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 9th-11th Grade To-Do List


As a freshman, try as many new and different things as you can!

  • Explore new interests, seek out new passions and get involved.


Beginning with your sophomore year, start to narrow your involvement and focus!

  • Find 1-3 activities that you're truly passionate about and pursue them diligently.


Take challenging classes in core academic subjects (AP & IB if available, Honors when not) beginning freshman year

  • 4 years of English (literature, writing/grammar/usage, comprehension, public speaking)
  • 3 years of math (algebra I & II, geometry); 4th year encouraged, but necessary for students interested in STEM majors (pre-calc, calculus, trigonometry)

  • 3 years of history (ancient/world, European, U.S. history & government)

  • 3 years of a lab science (biology, chemistry, physics); 4th year strongly recommended for students interested in STEM majors

  • 2 years of technology/engineering (computer science, robotics, engineering design, circuitry)

  • 2 years fine art (music, theater, dance, art)

  • 2 years of (a single) foreign language

  • 3 years of electives (civics, geography, economics, geology, environmental science, forensics, statistics, probability,  ​psychology, sociology, philosophy, theology)


Don't choose your classes on your own!

  • Classes should be rigorous (without being overwhelming) and well-balanced (without being impractical).
  • Guidance Counselors, School Advisers & College Counselors know how to prepare students academically to pursue their college and career goals, so TALK TO THEM!
  • Your parents are not as clueless as you may think and more than anyone, they want what's best for you, so TALK TO THEM, TOO!


Say “Yes” to standardized tests  beginning in your sophomore year!

  • Taking a test doesn't mean that you have to submit your scores. More and more colleges and universities are becoming test optional.
  • You can sit for the PSAT as a sophomore (for practice and as a predictor of your strengths and weaknesses).
  • It's recommended that all juniors take the PSAT/NMSQT offered in October.
  • You should plan on sitting for the SAT at least twice, possibly 3 times, typically in March and June of junior year and again in October of your senior year.
  • The ACT should be taken a minimum of 2 times, typically once in the spring of your junior year and again in the fall of senior year.
  • Certain schools require specific SAT Subject Test scores for applicants interested in specific majors. For example, students interested in any engineering field should take the SAT II Chemistry exam. It's important to plan for these tests in advance. Chances are, you will take chemistry in your sophomore year of high school and should therefore sit for this test in May of your 10th grade year. You can always take the test at another date, but why not take it when you've just completed all the course work you'll be tested on?


Sports matter!

  • Phys ed classes do NOT qualify as sports participation; colleges aren't interested in whether you passed gym, they want to see that you played a sport.
  • Participate in a minimum of 2 different seasonal sports.

  • At least one sport should be a team sport.

  • At least one sport should be something you intend to pursue through all 4 years of high school.

  • The sports you choose do not have to be offered by or taken at your school (yoga, ice skating, fencing, karate, acrobatics, golf, squash, rowing, & rugby are some sports not offered by many public high schools, but may be available within your local community).


Volunteer; become active in a cause or in your community!

  • Colleges are attracted to applicants who have a history of contributing their time, energy and talents on behalf of others or within a larger community.
  • Committing to a cause shows interest in something other than yourself.

  • Community service opportunities can be found EVERYWHERE! If you don't know where to start, think locally: library, not-for-profit organization, historical society, senior center, nursing home, hospital, peer tutoring, soup kitchen.

  • Still at a loss? Ask at a local place of worship. Ask a Guidance Counselor, teacher, or a coach. Contact your town's Social Services Department.

  • If there's a cause you're passionate about, maybe because it's affected a family member or a friend, get involved. Participate in a Walk to End Alzheimer's, coordinate a clothing drive for your local homeless shelter, organize a fund raiser for a disaster relief need, join a mission trip.


Get a job!

  • Working – whether as a bagger at your local supermarket or as a babysitter for your younger siblings – shows a college recruiter that you're someone who is trustworthy, responsible, and reliable.
  • If working in retail, restaurants and the like just isn't your thing, consider jobs like mowing lawns, shoveling snow,   babysitting, dog walking, and housekeeping. Be creative. If you can't find a job you like or want to do, create one.


Attend College Fairs!

  • Talk to as many college admissions representatives as you can.
  • Take any hard-copy information they have to offer.

  • Introduce yourself, ask questions and talk about your interests – academic, athletic, philanthropic, etc. Give the person you're speaking with a reason to remember you after you've moved on to the next table.

  • ALWAYS ask for the business card of the person you're speaking with, and if you have any real interest in the school they represent, follow up with an email within a few days. Thank them for taking the time to speak with you. Let them know you'd appreciate any advice they could provide you throughout the college search process.


Start visiting college campuses as early as the summer before your junior year!

  • When planning your visits, seek out an opportunity to interview or meet one-on-one with an admissions counselor, athletic head, coach and/or department head, when possible.

  • If you're pressed for time while visiting, take the tour and skip the admissions & financial aid talks. Most admissions overviews repeat the same information, which you can always find online at the school's website.


Get your resume in order and begin working on your application essays!

  • Beginning in freshman year, keep organized, detailed, up-to-date records of all your extracurricular, volunteer, and employment activities. This will save you tons of time in your junior and senior years.

  • Be sure to include any awards, honorable mentions, honors, leadership titles, elected offices, etc. that you've earned.


Research scholarships and submit those with early application deadlines!

  • For example, an ROTC Scholarship application needs to be submitted prior to the deadline for most college applications, usually by January of senior year.

  • Never upload or submit application materials without having at least 2 other people read through them.