years

Attention Sophomores: What You Can Expect Junior and Senior Year


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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.