By: Caroline Koppelman
We know freshmen year sounds too early to begin the college process. You (or your child) just finished middle school, you’ve just started high school, and already it’s overwhelming. There’s no time for adjusting because you’re thrown right in and the prospect of taking on more than you’re already doing seems unreasonable. We hear you. But, there are small things you can (and should!) do during 9th grade. Remember that the college process is a marathon, not a sprint, and colleges will look at what you did 9th grade, even if it’s not weighted as heavily as what you do your junior year. This doesn’t mean you have to cure cancer or start a sustainable agriculture program, but you do have to fill your time with something.
Discover Your Interests
We think freshmen year is the best time to join all the clubs that interest you. You should view it as your first plate at a buffet. You don’t know exactly what you want, so you try out a little of everything. After you’ve tried and you understand what each thing is, you can go back and get bigger portions.
Take home point: diversify. Try out any club that calls to you. Sophomore and junior year will be the time to increase your participation and get leadership roles, but freshmen year is the time to just test it out. If you’re unsure of which clubs to join, we recommend one club that builds off of an academic interest, one community-based club, and a sport (if you’re inclined). We also recommend taking classes outside of school in subjects that aren’t available, particularly if you’re interested in STEM areas most schools don’t offer.
Every year it seems that another college is asking students to list the books they read for fun. Many students who don’t read outside of English class because they’re “too busy” get to their Stanford or Columbia application and draw a blank. Freshmen year is the best time to get into the habit of reading. And you don’t want to read just anything. We suggest starting with a book in one of the following categories:
- Books you wouldn’t be assigned in school
- New fiction that hasn’t been incorporated into curriculums yet that show your interest in the world of literature
- Books that expand on an interest you’re exploring through an extracurricular activity
- Books about social justice issues
- Biographies of people you inspire you
Take an SAT2
Most colleges you apply to will require two to three SAT2 subject tests. There’s no reason to wait to take these tests. If you can get one out of the way your freshman year, you’ll be in a much better position.
This may seem like quite a bit but spread over the course of your freshman (and maybe sophomore) years, it’s quite manageable. Not only will this help in the college process, but it will make you a better, more well-rounded person.