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We often hear from current ninth graders and students about to enter their freshman year of high school. They are often filled with some combination of excitement and nervousness at starting high school, and their most frequently asked question is nothing new. Should I worry about college as a 9th grader?

 

If you’re a ninth grader or a rising ninth grader, this post is for you. Here, we’ll answer this question from a few different angles, discussing which aspects of college you should be thinking about now, and which can wait until later. To learn more, keep reading.

 

Is College Something to Worry About in 9th Grade?

College isn’t really something you need to “worry” about at all this early in your high school career. In fact, your year is better spent acclimating to high school, doing well academically, and exploring your extracurriculars. Worrying about college shouldn’t take any of your mental energy at this point. To learn more about the things you should be thinking about in ninth grade, check out these posts:

 

8th Graders: How to Kick Off Your Freshman of High School

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

What To Expect Your Freshman Year of High School

 

All that being said, just because you don’t need to “worry” about college, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to think about just yet. It’s a good idea to think about college in loose terms now so that all the doors are still open for you when the time comes to get serious about it.

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What Can I Do in 9th Grade to Prepare for College Applications?

Academics

To start with, you need to get yourself on the right academic track if you hope to have a chance at getting into selective colleges. This means that beginning in ninth grade, you need to take challenging classes, meet the prerequisites for higher level AP or honors classes, and start a record of academic success.

 

The key is making sure that you don’t close any doors during ninth grade. It’s a great idea to meet with a guidance counselor early in the year to discuss your academic goals and long-term ambitions. If you think that you might want to apply to selective colleges, you’ll need to make sure you’re on the right academic path to doing so. If you don’t meet prerequisites now for higher level classes, you might not be able to take enough of them to establish a strong academic transcript.    

 

Don’t worry, though. There is still plenty of time after ninth grade to correct any academic mistakes. If you bite off more than you can chew or you simply take some time to adjust to a new school or more challenging classes, you will usually still have a great shot at some great colleges if you can establish an upward grade trend afterwards.

 

Extracurriculars

Ninth grade is a time for exploring activities and getting an idea of what you like to do. In the long run, you’re going to want to have about three extracurriculars that you pursue over an extended period of time, so getting involved in four or even five at various time during ninth grade will give you some ideas about which are most exciting to you.

 

If you’re wondering what types of extracurriculars to get involved with, think about getting involved in some kind of service project, with a particular eye for those that are genuinely important to you and relevant to you personally or your community. In addition, think about getting a part-time job (if you’re old enough), internship, or volunteer position.

 

Finally, try to identify which activities spark the most natural passion, and why. Sometimes, you might start to figure out potential career paths or college majors based on the things that are naturally interesting to you. Stick with the extracurriculars that you’re most passionate about, so that you will have an extended involvement with them throughout your high school years.

 

Finances

It’s often overwhelming to think about paying for college, but starting the conversation early is one way to take off some of the pressure. Having an open and honest conversation with your parents will help you to identify how much they are able to contribute and how much you’ll need to contribute too. This leaves plenty of time for part-time jobs, starting a savings account, and learning more about scholarships and the financial aid process.

 

You can get started with these great CollegeVine posts:

 

Understanding College Costs: FAQs About Financial Aid In Practice

What Are The Best Financial Tips for a High School Student?

Understanding College Savings Accounts

How Do I Get Started Saving Money For College?

FAFSA, CSS Profile, IDOC, Oh My: A Guide To Financial Aid

 

Take Notes

There are a few, easy things you can do now to get a tangible start on college planning.

 

For one, take notes on your accomplishments and achievements. Little forms of recognition that don’t seem like much right now might become part of a more remarkable pattern, and they’ll be easier to recall if you have a running list going.

 

Second, start to keep track of colleges that interest you. When you hear about a college you’d like to look into more or one that sounds like it might a good fit for you, write down the name. Start a folder or notebook with a running college list in it. At this point, the list is just a work in progress, but further down the line you’ll need to start narrowing down your list. Getting an early start will mean you have less work to do later on.

 

You definitely don’t need to start your college search as an incoming ninth grader, and you certainly don’t need to worry about it—that’s not the best route since you will be learning, growing, and changing a lot over the next four years. Your goals are bound to change. At the same time, you also don’t want to wait until senior year and kick yourself for not planning ahead or for not trying harder.

 

As a 9th grader, you don’t need to worry about college applications just yet, but getting an early start thinking about them is a smart thing to do. To learn more about how you can get on the right track towards college planning, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.

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Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
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.
Kate Sundquist