College Planning Checklist for 9th & 10th Grade

College Planning Checklist for 9th & 10th Grade



Academic and Extra Curriculum Suggestions:

  • Get to know your school counselor. Schedule a meeting just to introduce yourself, even if you don’t need any help at the time. For some schools, counselors are required to write college recommendations (in addition to teachers), so make sure he/she gets to know you over the next four years.
  • Consider where you want to be as a senior and map out a four-year curriculum to get there. Do you want to take AP classes in junior and senior year? What prerequisites do you need in 9th and 10th grade to be ready for advanced classes?
  • Get involved in clubs or outside activities that let you pursue your interests. If you want to start something new, now is the time to try – Colleges want to see passion and commitment. If there is something that really excites you, explore it. Don’t wait till junior year to get started.
  • Keep track of your accomplishments. Start developing a file and write down a summary of your activities, jobs, and experiences to use in creating a resume and also for generating ideas for college essays.
  • Buckle down and work hard in classes. Grades in 9th grade count equally towards your overall GPA and in the eyes of college admissions.
  • Don’t waste your summers. You don’t have to do anything fancy, but use the time wisely. Are you entrepreneurial?  Start a small business…even if it’s just mowing lawns Having a job, even at a local ice cream store, will show you are reliable. Consider volunteering in an area you have interest in. Or possibly take a summer class to get ahead and prepared for more advanced classes. 
  • Make sure there’s a solid foundation. The best test prep for college entrance exams is for your student to have a solid foundation and understanding of their course work. Good grades may not always mean they truly learned the subject matter. And not-so-good grades mean they need more help to really understand the subject matter. Consider hiring a tutor or push your student to ask for help from their teache


College Financing Suggestions:




Academic and Extra Curriculum Suggestions

  • Review all suggestions from the 9th grade list. They all still apply!
  • Register and take the PSAT and PLAN even if your school is not offering it. This will give your student practice and a sense of which test may be better suited for him/her.
  • Start researching schools that might interest your student. Consider attending a college fair – check out NACAC for fairs close by. Visit websites to start building a list of potential schools and review the college admissions statistics. This will give your student an idea of what types of grades and test scores are needed to get into schools he/she may be interested in.
  • Encourage your student to develop relationships with their teachers, especially in subjects they are strong in. This will help when asking for college recommendations.
  • It’s not too early to start visiting colleges. If you are close to any colleges, consider visiting to get an idea of the type of school your child might be interested in – urban/rural; big/small; public/private. Start talking about subject areas they may be interested in pursuing as a major because this will also affect the schools to include on their list of potential colleges.


College Financing Suggestions

  • Review all suggestions from the 9th grade list. They all still apply!
  • The January of 10th grade starts the beginning of a family’s base year that will be used for financial aid assessment by colleges. FAFSA asks for tax information from two years prior to the year your child starts college. The tax year from January of 10th grade to the end of December of junior year, is the tax year that will be used for the FAFSA you’ll be filling out when your student applies to college.
  • Consider schools that are “financial safety” schools. Include schools that are “financial safety” schools on the list.
  • Know what a net price calculator is. Start looking into net price calculators for the schools on your student’s list. The College Board has a link to every school’s net price calculator. ECMC lets you enter your information and financially compare six schools at once.
  • Start your scholarship search. Be wary of “no essay” scholarships or ones that don’t ask for much information – they are just like sweepstakes with companies looking to gather your information. Don’t ever pay a fee to apply for a scholarship. Chances of winning a scholarship are highest when applying to locally sponsored scholarships, so start researching a creating a list. 








Debbie Schwartz is former financial services executive and founder of Road2College and the Paying For College 101 Facebook group. She's dedicated to providing families with trustworthy information about college admissions and paying for college. With data, tools and access to experts she's helping families become educated consumers of higher ed.