Parental Guidance: 9th-Graders Should Start Thinking About College


August 7, 2013

My child starts ninth grade next month. What advice should I give him so he best uses his high school years and sets himself up to get into the college of his dreams?

Lee Stetson spent 30 years as dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania and is an adviser with IvyWise, a Manhattan-based company that does one-on-one college admissions counseling. This is what he suggests you tell your rising freshman:

  • Freshman year grade-point average counts. If you don’t take freshman year seriously, you will spend sophomore and junior years trying to bring up your GPA.
  • Take the strongest curriculum you can handle that is offered at your school. College admissions officers will get a profile of your high school that shows the level of courses available and will know whether you pushed yourself.
  • Use summers productively. Get a job. Travel somewhere. Help the less advantaged in your area.
  • Assert yourself as a leader. You don’t have to vie for the top position, but make a difference in whatever you do. Be a mover and shaker.
  • Pursue a passion you have that might be out of the ordinary. It makes you a more interesting person.
  • Take the initiative early on to get to know a teacher and your guidance counselor as mentors, role models and consultants on your education. This will enrich your high school experience and help you when you need recommendation letters for college.

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