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How To Start Your College Planning

athletes career exploration college college prep freshman guide how to sophomore teens tips Dec 21, 2021

Making a plan EARLY makes a difference!

When you child's senior year rolls around and they have to sit down to list out their activities and achievements, what are they going to put down? What will their grades look like? What will they write their admissions essays about? These are all questions to consider early, before the last-minute crunch time stress sets in. Knowing what information to keep track of and look for early can save heaps of stress and set your child apart from the rest. 

9th Grade College Planning Timeline

  • Get Involved. Try new things. No one is asking you to commit to something for four
    years, just try it.

    Clubs, sports, music, drama, yearbook, student council are all valuable on your college application. Don't see something that interests you? Create a club or activity! I know students that have organized a 5k fundraiser for a family that suffered a loss. Think outside the box. If you have the opportunity to take a leadership role, do it. Participation in activities and volunteering make the difference on some college applications! Make sure you aren't overwhelmed; grades are the most important thing. Be sure you have adequate time to study.
  • Be sure to keep a running list of everything you participate in, including starting and ending dates and what you did. You will not remember it all when college applications are due. If you keep a running Google Doc or activity tracking sheet, filling out your Common App will be a breeze.
  • Pick the right classes. Try to take an elective that interests you as a potential career option. For example, many schools offer programs in engineering or business. Give those a try while your schedule is still flexible.
  • Get good grades. This one is a no brainer, but is so important. You have a clean slate, work hard to make sure that colleges see that you are capable. A's are good. B's are average when college admission personnel review files. While a college may not look at your individual grades during your freshman year (although some do!), your grades still effect your grade point average going forward. It is much harder to raise your GPA than to keep it up from the beginning.
  • Create a study system right from the start. Unfortunately, learning isn't a one-size-fits-all process. You need to figure out the strategy that works best for you to make the information that you learn in class. 

    Creating more thorough notes while reading the text or reviewing class notes helps reinforce what you learned in class and typically leads to higher grades. Index cards are a huge help when studying for a foreign language or the sciences. Try teaching a friend or family member the subject you're working on; if you can teach it, then you know it!
  • Teachers will give you their requirements, such as a binder or notebook or folder. Do what they ask. Demonstrating your ability to follow directions, being prepared, and being thorough with your work will earn their respect. This can work to your advantage when it comes time for recommendations, or if you need a little bit of leeway on an assignment.

    If you ever have to ask a teacher for extra credit, they will take your current habits into consideration. If you have done as they have asked, you stand a much better chance of getting extra credit opportunities. However, DON'T rely on this to make the grade!
  • Explore different career options. If you hear of something that you think sounds interesting, look it up. A great resource that we use with our students is, the Department of Labor website. On it you can find the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This contains all sorts of careers, listed alphabetically and broken down into different categories, and gives you specific information about the typical requirements, work environment, pay range, and job prospects over the next 10 years. Look up your parents' jobs to see if they agree with the information!
  • Start thinking about colleges. Look up different schools and search their websites for information. Get a feel for what is out there. Make a list of colleges that appeal to you so we can review them further. You don't have to choose just one or commit to anything, but having an idea of what kinds of schools appeal to you and what doesn't can help you later down the line.

10th Grade College Planning Timeline

  • Be sure you have a good mix of classes. Schools want to see that you pushed yourself, but beware of over loading your schedule with too many honors classes. Honors and AP classes require more work and look great on your transcripts, but not if it comes at the cost of your grade! An A in regular English looks much better than a C in Honors or AP English. The Kelly MacLean Achievement Center can help determine which classes would be most beneficial based on your abilities, potential career paths, and colleges of interest.
  • Take the practice PSAT. Be sure to send us your results. If you score high enough on the PSAT, you may qualify for a scholarship or award down the road!
  • Sign up to take the ACT in April. Be sure to order the TIR (Test Information Release).
    Taking the test this year allows us to get a baseline score, and ordering the TIR allows us to see exactly where you struggled on the test and will help in preparing you to take it again.
  • Keep up your grades! This is a critical year for many students. Be sure you have a good study system in place. If you are not getting the grades you want, try something different. Call us for ideas to help with your study habits or time management.
  • Send us copies of your report card each quarter.
  • Stay involved in extracurricular activities. Take on leadership roles in the groups that you feel comfortable in. Try new things. Colleges love to see volunteer work—  check out opportunities to participate in something you enjoy in your area.
  • Be sure to get to know your teachers. Take time to discuss any issues that you have in class with them. Demonstrate that you are trying to do well and that you are enthusiastic about your education. You will need at least 3 letters of recommendation to get into school, start working on those relationships now.
  • Continue to explore career options. If you find a career that seems like a good fit, let us know. We can try to arrange a shadow opportunity for you to see exactly what is involved in that career and talk to others who have gone that route.
  • Try to improve your writing skills. Take advantage of the critiques offered by your
    teachers. A great essay can help you get into the college of your choice. Ask your
    English teacher for ways to improve your writing and really try to understand how to apply their suggestions.
  • Continue to research possible colleges. As you find schools that interest you, let us know. We will add them to your portfolio.
  • In the spring or summer, look for a part time job. Again, it will add to your resume and show potential colleges that you are capable in many areas— and the extra money doesn't hurt!


  • Send us your high school schedule as soon as you have it. We want to make sure you're excelling off the court just like you do on!
  • Keep track of your accomplishments each year. If you make MVP, or most improved, or best scorer on your team, write that down on your activity sheet with the year! Also keep track of any tournaments that your teams may have placed in or any notable times.
  • Let us know of any special accomplishments in your sport. Being named captain, winning an event, pitching a no-hitter, are all great opportunities for you to contact potential coaches.
  • Keep any information you receive from colleges or college coaches. You never know what might be important down the line. Send us an email as soon as you receive something. Communication is critical to your success!
  • If participating during the off season (club teams, JO, AAU...), send us your schedule or info on showcases or tournaments you are participating in, as well as the results.

Remember that we are here for you! If you have questions, or find yourself struggling academically or athletically, contact us. We have started hundreds of students on their college journey, and we can help you too!