Should You Start Planning For College As a Ninth Grader?
Want personalized (and free) advice while applying to college?
We’re building a free college guidance platform for high school students like you! This means we’ll let you know exactly what and when you should be focusing on things like extracurriculars, college essays, standardized tests, and more. Sign up now to get early access to our platform and get guidance applying to college!
There are lots of concerns voiced by students as they start high school. What classes should they choose? Will they make new friends easily? How should they choose which extracurriculars to pursue? And when should they begin to plan for college?
For rising ninth graders, college might seem like a lifetime away, yet the pressure to begin college planning has increased in recent years, and it isn’t surprising that many high schoolers are beginning the college admissions process earlier and earlier. But is there such a thing as college planning too early? Should you begin to plan for college in ninth grade? Keep reading to find out.
What Is College Planning?
Let’s start by defining what we mean when we say “planning for college.” This is a somewhat vague term, and we use it intentionally. Planning for college means different things to different people. When we use the term “planning for college,” we mean intentionally considering college admissions as a factor in decision making. We do not necessarily mean things like visiting colleges, deciding which colleges to apply to, or setting your heart set on a specific dream school, though all of these things definitely fall under the category of college planning too.
Is It Possible to Plan For College Too Early?
If you use the general definition for college planning—that is, using college admissions as a factor in your decision making—ninth grade is a good time to start college planning. Earlier than ninth grade, your decisions won’t impact your college admissions much, if at all, so it becomes a moot point.
This being said, there are many elements of college planning that aren’t necessary until much later in your high school years, and starting them in ninth grade will likely end up being a waste of your time and energy. This includes visiting college campuses, communicating with admissions representatives, studying for and taking standardized tests, and attending college fairs or information sessions. To be clear, these are all great things to do, but doing them in ninth grade simply isn’t necessary. They are better left until 10th or 11th grade.
Which Elements of College Planning Should I Consider in Ninth Grade?
The most obvious elements of college planning to consider in ninth grade are the ways in which your class selections and extracurriculars will impact your later opportunities. The most selective colleges want to see students who pursue the most challenging track of classes available, and if you want this track available to you, you’ll likely need to enter it during ninth grade in order to fulfill the prerequisites for upper level classes.
In addition, colleges like to see extended commitment to specific pursuits and causes. While ninth grade is the time to experiment with different extracurriculars, you should always do so with an eye for which you’ll want to pursue over the longterm. Try to find pursuits that you’re passionate about so that you can continue to dedicate yourself to them over the next three years.
Also consider getting involved in a service project or volunteer work. This type of pursuit demonstrates your empathy for others, your capacity for thinking outside yourself, and your dedication to a cause. Pursuing it over an extended period can also lead to your own increased happiness, reduced stress, and increased career opportunities in the future.
You might also begin to think loosely about which colleges or types of colleges might interest you in the future. It’s never too early to begin thinking about the elements of choosing a college that are most important to you, as long as you remember that this is a fluid process and that your priorities and college choices will continue to adapt and change up until you make your final choices about which colleges to apply to during 12th grade.
To get started, just keep a list of colleges that might interest you. You might hear about these from friends, mentors, teachers, or coaches. If you hear about a college that sounds like it might interest you, make a note of it and then look it up online to see if it’s truly of interest to you. Also think about why it is or is not of interest to you. Recognizing which features attract or turn you off to certain colleges will help you to create a stronger college list in the future. To learn more about the process of creating college list, see these posts:
Should I Prepare for the SAT In Ninth Grade?
SAT prep is a common piece of college planning that students frequently wonder about beginning early in their high school careers. Ninth grade is too early to begin preparing for the SAT in earnest, but there are certain work habits that you can build now to better pave the road towards standardized tests.
One skill to begin planning in ninth grade is time management. In order to both effectively prepare for the SAT and succeed in high school, you’ll need to build time management and organizational skills. Managing time will become increasingly important as you juggle your high school workload, social events, and extracurricular commitments. In addition, fine-tuning it is necessary for pacing yourself on the SAT.
Another way to casually begin SAT prep during ninth grade is to read a lot, including many varied genres of written work. Read newspapers, novels, historical texts, and scientific journals. Becoming familiar with many genres will make the reading section of the SAT easier in the long run. In addition, reading is the easiest way to build vocabulary.
College planning in ninth grade isn’t a make it or break it deal, but it can better prepare you for college choices in the future. To learn more about extracurriculars, college applications, and how to choose activities that best suit you, download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academics, choosing courses, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and much more!
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.