#The High School Experience

What courses should my student take? What year of high school is the most important in their college application? There’s a lot to consider with high school grades and the college application process, but don’t stress. Let’s take a look at your student’s high school academics, year by year. 

9th Grade
  • 9th grade can be a tricky transitional year. (Actually, it’s the year that matters most for high school success.) 
  • Lots of students struggle, so build good study habits and time management skills. 
  • If your student struggles in 9th grade, remember that improving academics over time shows a positive trend to college admissions committees. 
  • If the school offers AP/IB courses beginning in 9th grade, then your student might consider taking these courses to show a rigorous academic profile.
  • Encourage your student to read widely and for pleasure. Ultimately, this will help them not only in their English classes but also in standardized tests to come. 
  • Your student should take a foreign language. Most colleges and universities require at least two, if not four years. Treat this as a core subject!
  • The summer after 9th grade provides a great opportunity for exploring academic interests. Your student might take a college course in something that interests them or seek out independent research opportunities.
10th Grade
  • 10th grade is when those good habits you helped your student build get put to use! If they’re still struggling with a specific class or study skill, then an academic tutor can help keep them on track. 
  • The courses your student takes in 10th grade impact the courses they can take in 11th grade, so choose thoughtfully! Consider taking AP/IB courses and/or exams to bolster their academic profile.
  • Encourage your student to keep reading and to pay attention to their math classes. These classes build on each other, so difficulties now can add up. Those interested in engineering or other STEM fields should seek out the most advanced math courses available. 
  • During the summer after 10th grade, make sure your student balances test prep with schoolwork. While SAT/ACT scores are important for college admissions, they shouldn’t detract from their grades. Summer is a great time to prep, but your student can also pursue college courses and research opportunities. 
11th Grade
  • 11th grade is the most important year for college admissions. 
  • Focus on academics. Your student should choose rigorous courses that challenge them without overwhelming them
  • Focus on AP/IB courses; these can highlight your student’s academics to colleges.
  • If your student is struggling, then they might form study groups or seek outside help with difficult classes. 
  • Focusing on completing college admissions essays during the summer after 11th grade can give your student room to focus on their first marking period grades in their senior year. 
12th Grade
  • Take a small breath, but keep an eye out for senioritis. 
  • Your student should continue their pattern of choosing challenging—but not overwhelming—courses. 
  • Most schools will want to see your student’s first marking period grades. However, they may be released too late for early decision applications. 
  • Bear in mind that if your student is waitlisted at a college, then their courses in 12th grade could impact those decisions.
  • In rare and exceptional circumstances, a college admissions committee can rescind a decision if a student’s grades drop dramatically. 

Still have questions? We can help!