Welcome to the first segment of a 4-part Veritas Prep College Readiness Series! Each segment will cover what students can do to prepare for college. Today’s blog post will give 9th graders advice on what they can do now to make sure they have a stellar college application.
Dear 9th Graders:
Although graduating high school may seem far away because you just started, you’ll find that the next four years will fly by. High school is an exciting time full of friends, sports, tests, dances, and more! And it’s easy to get lost in the mix. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the process:
(1) Get Organized
High school can get busy. In any given week, you could have exams, piles of homework, sports practices and games, club meetings, orchestra/band concerts, scholarship deadlines, and more! It’s likely that your middle school life never got this busy. Now is the perfect time to get your life organized. Start keeping track of all of your activities in a planner. Not only should you include the tasks that you need to complete for class (i.e. homework, tests, papers), but also other aspects of high school such as studying for standardized exams, completing tasks for clubs, attending soccer practice, etc. Everyone has their own way of keeping track of appointments and deadlines. The better you get at organizing your calendar now, the better off you will be in 11th and 12th grade when this skill is especially important.
(2) Focus On Grades
When you apply to college, the only grades college admissions officers will consider are the ones on your high school transcript. So unless you have already taken high school level courses, you are starting with a blank slate. If you were a subpar student who didn’t care much about grades before, here’s your chance at a new start. If you were a superstar straight-A student before, make sure you don’t lose steam now because high school is where your effort really counts.
Your high school GPA and standardized test scores are the most important factors in the college admissions process. While tests like the SAT are still a couple years away, your high school grade point average starts on the very first day of high school. If you are looking to attend a competitive university, you must make high school grades your number one priority.
(3) Befriend Knowledgeable Older Students
One way to make sure that your GPA doesn’t suffer is by talking to older high school students who have gone through the process. Older students often know which teachers to request and which teachers to avoid. For example, an older student may know that a particular AP Biology teacher simply refuses to give her students A’s in the class no matter how much effort students put in. And you would have never known had you not asked! Older students at your high school can serve as the Underground Guide to high school success. They will tell you information that a high school counselor won’t.
(4) Get Involved
College admissions officers like students who are dedicated to their passions. This means that they would rather see a student be heavily dedicated to 2 or 3 activities than see a student be barely involved in 10 activities. Dedication is key. If you haven’t found the sport, organization, or endeavor that you are really passionate about, do not worry! High school is the perfect place to find that passion. There is likely a myriad of opportunities to get involved at your high school. And if no club interests you, start one that does! Get involved now, in 9th grade, so that when you are applying to college in a few years, college admissions officers don’t get the sense that you just became involved in certain organizations recently in order to pad your college application.
Shaan Patel is the Director of SAT programs at Veritas Prep, the author of McGraw-Hill’s best-selling book SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps, and the owner of a perfect SAT score.