Path To College: 10th Grade

10th Grade is Similar to 9th

Researchers at UChicago looked at the predictive value of freshman year of high school related to future outcomes; what they found is that 9th grade matters quite a bit. In fact, students who excel in 9th grade are far more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college. Even better, these students are more likely to remain in college beyond their freshman year than are students who struggled through their first year of high school.

Another study by Princeton University and the Brookings Institute found that 9th grade is, in many ways, a watershed year for teenagers. Classroom performance (including behavior and attendance) as a freshman is a strong indicator of a student’s future academic pathway.

With the importance of 9th grade firmly established, it’s time to present a list of steps you can take right now to begin building a solid foundation for future college admission.

Research Career Interests and Potential Majors

Sophomore year is a great time to begin exploring how your interests might impact your future career.

Do you excel in chemistry or the robotics team? A career in STEM might be best. Do you love reading and writing? Perhaps you may want to think about a career in law.

Of course, there’s no need to settle on anything quite yet. Explore a variety of different opportunities. You never know what will spark your interest!

Meet with your High School Counselor

School counselors know a lot about different colleges, what admissions committees look for, and the application process in general. 

Their job—in large part—is to help you determine what you want in a college and help you find the college that will meet your criteria.

Getting to know them early will help them better tailor their recommendations. And they can help ensure that you are on track in your college preparations.

Take the PSAT

Standardized testing no longer plays an oversized role in the college admissions process. Post COVID-19, many—although not all—colleges have made submitting test scores optional. 

However, there are still valid reasons why you should take standardized tests, starting with the PSAT your sophomore or junior year of high school. 

Taking a standardized test keeps your options open. You’ll be able to apply to any school you want. And a good test score can improve your chances of admission.

The PSAT can qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship program and other scholarships. And it’s a good way to understand what, if any, additional preparation you need to take the SAT or ACT. 

Spend Your Summer Productively

Free from the pressures of the school year, summers are a great time to participate in activities to feature on your college application and help you prepare for college life. A few activities that look great on a college application include:

  • Getting a part-time job
  • Volunteering or participating in community service
  • Participating in a college prep program

However you choose to spend your time between sophomore and junior year, be sure to add your activities to your growing college resume so you can remember them when it comes time to work on your college applications.

10th Grade Timeline


  • Take a practice PSAT

  • Begin getting ready for the ACT

  • Stay on track with your courses: Talk with your guidance counselor to make sure you’re enrolled in the classes you need to prepare you for college or a career

  • Get familiar with general college admission requirements

  • Start attending college fairs in your area

  • Explore your career options in more detail: “Job shadow” someone who does what you think you’d like to do

  • Look for a job and start a college savings account and regularly deposit into it

  • Get involved in extracurricular activities  

  • Volunteer in your community


  • Stay involved with your extracurricular activities: Work toward leadership positions in the activities you like best.

  • Read and practice your writing

  • Meet with your guidance counselor to make sure you are on track


  • Study hard and keep your grades up: remain focused

  • Start your college search

  • Reach out to colleges that interest you: Ask for information about their academic requirements and any programs that potentially might interest you


  • If you haven’t already, start preparing for the SAT or ACT

  • Get a job and begin saving for college

  • Volunteer

  • Participate in activities that align with your interests

  • Go on one or two summer campus tours at local colleges

Cleveland Humanities Magnet graduates are attending the finest colleges and universities in the country.