8 Ways Ninth Graders Can Prepare for College Now

This piece was written by BE Smart Contributor Chelsea L. Dixon, M.S., M.A.T., and is adapted from material in her book, A Simple Guide to College. For more about the author, see her bio at the end of this post.

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So you are now a freshman in high school and exciting things are starting to happen. In four short years you’ll be heading off to college, so you need to begin now to chart your course. From this point on, everything you do in academics and athletics starts to matter to colleges. Here are eight items that should be on every college-bound ninth grader’s agenda:

  1. Plan and use your time wisely and complete all assignments, homework, and projects on time. Time management in college will be critical, so start now to develop your time management skills. The College Board offers useful time management tips here.
  2.  Work hard and develop good study skills and habits. To increase your chances of getting good grades in your school’s most rigorous and challenging classes, you must learn how to study effectively. To learn how, speak with teachers or top students, or read books that teach study skills and explore study websites. Remember, your grades and the level of rigor in your classes will count toward your GPA and class rank.
  3. Work closely with your guidance counselor to make sure you’re enrolled in college preparatory classes that will help you meet college entrance requirements. If you are interested in playing a sport in college, not only is it important for you to let your guidance counselor know, but you should notify your high school coaches as well. As a student-athlete, you will also need to learn about the initial eligibility procedures of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
  4. Begin familiarizing yourself with the different college admissions requirements. For example, standardized tests like the SAT and ACT used to be required of all schools, but many are now test optional. Each institution has its own requirements. So, for the schools you’re considering, make sure you know what their admissions requirements are.
  5. Develop an area of specialty. It’s important for institutions to see commitment and accomplishment in one or two activities rather than sporadic participation in several. Consistency and follow-through with your activities will be crucial.
  6. Begin thinking about your interests in light of your future. Are there career fields that involve your interests? Are there jobs out in the world that relate to them? If so, start making a list of those interests, business fields, and jobs. This information will be helpful when the time comes for you to determine if a school is the right “fit” for you. If your field of interest doesn’t yet exist, begin thinking about courses or majors that will help you realize your future vision.
  7. Visit college campuses. It’s not too soon. Whenever there’s an opportunity for you to visit a college campus, take advantage of it. It will help you develop a sense of what being a student on campus is like.
  8. Be careful what you post on social media. Social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, etc.) are great, but they are not private. You don’t want anything you posted on one of these sites to come back to embarrass you. Inappropriate language or photos can reflect poorly on your character, not only when you are applying to colleges, but also later when you apply for a job after graduation. Remember, the Internet is forever.

Chelsea L. Dixon, M.S., M.A.T. is founder and CEO of GamePhox Unlimited L.L.C.  A motivational speaker who has lectured at various high schools, colleges, professional youth sport foundations, and youth groups, Dixon is the author of Bridging the Gap: A Simple Guide to College. She earned a B.A. in sociology from Boston College, an M.A.T. in secondary education from Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey), and an M.S. in sport management from the University of Massachusetts — Amherst. The proud New Jersey native is a member of the Ewing High School Athletic Hall of Fame and the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame. You can learn more about Dixon at www.gamephox.com or www.bridgingthecollegegap.com.