Five Things 9th Grade Students Can Do Now to Prepare for College

First things first, students in 9th grade should be spending their time learning how to successfully transition to high school. They should understand that it isn’t always easy and takes time to adjust and learn how to do high school well. Interestingly, some colleges, like UC Berkeley, no longer consider the freshman GPA as they recalculate an applicant’s cumulative GPA for admissions consideration. They share the philosophy that 9th graders need time to transition.

With that said, here are five things 9th grade students can do now to prepare for college.  Plus, five things 9th graders shouldn’t do now to prepare for college.

1.     DO think about what activities you like to do, and then do them! It is OK to try something new and then decide it’s not how you wish to spend your time.

DON’T worry that you haven’t found the “right” activity. In the college process, the right activity is the one that is meaningful to you. The name of the game is authenticity, so be true to yourself.

2.     DO practice good study habits so they become second nature. If your techniques are not effective, reach out to teachers and peers for advice.

DON’T let an individual grade in your 9th grade year bring you down. Instead, reflect on your approach to studying so that you build a sustainable, effective process that will work throughout high school.

3.  DO swing by a college campus if you happen to be in the area. You can get a great feel for your likes and dislikes simply by being on campus or in the college community, even without taking an official tour.

DON’T plan an exhaustive trip designed around colleges you want to visit. There will be plenty of time for trips once you start putting together your college list, so there is no need to dedicate the time, money, or emotion right now.

4.   DO think about and reflect upon things you are interested in and like to study.

DON’T declare your major in 9th grade. Your interests will inevitably change, so be curious and embrace the learning process!

5.   DO focus on your studies and READ! Reading helps expand your vocabulary, strengthens your verbal and writing skills, exposes you to new ideas, and helps you identify powerful ways to express thoughts and opinions.

DON’T take an ACT prep course. Experts agree (unless they are trying to take your money, that is) that comprehensive test prep is most effective when done immediately preceding a test date, which is why we recommend waiting until after 10th grade. 

Matt Koehler is the Director of College Counseling at Madison Country Day School (MCDS High School). Matt has more than 10  years of experience helping students find their ‘Best-Fit’ college or university. The four-year college counseling program Matt directs at MCDS High School includes International Baccalaureate course planning, financial aid and scholarship guidance, and high school to college transition counseling. He provides individualized college application and selection support that focuses on admission essays, enrichment activities, college entrance examinations, letters of recommendations, and building the college list. To learn more about the MCDS High School college advising program, contact Matt at

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