Why Planning for College as a 9th Grader Matters

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” By the time you’re a freshman in high school you’ve most likely encountered excellent teachers who have inspired you to learn. Hopefully you have tapped into the joy of discovery, felt the exhilaration of accomplishment and experienced the rich pay-off of innate curiosity.

It is true what people say: learning is its own reward. The reason a college education is a rich investment has less to do with the kind of money you’ll make upon graduation (though this may be true as well) and everything to do with the many ways it will enrich and shape you as a person.

Whether you come from a long line of college-educated learners, or are the first one in your family line to think about college, it’s never too early to have your sights trained on your educational horizon. The truth is, high school goes by in a flash and before you know it, you’ll be faced with one of the biggest decisions you’ve ever made: where to go to college?

Rather than come to that moment stressed and overwhelmed by the decision, it makes sense to see the next few years as a slow-paced marathon and to pace yourself, eyes fixed on the finish line of graduation. With a little planning along the way, you can anticipate a smooth transition into the college of your dreams in just a few short years!

As you look towards your future, here are a few simple but important principles that will help you as you begin planning toward college:

  • Keep You Options Open. One of the most important steps you can take early on in your high school career is to set up an extended meeting with your school guidance counselor. Consider taking your parent or guardian along with you. If you’re pretty sure you’ll attend college someday (and even if you’re not completely sure but are open to it) it’s a good idea to know what classes are required in order to be ready. Some high schools have a “college prep track” which helps you choose classes wisely. For example, many colleges require at least two years of a foreign language in high school. The last thing you want is to come to the end of your senior year and realize you were short on credits in an area you simply overlooked. Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to your future; work hard for good grades, challenge yourself with honors or AP classes, and add in a few extracurricular activities or sports. All of these things will make your college application stand out someday and pave the way for your acceptance into the school(s) of your choice.
  • Learn About Yourself. In order to decide which college is best for you it’s important you have a career path in mind. Some students seem to have been born knowing where they’re going, but for others of us, this process takes time. Don’t worry if you don’t yet know what you want to do in life; there is plenty of time for finding out. But DO take time to figure out who you are! This can be done through taking basic personality tests (many are available online) that help you discover what makes you tick. For example, do you thrive best around people or are you more introverted? Do you enjoy change or predictability? These are clues into what type of job you might enjoy. Follow this up by taking a few career assessments (your guidance counselor can usually supply these) and see what surfaces. Make the most of each season, and try a new summer job each year. Find out what you enjoy. Do you thrive working in an outdoor setting? Do you come alive when you’re around children? If possible, set up a day for “job shadowing” someone with a career that interests you. Nothing can compare to the value gained from these opportunities!
  • Learn About College. Finally, do a little research just to get your wheels turning. If you haven’t yet registered through our website, go to https://christianconnector.com/ and get the ball rolling! It’s especially exciting to realize how many Christian colleges are out there, and the many majors offered at each one. Start a list of potential schools. Whenever possible, attend college fairs (virtual or in person) and visit local colleges to get a feel for various campuses. Talk with older friends or siblings who have already attended college and find out all you can about their experiences and recommendations. This will give perspective about what you have to look forward to, and give you traction as you begin taking steps forward towards a great college career!