Preparing for College: Advice for High School Freshmen

January 13, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Preparing for College: Advice for High School Freshmen

What Should You Expect in Ninth Grade?

You do not need to consume all your time thinking about college applications in your freshman year. The best advice for high school freshmen is to focus on academic accomplishments and explore new interests.

Most teenagers look forward to ninth grade. The start of high school signifies the end of their primary education, and course requirements for high school pupils begin their preparation for college or the workforce after graduation. Now, what should you expect in ninth grade? The ninth-grade curriculum focuses on higher-level thinking and autonomous study skills.

Three students talking while walking.

Language arts help prepare students for successful oral and written communication in ninth grade. Physical science and biology are common science subjects, and algebra is the standard for math. Social studies classes typically focus on geography, world history, or US history, and electives like art become essential to a student’s education.

Language Arts

Grammar, vocabulary, literature, and composition are typical topics of study in ninth-grade language arts. Students will also learn about public speaking, literary analysis, referencing sources, and report writing. Ninth-grade students may also study mythologies, theatre, novels, short stories, and poetry.


Ninth-grade students often take Algebra I for their math course, while some students may take pre-algebra or geometry. Real numbers, rational and irrational numbers, integers, variables, exponents and powers, scientific notation, lines, slopes, the Pythagorean Theorem, graphing, and utilizing equations to solve problems will be covered in ninth grade.

Students will also practice reasoning skills by reading, writing, and solving equations, simplifying and rewriting equations, and using graphs to solve mathematical problems.


Students in ninth grade can study a wide range of science topics. Biology, physical science, life science, earth science, and physics are common high school courses. Students may also pursue courses based on their interests, such as astronomy, botany, geology, marine biology, zoology, or equine science.

Students must gain experience with science processes such as asking questions and formulating hypotheses, designing and carrying out experiments, organizing and interpreting data, and evaluating and presenting results, in addition to standard science topics. This commonly comes from taking science courses with laboratories and having to write lab reports after each one.

Most colleges and universities recommend students to complete two or three lab sciences in high school.

Biology and physical science are two of the most popular science subjects for ninth-grade students. The study of the natural world, physical science, includes topics such as the earth’s structure, ecology, weather, climate, erosion, Newton’s laws of motion, nature, space, and astronomy. General science principles such as the scientific method and simple and complex machines may also be included in the physical science curriculum.

The study of living beings is known as biology. Most biology classes begin with examining the cell, the most fundamental component of all living things. Cell structure, anatomy, taxonomy, genetics, human anatomy, sexual and asexual reproduction, plants, animals, and other topics will be covered.

Social Sciences

Students can explore a variety of themes for ninth-grade social studies, just as they can for science. History, culture, people, places, and environments are all covered in social studies.

Practical experience in social studies is essential for students. Gaining experience in reading maps, using timelines, critical thinking, assessing data, problem-solving, and understanding how geography, events, and economy shape civilizations. American history, world history, ancient history, and geography are common high school subjects for ninth-grade students.

Students studying American history will learn about the exploration and settlement of America, Native Americans, the foundations of American democracy, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, taxation, citizenship, and different systems of government. They will also learn about wars like the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Students in the ninth grade studying world history will learn about major world regions. They will learn about migration and settlement patterns in each region, the distribution of the human population, how people adapt to their environment, and the effects of physical geography on civilizations. They will also learn about wars like World War I and World War II.

Geography is easily incorporated into all history topics. Students should practice their map and globe skills with a range of map types (physical, political, topographical, etc.).


Most high school courses now require art credit. The number of elective credits expected by colleges and universities varies, but the average is six to eight credits. Art can be tailored to an individual’s specific interests because it is such a broad subject.

Visual arts such as drawing, photography, graphic design, or architecture can be studied in ninth grade. It can also include performance art like drama, dance, or music.

Students should be able to acquire skills such as observing or listening to and responding to art, learning language linked with the art topic being studied, and enriching creativity.

It should also expose children to art history, prominent artists, and works of art, as well as the contributions of diverse genres of art to society and their impact on culture.

What Advice Would You Give to a High School Freshman?

High school goes very quickly and freshman year is the optimum time for students to consider their long-term ambitions. The ninth grade is a significant transition to a new school, with new classmates and teachers.

Classes are more difficult and extracurricular activities are more competitive whether you attend a general high school or a magnet school. Furthermore, this is the time when some students will look at enrolling in driver’s ed, either online or at a driving school. Some may even start working part-time.

Two students walking in the school campus.

Starting high school requires more time for studying and homework and time management to complete significant tasks and big projects.

What advice would you give to a high school freshman? Freshman planning and preparation will set up students for success throughout high school. This would probably be one of the best pieces of advice for high school freshmen to succeed in this chapter of their student life.

Good grades in ninth grade may open opportunities to pursue AP and dual credit courses. Higher-level classes are weighted, so if you have good academic performance, your GPA will rise faster than in regular-level courses. Here are some pieces of advice for high school freshmen in making the most out of their first year in high school.

To-Do List for High School Freshmen

  • Consult with your school counselor to learn about graduation requirements and to develop a four-year plan.
  • Select courses that interest you and participate in interesting and enjoyable activities such as sports or school clubs.
  • Think about taking the ACT Aspire exam. The Aspire test assists school districts in tracking student progress. Teachers train students for the topics covered on the ACT Aspire, as opposed to the ACT, which you must prepare for on your own. This test will help you determine what you need to improve on and study further.
  • Keep track of your grade point average. You can use a simple online high school GPA calculator to keep track of the grades you need for college acceptance or scholarships.
  • Volunteer over your summer vacation, or pursue a hobby or pastime. These experiences will be beneficial for future college applications and personal growth.
  • Assess yourself and your objectives.

The following are the top five questions to ask your freshman counselor:

  1. How many credits am I required to graduate in four years?
  2. What GPA should I aim for by the time I apply to colleges?
  3. Am I a suitable candidate for AP or advanced academic courses?
  4. Can I take courses that are transferable to college?
  5. How often should we meet to review my academic plan and ensure that I am on track?

There are a few things you should consider when developing your educational strategy:

  1. Where do you see yourself in the next eight years?
  2. What kind of lifestyle do you envision for yourself?
  3. Describe your ideal job. How about your second career option?
  4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  5. Which college or trade school do you want to attend?
  6. How are you going to pay for college/trade school?

Most 9th and 10th graders do not want to engage with the process of preparing for college yet as it seems a distant future for them until it becomes more time-sensitive in eleventh grade. Many people believe, “Well, I have a lot of time to think about this,” and although this is true, they must also actively engage in easy college prep tasks to have exceptional academic records in high school while working hard to achieve their college admissions goals.

How Should Ninth Graders Prepare for College?

Thinking about college prep while also juggling current coursework and hobbies may seem stressful to some students. However, when addressed correctly, it can be a lot of fun and exciting for everyone.

Group of students leaning on the wall.

So, how should ninth graders prepare for college? Here are some pieces of advice for high school freshmen about college preparation.

Take Rigorous Courses

The key deciding element in selecting coursework for freshman year is the high school graduation requirements. While different colleges may have different criteria, the standard requirements are as follows:

  • Four years of English (or Language Arts)
  • Three or four years of math (colleges usually prefer four)
  • Three years of science
  • Two or three years of social studies or history

For most universities, it is crucial that the student challenges herself by enrolling in more challenging classes and succeeding in them. This is what is known as rigor.

This entails taking honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes if possible, because colleges look at your GPA as well as how difficult your courses were. Take honors or AP classes only if you are confident you can succeed. It is preferable to receive an A in a regular class rather than a C in an honors class.

When it comes to foreign languages, it makes little difference which one you choose. Most experts recommend pursuing the same language for four years rather than four introductory programs in different languages.

Schools provide a variety of elective classes from which to choose. Take classes in subjects that interest you. It also pays to focus on your abilities when choosing electives because it is simpler to achieve better scores in subjects where you thrive, increasing your overall GPA.

Engage in Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities are the second most essential element for college admission since admissions officers utilize them to evaluate your abilities and see what you can achieve outside of the classroom.

Extracurricular activities are any activities that you do outside of the classroom. Clubs and organizations, summer seminars, volunteer initiatives, sports teams, and camps focusing on music, arts, or science are all examples.

Young woman holding her books while walking.

Freshman year is the best time to explore and experiment with various extracurricular activities – attempt numerous hobbies but commit to a few activities that you would want to pursue in the long run.

There is no downside to changing your mind about something after you’ve already started, but getting involved early increases your chances of being elected to a leadership position in a club. This leadership experience will also help you stand out among other highly qualified students applying to the most competitive universities.

Improve Time Management Skills

The high school program is far more complex than the middle school program. Consistently challenging oneself is the key to getting into a top-ranked college. This entails taking more tough coursework year after year in high school.

If your parents used to continuously remind you to do your homework or about the next milestone in the project when you were in elementary and middle school, you will need to become more independent in high school to be ready for college.

Furthermore, various additional extracurricular activities will further limit study time, making it even more vital to learn and master time management skills.

When preparing for the rigors of a high school course and later in college, developing strong study habits such as being organized, taking notes, and avoiding distractions. Learning how to set appropriate goals and priorities can aid in finding adequate time to do assignments and participate in extracurricular activities.

Consult with Your Guidance Counselor

High school counselors are responsible for a variety of tasks, including assisting students with personal issues, course scheduling, job placement, and, lastly, college choices and applications.

Consult with your counselor early in the school year to explore college applications and/or financial aid. Inform your guidance counselor or teacher if you are interested in a certain subject or extracurricular activity. Inquire with your counselor or professors about Advanced Placement and honors classes, whether you are eligible, and how to enroll.

Improve Your Reading Skills

One important piece of advice for high school freshmen is to read as much as possible throughout freshman year. This is one strategy to prepare for the SAT reading part. Reading is the simplest approach to increasing your vocabulary and crafting better essays. It is essential to be knowledgeable in various genres, including fiction novels, newspapers, historical literature, and scholarly publications.

Prepare for the SAT/ACT

Many states now require juniors to take either the SAT or ACT as an evaluation test to lessen the number of tests taken and to encourage students to prepare for those tests. When choosing which test to prepare for, check f it is part of the high school graduation requirements.

Even while it may be too early to take actual tests in ninth grade, it is not a waste of time to participate in mock examinations.

Students lined up while sitting in a their chair.

You can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship if you take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in your sophomore or junior year. The National Merit Scholarship is a prominent national award that looks great in your profile

Make the Most of Your Summer Breaks

While most youngsters can’t wait for summer vacation to spend all their time with friends, playing video games, and watching TV, it would be beneficial to set aside some time for something more significant.

Summer activities can help you develop and improve the community around you. This shows college admissions officers that you are interested in challenging activities and continue to pursue your passions even when you are not busy with school.

When you spend your summer doing something personally exciting, you demonstrate that you are a curious, passionate, and driven individual who would fit in at any college.

Begin Working on Your College Resume

One of the overlooked pieces of advice for high school freshmen is to work on their college resume early. Building your list as you go is the best approach to ensure that your college application covers all your activities and accomplishments. Remembering anything four years later is more difficult than it appears.

Your college resume should include the following:

  • Extracurricular activities and school clubs
  • Volunteer and community service opportunities
  • Honors and distinctions
  • Internships and jobs
  • College courses and college preparation programs

Your list should be as complete and recent as possible. Even if you do not use everything on your applications, having it available gives you options.

For current high school freshmen and sophomores, the college application season may seem a long way off. Still, it is never too early to start planting college prep seeds – especially since all four years of high school courses, grades, activities, and more are considered in the admissions process.

Beginning college prep early is critical for creating a good foundation for the application process in senior year. It also helps students relieve stress by learning the habit of preparing early and setting attainable goals and timetables.

While there may be countless pieces of advice for high school freshmen to be ready for college, it is best to consult experts in admissions like AdmissionSight. We have various programs and services established for different components of college admissions. Feel free to set up an initial consultation with AdmissionSight experts to know us.

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