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10-grade student with books9 Things Your 10th Grader Should Be Doing NOW for Top College Admissions

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If you dream of your child securing top college admissions at prestigious institutions like Stanford, Harvard, or UC Berkeley, serious planning starting in ninth grade is a must. It’s certainly what the parents of your child’s competitors will be doing to help them gain top college admissions, where acceptance rates remain at all-time lows.

Why is starting early so vital? 

First, the world of college admissions has become increasingly competitive and complex – with few clear guidelines for student success. Events like changes to standardized testing requirements and the Supreme Court ruling on Affirmative Action have disrupted the usual ways of admissions, causing confusion. No doubt, new events will cause new confusion well before your child is ready to start the application process. Staying updated on annual changes in trends will help you guide your child more precisely toward their dream elite school.

Second, universities seek so much more than good grades and test scores. Candidates with serious accomplishments that go well beyond the high school curriculum and extracurricular roster are most attractive to the top schools you have in mind. Serious accomplishments require dedicated planning over time.

Third, the journey beginning in ninth grade allows for the development of deep and meaningful engagements in your child’s areas of interest. It provides ample time to cultivate essential life skills, such as time management, leadership, and effective communication. These skills, honed over four years of high school, become ingrained and authentic, shining through in college applications and interviews.

And most importantly, starting early alleviates the pressure that often mounts as college application deadlines loom. By laying a strong foundation in ninth grade, your child can build upon their experiences year after year, leading to a more compelling presentation and less stressful application process. They will have time to explore and discover genuine passions, engage in meaningful community service, develop strong relationships with mentors and teachers, and grow into confident individuals ready to take on the challenges of college and beyond.

In this four-year journey, every step counts, every experience adds depth, and every skill acquired opens a door to new opportunities.

Here are seven crucial items for you and your ninth grader to activate NOW, if you want your child to be on the right track for top college admissions.

1. Explore New Horizons

High school is a time of exploration. Encourage your teen to try various activities and clubs. Remember, unique interests can distinguish them later on in the college admissions process. A computer science student who codes to save whales? A biochem enthusiast who is also a talented singer and creates visual art? Cool! These are stories waiting to be told.

2. Dive Deeper into Selected Interests

While exploration is key, depth also matters in the journey to top college admissions. Urge your ninth grader to select two to three activities for a deeper engagement. Colleges seek students who demonstrate commitment and passion in their pursuits, whether it’s a sport, an art form, or a community project.

3. Impact Your Community

Community service is not just a resume filler; it’s a chance to develop empathy and leadership. Encourage your teen to find causes they’re passionate about. This involvement not only enriches their high school experience but also shines brightly on college applications.<

4. Master Time-Management

Effective time management is crucial. Assist your child in setting up a system to balance academics, extracurriculars, and personal time. This skill is vital for success in high school and beyond. Admissions readers specifically look for students who accomplish their stated goals, not those who fit so much in that they seem scattered and lack a cohesive narrative in their application.

5. Develop Soft Skills

Soft skills like communication, collaboration, leadership, and problem-solving are indispensable. Encourage your teen to take on roles that challenge and develop these skills. They are not only crucial for college admissions but are life skills that pave the way for future success. Top colleges are especially interested in students who have strong “people skills.” These skills take time to develop.

6. Build Relationships with Educators

Strong relationships with teachers and mentors are invaluable. These connections can lead to rich and genuinely enthusiastic recommendation letters. Teach your child to treat every interaction with instructors and mentors as an opportunity to build a network of support and guidance.

7. Read, Read, and Read Some More

Encourage your ninth grader to read beyond the school curriculum, a vital habit for achieving top college admissions, as it develops critical thinking and writing skills essential for success in competitive academic environments. Consistent reading develops critical thinking and writing skills, essential for top-tier college admissions, and college life at a competitive school. Make sure reading becomes a habit, a part of their daily routine.

The journey to college is more than grades and test scores. It’s about your child showing up as an accomplished, engaged, and curious individual. Start today. If you’re seeking guidance and support in this journey, Blue Stars is here to help. Let’s pave the way to your child’s success together.

Free Workbook for Students

Blue Stars College Planning Foundations Workbook

Start today! Go through these strategic exercises to help you sketch out your plans for all four years of high school.

  • Learn key traits important to top colleges.
  • Write your first personal narrative
  • Branch out, exploring interests and defining activities.
  • Set goals and create your 4-year college planning timeline.

Fill out the form to get the workbook.

About the Author: Amy Morgenstern

Dr. Amy Morgenstern, affectionately known as Dr. M, is the founder and CEO of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and an MFA in contemporary art. A former professor of philosophy, honors program associate director, and assistant to the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Dr. M brings a wealth of academic and multicultural experience to her practice.

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