Path To College: 9th Grade

9th Grade Matters

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.

Create an Academic Plan

Your academic record and strength of schedule will be the most important part of your college application.

Your academic plan should outline the classes you want to take throughout high school. It should include all the classes you need to graduate. As you make your list, you should begin thinking about which Honors and AP classes you want to take and when you can take them.

Don’t forget to include some classes that you think you’ll enjoy.

Develop Good Study Habits

Maintaining a high GPA depends on good study habits. Building those study habits now will help you succeed as classes get harder in high school. And you’ll be setting yourself up for success in college, too.

Some critical study habits that you can begin working on right away are:

  • Developing an organizational system and sticking to it
  • Completing assignments fully and turning them in on time
  • Note taking skills: practice taking notes in class and trying different methods to see what works best for you
  • Managing your time effectively and efficiently
  • Exploring where and how you study and work the best

Participate in Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities can help you prepare for college in many different ways.

They can demonstrate to college admissions officers that you are a well-rounded high school student with a variety of interests.

They also allow you to explore different areas of interest and even potential career paths. They help you build important life skills like teamwork, leadership, and time management. And of course, they’re a great way to get to know other high school students and get involved in your community.

Start Your College Resume

The best way to ensure that your college application includes all your activities and accomplishments is to build your list as you go. Remembering everything four years later is harder than it might seem! 

Your list should include:

  • School clubs and extracurricular activities
  • Volunteer and community service events
  • Awards and accolades
  • Jobs and internships
  • College classes and college-prep programs

Your list should be as comprehensive and up-to-date as possible. While you may not use everything on your applications, having it accessible will give you options.

9th Grade Timeline


  • Meet your guidance counselor

  • Get involved in extracurricular activities

  • Enroll in the appropriate college-prep or tech-prep classes and that you’re taking

  • Study hard and get good grades

  • Read


  • Start off on the right foot with your grades

  • Explore your interests and possible careers

  • Discuss your skills and interests with your guidance counselor

  • Consider a college savings plan and add to an existing one if you have already have one started

  • Start thinking about the classes you want to take next year


  • Getting involved: Continue to build your credentials- Keep track of your extracurricular awards, community service achievements, and anything else you participate in

  • Begin learning about college

  • Keep your grades up

  • Schedule a meeting with your counselor to discuss your plans for the summer and the upcoming school year

  • Search for summer internship opportunities


  • Volunteer

  • Get a job and begin saving for college

  • Sign up for an enrichment program

  • Schedule a college visit

  • Create your resume and fill it with activities and accomplishments from freshmen year

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