How to Start Preparing for College in 9th Grade– Complete Guide

Prepping for college is a lengthy process. You do not want to procrastinate! This article will discuss the steps of preparing for college in 9th grade.

As a high school freshman (9th grader), it is substantial to start preparing for college early. This may involve taking challenging classes, participating in extracurricular activities, and volunteering or interning to gain experience and build your resume. 

How to Start Preparing for College in 9th Grade

What Do Colleges Look For In Applicants?

Are you trying to impress admission officers and get a ride into the college of your dreams? Well, don’t shoot in the dark! Let’s discuss what colleges look for in applicants.

A college application process can be lengthy but necessary. These institutions want to admit the best possible students. To do so, they break down admission into two categories.

The first is academics. This includes test scores, grades, GPA, and other factors that show how applied the student is to their studies. The second is personality, which incorporates a wider variety of factors.

If you want to learn more about “What Do Colleges Look For In Applicants?” check out my article all about it.

Steps of Preparing for College in 9th grade

 There is plenty to think about, read, and process when it comes to making a big decision. However, it is crucial to make sure you get admitted into the colleges of your dreams before you start packing. 

Below, I have constructed a guide that is divided into the four high school years and what students should be targeting and focusing on. Let’s get started!


9th grade, Freshman year of high school, marks the beginning of a new and exciting journey. Preparing for college in 9th grade will give students a head start. With plenty of time to go, here is what students should start focusing on.

Community Service

Volunteer service is a vital aspect of getting ready for college in 9th grade. It allows you to give back to your community and make a positive impact. Furthermore, it looks good on college applications and can help you stand out as a competitive applicant. 

Participating in community service can demonstrate to colleges that you are a well-rounded individual who is engaged in your community and committed to making a difference. 

In addition, participating in community service can be a great way to explore your interests and passions and discover new opportunities, peers, and experiences. 

By committing to community service, you can make a difference in your community. Plus, you set yourself up for success in college and beyond. So do it proudly and keep track of your hours.

Personally, I had to get 100 hours done in four years. If you do the math, it is a minimum of 25 hours a year. This is more than manageable if you start early on. 

Thus, I recommend getting it over with or starting out strong by finding somewhere to volunteer. This can be a shelter, church, or any non-profit organization you want to donate time to.

Remember that there is a minimum of hours you need to have in order to apply for scholarships or even graduate. Nevertheless, there is no maximum number. Feel free to go above and beyond.


Participating in extracurricular activities is a crucial step in preparing for college in 9th grade. It can help you develop valuable skills, such as teamwork, leadership, and time management, which colleges and employers highly prize. 

Whether you are into art, debate, or even sports, many schools offer a wide variety of options to select from. Pick something new that interests you or that you’ve liked for a while now.

Joining your freshman year is always an option and can be a great way to make friends too! Nevertheless, it can be quite intimidating to join a club in freshman year.

You always have the option of starting in your sophomore year, as it will give you time to explore high school without the pressure of being in a club. This will provide you with ample time to settle on your first year.

In addition, extracurricular activities can be a great way to make new friends, build your resume, and stand out as a competitive applicant on college applications. 

It can serve as a great topic for a college essay or simply add to your high school career. Whether you start a club, help with fundraisers, or become an influential member of the club, like a president or treasurer, make sure to include it on your application.


10th grade, Sophomore year, is a time to build on the skills and experiences gained during freshman year. Let’s look at some of the skills to apply this year.

Challenging Classes 

To start preparing for college, it is vital to understand what classes you must take. Admission can become quite competitive, especially for Ivy League universities.

Thus good grades matter, but not in the way you think. First off, college admission officers will weigh the intensity and difficulty of the course against your grade.

For instance, if you and another student are being compared for admission, GPA is not all they will look at. If you have a 3.40 GPA and take the most challenging courses available, you are sure to beat a 4.00 GPA of a student who has electives all day.

It is vital to cultivate your GPA, as it follows you year after year. Deciding to wait until the last year of high school to work hard might reflect well on your letter grade, but your GPA of the previous years won’t look so appealing to colleges.

Keep in mind that most high schools require students to take–

  • Four years of English
  • Three or four years of Mathematics
  • Three years of Science
  • Three years of Social Studies/History
  • Two consecutive years of a Foreign Language

These are just general outlines. You should check with your school to ensure you are on track to graduate. Counselors usually advise students to continue studying all subjects for the entirety of their high school careers.

Advanced Classes

Furthermore, it is necessary for students to advance levels. Though it is possible to stay in a “Regular” class level, it is encouraged for high schoolers to take “advanced” courses at least.

AP (Advanced Placement), IB (International Baccalaureate), or IGSCE (Cambridge) courses are highly recognized. These courses are meant to be fast-paced and challenging and can put a student on the map when it comes to college admissions.

Note that more demanding and more advanced courses can only be taken after certain classes and requirements are met. You should be starting these courses around your sophomore year.

Intern Or Job Experience

Getting a job in your sophomore year of high school, when you are between the ages of 15 and 16, can be a valuable experience that helps you develop essential skills and responsibilities. 

It also provides an opportunity for you to earn money and save for college tuition, dorms, or other expenses. There are many different types of jobs that may be suitable for high school students, such as part-time positions at local businesses or organizations or jobs in areas such as retail, food service, or customer service. 

It is important to consider your availability and interests when looking for a job and to be open to learning new skills and taking on new responsibilities. You may need to be flexible with your schedule and be willing to work on weekends or after school. 

Getting a job can also be an excellent way to gain experience and build your resume, which can be helpful when applying to college or for future job opportunities.

Moreover, students should focus on more than just money. Taking on internships, which are usually non-paying positions, allows students to get an inside into different career paths they are interested in.


11th grade, Junior year, is a critical time to start thinking about college and making plans for the future. And trust me when I say you’ll be a busy bee. 

Researching Colleges

The task of researching colleges and their programs is a challenging one! Students must consider factors such as location, size, and cost. Researching colleges in your junior year of high school is an important step in the college planning process. 

By this point, you should know what you want to study and what colleges you might be interested in attending. Researching colleges can involve visiting college websites, attending college fairs, and speaking with college representatives. 

You can also take this time to research financial aid options and start thinking about how you will pay for college. In addition, you should research application requirements and deadlines for the colleges you are interested in and start working on your college applications if necessary. 

By researching colleges in your junior year, you can make informed decisions about where to apply and set yourself up for success in the college admissions process.

College Testing


Oh, the good old PSAT days. The PSAT (Preliminary SAT) is a standardized test that is offered to high school students in the United States. It is typically taken by sophomores and juniors, although some freshmen preparing for college in 9th grade may also choose to take it. The PSAT is designed to measure critical reading, math, and writing skills and is used to help students prepare for the SAT, which is a college admissions test. 

The test consists of three sections: reading, writing and language, and math. It is generally taken in the fall of the student’s sophomore or junior year and is offered at high schools across the country. 

This exam is a practice run for the two major college tests you can take. The first is the SAT, Scholastic Aptitude Test, a standardized test used by colleges and universities in the United States as part of the admissions process. 

It is generally taken by high school juniors and seniors. Like the PSAT, the SAT consists of three sections: reading, writing and language, and math. Each section is scored on a scale of 200-800, and the overall score is the sum of the three section scores. 

The SAT also includes an optional essay section, which is scored separately. The test is offered several times yearly at testing centers across the country and is typically taken on a Saturday morning. 

Some colleges may require or recommend that applicants submit SAT scores as part of their application, so students must do their best on the test. 

Many students choose to prepare for the SAT by taking test preparation courses, after-school tutoring, or using practice SAT books and guides.


The ACT, American College Testing, is a standardized test used and accepted by colleges like the SAT.

Nonetheless, the ACT consists of four sections, one more than the SAT. They are reading, English, math, and science. Each section is scored on a scale of 1-36, and the overall score is the average of the four section scores. 

The ACT also includes an optional writing section, which is scored separately. There are various ACT preparation books available in the market today.

College Essay

Starting to write your college essay in junior year is a good idea because it gives you plenty of time to brainstorm, write, and revise your essay. The college essay is a significant part of the college application process, allowing you to showcase your personality, interests, and achievements. 

It is an opportunity to demonstrate to colleges why you are a good fit for their school and what you will bring to their community. The essay prompts for each college will vary, but you will be asked to write about a topic that is meaningful to you or showcases your unique perspective.

To get started on your essay in junior year, it is helpful to brainstorm potential topics and consider what you want to say about yourself. You can also gather information and ideas that you want to include in your essay. It is important to be thoughtful and reflective and to write in an authentic and engaging way. 

By starting to write your college essay in junior year, you can ensure you have plenty of time to craft a compelling essay showcasing your strengths and interests.


12th grade, Senior year, is a time to finalize college plans and prepare for the next phase of life, college.

Selecting A College And Seeing It Too

As much as students worry about a college picking them, you must remember students get to pick the colleges they apply to in the first place.

After extensive research and potentially visiting the campus in your junior year, it is time to seal the deal. Students should have the top colleges they want to apply to by senior year. Furthermore, it is crucial to have a couple of safety schools to fall back on.

If you still need to tour the campus and take a look at what your college life potentially looks like, you should do so now. It can be a game changer to your decision, and sometimes you have to be in the atmosphere for it to feel like home to you.

Major Minor

It is also necessary to start thinking about what you want to study in college. Though the majority of high school graduates need to receive their AA, which means they will have general classes, some will already start working towards their major.

I entered college as an 18-year-old with an associate’s degree, which meant I already had to declare my major. It is okay if you don’t know precisely what you want to do.

Nevertheless, it is the perfect time to figure it out and narrow it down to a field or a couple of loose options. Plus, with senior year being full of fun, it is a great time to find yourself and discover your passion.

If you have ever wondered, “How Often Do College Students Change Their Major?” check out my article. The answer will shock you.

Scholarships And Deadlines

Finally, make sure to stay organized and keep track of important deadlines, such as those for college applications and financial aid. These steps can set you up for success as you work towards your goal of attending college.

You do not want to miss out on submitting your scholarship on time! Fill out any financial aid forms, and submit all paperwork to your college. Ensure you know what rolling term you are applying for and have all your needed documents ready when the time comes.

This means finalizing your college essay, revising your drafts, and receiving feedback from various sources. Follow the college essay timeline to get the best results.

Celebrating Good Times

Once all of the above is done, it’s time to lay back and relax. Preparing for college in 9th grade means you have less stress in 12th grade. However, there is not much relaxation when you are anxiously waiting for an email or letter from the college of your dreams!

Once you have your answers from the colleges, you applied to, choose your pick. Can you accept admission to multiple colleges? No! Only pick the one you are willing to go to.

Remember to log into your new student email and check your college portal once you are admitted. Plenty of information will be relayed to new upcoming college students.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, preparing for college in 9th grade requires proactive planning and preparation. To build a strong foundation for success in college, you will need to take challenging classes. You should also participate in extracurricular activities, and gain experience in the job market.

But much more goes into a good application, including community hours, college essays, and testing scores. Not to mention your grades, GPA, and letters of recommendation.

With all of this in mind, it can seem like a lot to take in at once. That is why getting a head start and planning to divide and conquer is necessary. If students get started their freshman year, they won’t have much to worry about down the line.

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