Freshman year is the first year that the grades students receive will appear on the academic transcript that is submitted to college.

Because of this, The stakes are now raised in regards to academics. After making the transition from middle school to high school, a lot may seem the same. Students are still going to class, doing homework, taking tests, and seeing friends. But there are a number of really important changes that occur when a student enters 9th grade. As colleges will be looking at a student’s grades in the spring of Junior year, there is not much time to fix any Grade Point Average mistakes that occur at this stage of the game. As one example: If a student receives 2.5 Grade Point Average as a freshman, and then he or she receives straight A’s from that point forward, even with honors classes, the best Grade Point Average he or she can ascend to is a 3.5. And for competitive colleges and universities, that may not be good enough for acceptance.

Focusing on the Academics

Students need to start focusing on the academics that will make them excel on college admissions tests.

Improve or maintain good habits.

As the rigor of school work will continue to increase throughout high school and study time becomes more limited, it is important to build study and time management skills that will increase the quality of each minute spent on school work.

Think ahead about challenging courses.

For students transitioning from 8th to 9th grade on an academic track of lower rigor, there is still enough time to progress onto a path to place them in Advance Placement classes later in high school.

Try many extracurricular activities, but commit to few.

Students should use this year as an opportunity to drop in on clubs and talk to coaches. Getting involved early makes a student more likely to have a leadership role in a student organization later in high school, and this leadership experience is taken into consideration by colleges when evaluating applications.

Ninth graders have the opportunity to explore passions and excel at crucial subjects

Students will start to build the academic skills that will be measured on college admissions tests during their sophomore, junior, and senior years.

In math, reading, and writing, there is a foundation being built now that will make a big difference later in high school. As freshmen, all students should be taking classes in the following areas: English, math, science, social science, and foreign language. Most students will take Algebra 1 or Geometry for math, Biology or Chemistry for science, and World or United States History as their social science.

Time management will start to become crucial.

Between academics, out of school work, clubs, sports, and recreation, there is a lot more going on starting in 9th grade. Students have to be smart about their choices or they’ll end up overwhelmed and exhausted. During this time, students will have the opportunity to start/continue to explore their interests and passions, which will ultimately inform decisions about college and career.

Opportunities for Growth

A Students

Freshmen that have demonstrated content mastery to this point in time must continue their past academic performance while considering the wider array of skills that will be necessary for later high school and collegiate success. Previous academic achievement will reflect itself in the academic track on which these students begin in high school, but not in the Grade Point Average that is ultimately submitted to colleges. On the first day of freshman year, everyone starts with a blank slate.

As freshmen receiving top marks are on a track towards the most-rigorous possible courses later in high school, such as Advanced Placement classes, it is important now to develop the types of study habits and time management skills that will allow for a smoother transition to this increased workload. It is essential to increase the quality of one’s study time before the quantity of work increases.

It is also important for these students to begin to enrich their college applications beyond academic achievement. Involvement in extracurricular activities such as sports, music, student government, and/or volunteering will allow high-achieving academic students to stand out from the many other high-performing students that apply to the most competitive colleges. Getting involved at this early point in high school also allows for the building of leadership skills and the opportunity to lead these organizations later in high school, which are both viewed highly by colleges when evaluating applications.

B Students

Freshmen who have demonstrated the content knowledge to receive B grades, but not A’s, to this point in their academic careers must work to identify and develop areas of skill weakness that are separating them from the extra points needed to receive top marks. If a student can raise their grades from a B to an A at this moment, then only these higher marks will be reflected in the Grade Point Average that a college will see when he or she is a senior.

This is also essential at this point in a student’s academic career as, in most cases, students who receive A’s during 9th grade will begin to position themselves to take honors classes as sophomores, which will later funnel them into Advanced Placement classes as juniors and seniors. Receiving the highest possible grades in the most competitive courses is the best argument students can make for why a college should accept them.

A significant part of this push to the top of the grade scale will be fostering a growth mindset – the student’s belief in his or her own ability to overcome whatever challenges have previously held him or her back from becoming an “A student.”

C or Below Students

Freshmen who are receiving predominantly C grades or below still have time to build the skill mastery and content knowledge to improve their academic performance. As colleges only will only view grades starting in 9th grade, if a student can evaluate their grades at this point in time, there will be no evidence of their history at a “C Student” beyond the courses into which he or she was placed as a freshman.

Considering this academic track is particularly important, as students that can raise their grades as freshman still have the time to begin ascending into the honors classes that will later allow them to enroll in and succeed in the most rigorous classes such as Advanced Placement.

Not only will this skill building allow for higher grades and the potential to take more rigorous classes later in high school, it will also prepare students for the standardized assessments that they will take during sophomore, junior, and senior years. Much of the content on the ACT and SAT aligns with 9th grade math, writing, and reading skills. It is also necessary that students at this grade level develop a mindset that allows them to believe they can achieve academically. Many students begin to identify their status as a “C student” as a permanent condition, and not one that can be changed with the appropriate individualized support. Developing a growth mindset in students now is essential, as at no other time in high school will they have a blank slate in regards to their Grade Point Average and their ability to enrich their application with extracurricular activities.

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