How Should High School Freshmen Prepare for College?


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Let’s begin with a caveat: The College Transitions team is philosophically opposed to the unhealthy obsession with elite college admission that begins in the womb, ramps up to overdrive by the time preschool selection rolls around and, by high school — well, that’s when the therapy bills begin to rack up.

The purpose of this piece is to advise freshmen (and their parents) on ways to successfully launch their high school careers in ways that will open up postsecondary options down the road, whether they happen to be a Ivy League universities, “good fit” liberal arts colleges or public universities.

Does Ninth Grade Matter?

Researchers at the University of Chicago looked at the predictive value of a student’s freshman year of high school as it relates to a number of future outcomes. What they found is that ninth grade matters quite a bit. In fact, students who excel in ninth grade are far more likely to graduate high school, enroll in college and remain in college beyond their freshman year, than are students who struggled through their first year of high school.

Another study by Princeton University and the Brookings Institute found that ninth grade is, in many ways, a watershed year for teens. Classroom performance, behavior and attendance that year is a strong indicator of a student’s future academic pathway.

With the importance of ninth grade firmly established, it’s time to present steps your student can take now to begin building a solid foundation for college admission success.

1. Ace those classes. Freshman year counts toward a student’s cumulative GPA calculation and impacts class rank (with some exceptions — mostly schools in the University of California system). These two factors will play a major role in selective college admissions. If your student’s aim is to finish in the top 10 percent of his or her class, even a solid 3.3 GPA will put your child in a pretty deep hole. A stellar freshman GPA, on the other hand, will alleviate a great deal of stress as your child progresses through high school.

2. Take the honors track. Students who wish to have all collegiate options down the road will need to take a rigorous course load, beginning in ninth grade. Those students applying to highly competitive colleges and universities will need to be enrolled in multiple advanced placement courses during their junior and senior years. Taking honors courses as a freshman will put your student on track to take Advanced Placement courses as an upperclassman (and, in some case, as a sophomore).

3. Become active in the school community. If your child is interested in politics, consider joining forensics, mock trial or Model United Nations clubs. Encourage musically inclined students to sign up for chorus, orchestra or marching band. But remember: Admissions officers aren't impressed by applicants who sampled a dozen activities but committed to none.

4. Get to know your student’s guidance counselor. High school guidance counselors often have caseloads double to triple the size of the levels recommended by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Acknowledging the realities of the counselors’ duties and limited time, the onus is on your student to schedule meetings with him or her as a freshman to begin the college exploration process. Getting on the counselor’s radar as a serious, future-minded student early will pay dividends later on.

5. Take advantage of summer. The summer after freshman year is a great time for your child to land his or her first job, volunteer with a local organization or attend a program on a college campus — even if he or she desires a restful summer break. Such an accomplishment refines your student’s college search before his or her sophomore year commences.


Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. He is also a co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at collegetransitions.com.

 

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About this Blog

College Transitions

Expert advice for finding the right fit


About This Blog

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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Calendar

January 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
Website »

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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

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Ages 5-18 try curling, a sport built on a tradition of sportsmanship and sociability. Equipment provided. Wear warm clothes and sneakers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Triangle Curling Club
2310 So Hi Dr.
Durham, NC  27703
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Sponsor: Triangle Curling
Telephone: 919-818-1177
Contact Name: Dina Gerber
Website »

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Enjoy a sneak peek of the new Goldfish Swim School in Wake Forest. Meet staff, learn more about Goldfish Swim School programs and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Goldfish Swim School Wake Forest
14460 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27614
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Sponsor: Goldfish Swim School Wake Forest
Telephone: (919) 435-3753
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Celebrate community heroes on MLK Day at Marbles. From 10am-2pm, meet real community heroes like a paramedic, teacher and police officer. Be a hero by packing food for Backpack Buddies to...

Cost: $7 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Rale, NC
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Website »

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Spend the afternoon helping to maintain and beautify the area around Good Hope Farm in honor of MLK Jr. Day of Service. All ages. Volunteers age 15 and younger must be accompanied by an...

Cost: Free

Where:
Good Hope Farm
1580 Morrisville Carpenter Rd.
Cary, NC
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Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday with cake, crafts, storytime and various activities for kids of all ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Northgate Mall
1058 West Club Blvd.
, NC
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Website »

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Book Harvest hosts the Dream Big Book Drive, a community-wide celebration of diversity, literacy and books for all children. Donate new or gently used children’s book, volunteer to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Book Harvest
Telephone: (252) 497-BOOK
Contact Name: Daniele Berman
Website »

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Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and view digital art created by local youth. Enjoy refreshments, networking and artwork created by youth in the community based...

Cost: Free

Where:
Microsoft Store at the Streets at Southpoint Mall
6910 Fayetteville Rd.
Suite 174
Durham, NC  27713
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Sponsor: Microsoft
Telephone: (919) 361-3140
Contact Name: Sherry del Rosario
Website »

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Enjoy the story "Snowballs" by Lois Ehlert and enjoy time outdoors. Ages 18 mos-3 yrs with caregiver. Register online. 

Cost: $2/child

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

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Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $80-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

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Rising kindergartners and their families learn about Wake County magnet elementary programs. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Washington Magnet Elementary
1000 Fayetteville Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

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Learn what wild animals do in winter as they hibernate, migrate and stay warm in the cold woods. Ages 3-5 with adult enjoy a hike, do a craft and learn how to help...

Cost: $3; no fee for accompanying adult

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

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Enjoy the first live theatrical production based on Shopkins, the wildly successful brand launched in 2014. The Shoppies and Shopkins characters will take to the stage in performance featuring...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $80-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Explore a part of art. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore a part of art. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join local churches and community organizations for a public celebration honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Friendship Chapel Baptist Church
237 Friendship Chapel Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

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Head out to Lake Crabtree to learn all about our most commonly seen mammal. Spy on the gray squirrels that abound in the park. Park staff will answer all your gnawing questions about squirrel...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Make a craft and sing favorite songs. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #111599.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts and History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC
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Website »

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Learn how to express yourself with color, pattern and imagery as you make your own art book with artist Anna Podris. All ages and skill levels welcome. Materials provided.

Cost: $10/member, $15/nonmember

Where:
Artspace
201 E. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 919-821-2787
Website »

More information

Go nutty for nature as children satisfy some of their curiosity about the world around them and parents share in the joy of discovery. Ages 3-5 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Celebrate Zaniac's first year in business by attending an open house event with free course demos, hands-on activities, a scavenger hunt and cake. Sample camp and after-school programs,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Zaniac
1206 Parkside Main St.
Cary, NC  27519
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Sponsor: Zaniac
Telephone: 919-342-8536
Contact Name: Matthew Pepe
Website »

More information

This annual festival features more than 75 musicians, storytellers, dancers, chefs, historians, playwrights, authors, artists, re-enactors and more. Enjoy dancers, singers, storytellers and...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn what wild animals do in winter as they hibernate, migrate and stay warm in the cold woods. Ages 3-5 with adult enjoy a hike, do a craft and learn how to help wildlife friends...

Cost: $3; no fee for accompanying adult

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
Website »

More information

Look up close and untangle clues to find the hidden story in works of art. Ages 5-11 with caregiver.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a puppetry arts program inspired by the children's book "The Interrupting Chicken" by David Ezra Stein. Ages 4-9. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Branch Library
900 Old Fayetteville Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Carrboro Branch Public Library
Telephone: 919-969-3008
Contact Name: Jody Smith
Website »

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Each year, Cranberry Tree Farm donates its unsold trees to the Conservators Center for its animals to enjoy as a special form of holiday enrichment. During this walkabout, watch as wild animals...

Cost: See the website for fees.

Where:
Conservators Center
676 E. Hughes Mill Rd.
Burlington, NC  27217
View map »


Telephone: 888-650-1139
Website »

More information

Learn about local birds and build a bird box. All ages with adult. Register online.

Cost: $18/resident, $24/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Take part in an event run by Triangle TechGirlz. Learn about networks that are connecting objects and devices to make our lives better, in the same way that social media does. From cars to...

Cost: Free

Where:
IBM RTP - Employee Activity & Fitness Center
3039 E. Cornwallis Rd.
Durham, NC  27703
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Sponsor: TechGirlz
Contact Name: Jane Bossert
Website »

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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

More information

Stop in and experience Rock Band at Bach to Rock Music School. The band program starts at age 7.

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
958 U.S. Highway 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach to Rock
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

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Girls ages 11 and older enjoy a manicure and pedicure, makeup application or face painting, and a tiara-making station. Punch and snacks served. Register online. Choose course #111626.

Cost: $11/resident, $15/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Website »

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Take a new or gently-used children’s book for donation to benefit kids in Wake County. Also enjoy special celebrity story times, craft activities, balloon...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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​Sibshops give brothers and sisters of kids with special needs an opportunity to meet other siblings in a relaxed, recreational setting to explore their feelings in creative, light...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hargraves Community Center
216 N. Roberson St.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Adapted Recreation & Inclusion program: Chapel Hill Parks & Recreation
Telephone: 919 968-2813
Contact Name: Marian Kaslovsky
Website »

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Take a hike to listen for owl calls and learn why these creatures are well adapted to living in darkness. After the hike, enjoy s’mores around  acampfire while practicing...

Cost: $4/person

Where:
Durant Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Website »

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