Students in Grades 9-10: Here's How to Plan for College While at Home

Suggestions include preparing to take the PSAT, taking virtual college tours, determining classes you need to take, finding out GPA requirements for colleges, chatting with others about their college experience, and talking to your parents about college financing.
Woman using tablet in the grass

I used to be a Worcester Public Schools teacher. I taught for six years and worked for a year and a half in the TRIO Program, specifically with ninth graders in GEAR UP. Even before my time with GEAR UP, I was working with students on college preparation, readiness, and the admissions process. During that time, I couldn't even imagine a situation that our country is in currently.

When I would talk to ninth and tenth graders, there was an awareness of college, but I cannot say it was at the forefront of their minds. Nor should it be. There are courses to study for, classmates to have crushes on, teams to try out for, and friends to have fun with. Now you add in having to stay home, virtual learning, and the lack of ability to walk into your school counselor's office to ask questions. It's a full plate.

With all that being said, there are some pretty simple and straightforward things that underclassmen can do now to start thinking about life after high school. Luckily, a lot of it you can do right from your couch inbetween shows on Netflix! Here are the tasks I recommend:

  1. Prepare to take the PSAT. Not only do you get a chance to take a practice shot at the SAT when you take the PSAT, you also sign yourself up for scholarship opportunities and college program information. See if your school has posted information about your upcoming PSAT testing date and add it to your calendar as soon as you know it. And in the meantime, use Khan Academy at the College Board to start your SAT prep.
  2. Take virtual college tours. There is no better way for you to get a feel for what you may like in a college environment than actually being on campus. This strategy is hard at the moment, but lots of schools are offering virtual tours on their websites. If there is a college close to you, you can also take a walk around the campus, while maintaining social distance, to get a feel for the place.
  3. Determine what classes you need to take for the rest of high school. Find out not just the classes you need to earn your high school diploma, but the classes that colleges require for admittance or prefer to see on an applicant's transcript.
  4. Know what AP classes/IB classes/extracurricular activities a college would like to see for a major you might be interested in. Look at the websites of different colleges and universities to find out what they may be looking for in terms of high-level high school courses or activities. Find out what your high school has to offer and what you are eligible/able to take.
  5. Find out GPA requirements. What's the average GPA of the students admitted to the colleges and universities that interest you? You can find that on the admissions website of each school. Make a plan to get your GPA into that range.
  6. Email or call teachers/parents/family members/seniors about their college experiences. Hearing about college experiences from people you trust can help you discover what type of school might interest you and what you might like to study.
  7. Talk to your parents about their expectation of college payment. Know your financial limitations related to your college choice based on how much your parents plan to contribute. You can use the Net Price Calculators of your schools of interest to find out how much your family may need to pay for each one.

These seven suggestions are a great way to give yourself a great first step in the college planning process. And be sure to sign up for MEFA emails and to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn if you don't already. We're always posting valuable reminders and tips to help your family prepare for the college years.