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How to Prepare For College When You're in 9th and 10th grade

Going to college is an extremely common and sought path after one graduates High School. However, to get there, everyone needs to go through a very complex and thorough application process that includes everything from the activities and clubs that you participate in High School, to essays about you and how you see yourself in a few years. This process can be one of the most stressful parts of one’s senior year, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re just now getting into high school, there are already a few steps that you can take to make sure you’ll get the most out of your senior year and that you’ll be going to the best college for you afterward. So here are a few tips from a senior on preparing for college when you’re in 9th and 10th grade.

Freshman year

9th Grade is by itself a challenging year. This is the year you’re leaving your middle school days behind and starting to walk toward your future. So the first and most important tip for what to do as a freshman is to not worry too much about it. This is a year of experimentation, trial, and error, and it is more than normal to not be sure about what you want to do in the future. Take this time to join clubs that interest you, (especially because there are some clubs that are exclusive to High School) and also start thinking of any leadership positions that you would like to take in the next few years. If you’re into sports, then don't hesitate in trying out for some of the school’s teams, and you might even get a chance to go to ISSL, which is always a great opportunity to bond with your classmates and meet new people from all over the country. Also, it would be nice to start thinking about the Personal Project you’ll have to do next year and gather some ideas of what you would like to do.

Furthermore, try always to join the college fairs that Ms. Paulina (the school’s college counselor) often organizes; but remember to take these opportunities to listen and try to understand the college search and application process. However, if you see that either a Junior or a Senior is trying to have a conversation or ask questions to that school’s representative, do not interrupt or ask endless questions: in these situations, it's nice to give priority to those who’ll need this information sooner. Don’t rush, your time will come eventually!

If you’re interested in community service and joining the NHS, keep your grades up, and don’t hesitate to try at least one AP class because they are great for boosting your GPA and showing that you’re qualified for taking college-level classes. Several free online resources can help you with those classes, such as Heimler’s History and Mr. Sinn’s channel.

Overall, it is important that in 9th grade you take the year to build up the foundation of the things you enjoy and that you would like to continue exploring throughout your High School career. Be imaginative and willing to try new things - you never know if you’re going to find your passion somewhere unexpected.

Sophomore year

10th grade is the best year for you to start taking small yet significant steps toward your college journey. You must continue exploring the school clubs and activities but now take it a step further. Try to take on leadership roles in those clubs, as they are extremely important to show your involvement and commitment. If your GPA is above 3.85, you’ll most likely get an invitation to join the NHS, which is an incredible club that will allow you to help the community while learning and interacting with other students and learning leadership skills. Nevertheless, if you don’t receive the invitation, that’s all right because invitations go out every year starting from 10th grade, so there always will be another opportunity to apply. Moreover, the school also has several other major clubs in which you can participate, such as MUN and The Daily Hawk (which, in my opinion, is one of the best and most fun clubs at school).

One of the most significant parts of sophomore year is the Personal Project. This is a major project you do throughout the whole school year to complete your IB education. Therefore, do take your time to focus on this because it is an extremely complex and time-consuming task. However, if you have time, think about starting to study for the SATs and/or any English Proficiency test you might have to take, like the TOEFL or the IELTS. Also, make sure you’re looking for and searching for any college summer courses you can take between your sophomore and junior year. They are extremely important for you to start seeking colleges and courses that interest you and help demonstrate to schools that you’re interested and committed to your education.

Continue attending those college fairs, and maybe create a rough list of colleges and universities that caught your attention. If you’re interested in any field in the arts and design track, remember that along with your application, you’ll also have to submit an art portfolio showing your most recent work. This is a very important and time-consuming part of the application process, so pay close attention to any portfolio requirements you see on those college websites. And if you're ever in doubt, ask Ms. Jill, our Upper School art teacher, for help, because she is incredible at this and will have lots of tips and important information to give you.

Keep in mind that these two first years of High School are incredibly important to build the foundation of your curriculum; however, do not freak out if you don’t follow any of these tips because, in reality, the real deal only starts the next two years (junior and senior year). And to be honest, it is not even worth worrying too much because by then, you’ll have lots of college prep and college readiness classes where you’ll be able to talk to teachers who are more than willing to help you and guide you through this journey.

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