9th and 10th Grade

Many parents may be wondering if there is anything you should be doing to prepare your child or to get ready for the college admission process. If you are a student, you might be wondering the same thing: what should I be doing? The quick answer is that there is no urgency to do anything specific at this point. It has been ISU's philosophy to de-emphasize the college planning process for ninth and tenth graders. We generally do not start to talk with students until the winter of their junior year. We feel that students are best prepared for the college process if they concentrate on learning and their high school education first. Further, it has been our experience that most students are not ready to think about colleges any earlier than their junior year, and that to do so sometimes only adds stress and discomfort.

In recent years, the media and internet sites have placed greater emphasis on the uncertainty and stresses of the college admission process than ever before. It is only natural that parents and students are thinking about the college admission process early in high school and begin to have questions. There are a few questions relevant to younger students that come up often, and we have addressed some of these below.

It's true, colleges do look at ninth and tenth grade curricula and grades. They may not matter as much as grades later in high school, but they do count. During the first two years of high school at ISU, the courses you take are fairly well prescribed. Teachers and advisors make placement recommendations based on a student's past performance and seek to place a student at a level that is appropriate. It makes no sense for a student to attempt courses for which s/he does not have the requisite background, nor does is make sense for a student to take "easy" courses with the intention of getting high grades. Start now to cultivate the study habits that will help you be successful. If you are struggling in a class, seek out help from your advisor and teachers. If you are finding inspiration in a subject, let your teachers know!

One of ISU's strengths is its faculty, so get to know your teachers. You'll be glad you did. They can help you figure out how you learn best and how to make the most of your academic potential. Your teachers are your greatest allies and mentors.

Investing in ISU
Ninth and tenth graders should look for ways to form a solid foundation for a great ISU experience. One good way to do that is to make the most of the wonderful opportunities available to you here. You always hear about how colleges look at extra-curricular activities. Now is the time to get involved. Explore and find something you love to do and go with it. Stick with it (commitment to an activity over four years is good). Lead it (leadership is good). Create it (making possibilities for yourself if they don't already exist is good). Some students think that it is better to have done a lot of different activities. Colleges are interested in commitment kids show to their activities and would rather see deep, full involvement in a few than sporadic attendance at many.

If you find things to do that you like, you will look forward to school each day and your ability to succeed, even excel in academics and extracurricular life will come more naturally.

One of the realities of the college process is that students, at some point, have to take a variety of standardized tests. We try not to let these tests dominate student's lives, so they are not emphasized a lot. On the other hand, tests have some importance and cannot be ignored.

In high school, the process starts out with the PSAT (the Preliminary SAT). Some students will take this test in the fall of their sophomore year. Most students take the PSAT the fall of their junior year. Although this could be a repeat for some, it serves as another practice run and only the results for the PSAT taken in the fall of your junior year count for the National Merit Scholarship competition. Most students will take the SAT Reasoning Test for the first time in the spring of their junior year and retake it during the fall of their Senior year. An alternative to the SAT is the ACT, which is slightly broader in scope.

The SAT Reasoning Test has been revised and updated. The new version was administered for the first time in March 2005 and includes three sections: critical reading, math, and writing. You can find out more on the College Board website.

As a ninth or tenth grader, you don't need to do anything in the way of standardized testing or test prep. However, your future test scores will be higher if you start cultivating good habits now:

  • Pick up a book that isn't an assignment every once in awhile. Life is busy, but if you can squeeze in time to read, you'll be better for it. Reading other people's writing will make you a better writer. Plus, you'll have something interesting to talk about in those college interviews down the road. And most of all, you'll be a more interesting person, period.

  • The SAT test you'll be taking later on in high school has a writing portion. The more you write, the more prepared you'll be for the test. Actually the more you write, the better prepared you are for high school, college, your career, your life! Take care when writing for your classes. Your teachers can help you hone your writing skills. Work with them! Write letters to family and friends. Start a journal. Find any excuse to get your ideas on paper.

Ahh, the summer. Time to relax and watch lots of TV. That's fine, and it is important to take time to relax and be a kid, but it would be good to do something productive, too. Get a job. Volunteer. Attend an academic program somewhere. Travel to a far away land. If you need help with inspiration, visit for ideas.
Campus Visits

Is it OK to visit colleges before junior year? Yes it is. But pay very close attention to the interest of the student. If students are not interested and parents are dragging them to a bunch of places they don't want to be, then it can get the college process off to a very poor start. On the other hand, if a student is interested and curious, it is fine to explore some campuses. We recommend being flexible and opportunistic. If you happen to be near a campus on a vacation or trip, you might ask your child if they'd like to take a look.

While the formal college counseling program at ISU begins in the junior year, the college counseling staff hopes you will refer to this website for information along the way. We will post newsletters and direct you to websites that will inform you of the college admission process. If you have more specific questions about your son or daughter, please feel free to contact us directly. We look forward to working with you!