How to Make the First Two Years of High School Count
A student’s final two years of high school always gets the most attention. Parents and students search for resources, teachers, and tutoring to help with grades, SAT/ACT scores, and college applications.
However, by the time students reach 11th grade, they are already on a specific path created by their GPA, academic skills, and study habits from freshman and sophomore years.
If a student begins their high school career strong, it is much easier for them to maintain and build on strengths in 11th and 12th grade. However, if a student struggles during their freshmen and sophomore years, that struggle usually continues when they become upperclassmen.
Tutoring and early preparation can help. Waiting until 11th grade, however, before finding necessary academic support, often leads to a larger uphill mountain to climb and lower chances of reaching your full potential.
That’s why it’s extremely important to take the first 2 years of high school just as seriously as the last 2 years.
Read below to discover 3 of the best ways to set yourself up for success in your 9th and 10th grade year.
Tip #1. Make grades your top priority.
This first tip may seem obvious. However, you’d be surprised about the common misconceptions students have about 9th and 10th grade years.
Common Grade Myths
- I don’t really need to worry about grades until I’m an upperclassmen.
- My classes won’t really be hard until 11th grade.
- I got all A’s in 8th grade, so I definitely will get A’s in high school too.
- If my grades do drop, I have plenty of time to make it up before college applications.
Statistically, grades drop the most during freshmen year of high school. Harder curriculums, less teacher attention, and the need for more disciplined self-studying are all reasons for why a student’s high school GPA takes a hit in 9th and 10th grade.
It’s important to get ahead of the curve early to avoid this type of drop. Contrary to popular belief, it’s very hard to make drastic changes in your GPA during the last 2 years of high school. Remember, every year of high school, the classes get harder; plus, you’ll be busier!
Steps You Can Take:
- Talk to your teachers.
- Come up with a study plan at the beginning of the year.
- Reach out for help whenever you need it.
- Seek AP and Honors tutoring to help you overcome obstacles.
Don’t forget: help isn’t just for when there is a disaster like a failing test or class. Find support early to get ahead and stay ahead. You will want to put yourself on a high-level, stress-free path to college!
Tip #2. Get a jump start on the SAT Reading and Writing section.
There are multiple reasons to prepare early for the SAT, especially for the English sections. The SAT is a college readiness test but it also utilizes skills that you will need in the classroom.
If you take a practice SAT early on, you may get a strong idea of your skill levels in core areas such as reading, writing, and math. This can help you judge how you will do in your high school courses. But on top of just taking a practice test, studies show that early preparation in the SAT Reading and Writing section can positively impact your grades and your final SAT or ACT scores.
While you may not cover certain math topics until sophomore or junior year, the Reading and Writing sections of the SAT simply require strong reading comprehension, critical thinking, and writing skills.
These are the same skills you need to do well in your English courses. Improving reading comprehension, however, takes time. It requires constant exposure to different types of texts, boosting your vocabulary, and strategy.
If you start familiarizing yourself with SAT content early and working on the above skills, your chances of reaching a top SAT score exponentially increases.
Lastly, if you begin early preparation on the SAT, you can also finalize your test scores much earlier than most of your peers. Many of our students finish in the summer or early in the Fall of their 11th grade year. This gives them the rest of junior year to worry about other college application considerations such as AP exams, SAT Subject tests, and of course, grades!
Tip #3. Prepare for the PSAT.
While this our final tip, it’s really the final benefit of tip #2.
If you prepare early for the SAT, you are also simultaneously preparing for the Preliminary SAT that you take in 11th grade. The PSAT is just a slightly shorter, easier version of the SAT. They have the same format, cover the same content, and are created by the same company.
You can take the practice PSAT in 10th grade. However, the one that really counts is the one you take in 11th grade.
If you score high enough on the PSAT, you will qualify to be a National Merit Scholar on the Commended or Semifinalist level. Once qualified, you can complete the application process to be named a Finalist.
Achieving National Merit Scholar is a prestigious distinction with many positive benefits. For one, it looks great on a college application! It is a significant academic achievement that only about 16,000 out of about 1.6 million test-takers achieve every year.
But even more importantly, as the name suggests, it qualifies you for college scholarships! You can earn National Merit, corporate-sponsored, or college-sponsored scholarships. Some colleges will even pay your full tuition!
Since you would usually take this test in October of your 11th grade year, it’s important to prepare early to earn this amazing distinction.
To get there, you should:
- Prepare for the SAT in general.
- Take the 10th grade PSAT very seriously. (Some schools even allow students to take the PSAT in 9th grade!) Study for this test beforehand as if it was the real deal.
Your Next Steps
By making these 3 things your key priorities in 9th and 10th grade, you can set yourself up for success in 11th and 12th grade.
You will give yourself a much greater chance at academic achievement, college acceptance to prestigious universities, and scholarships to pay for college. What’s more, you will enjoy your 4 years of high school much more without needing to panic or scramble during your junior and senior years.
Knowing how important these 3 steps are for high school and college opportunities, MEK has designed the following courses to help:
Our AP classes can help students get a head start on their future AP courses or help them master material while they’re taking the class in school.
Our HS Honors courses are designed for high-achieving students, who want to ace advanced math and science courses such as Algebra 2, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus or Biology, Chemistry, or Physics.
We can’t wait to hear from you!
P.S. For a more in-depth review of everything you need to accomplish in 9th and 10th grade, check out our master checklists!