Three students standing in the hallway, laughing and looking down at homework

9th Grade Checklist: Steps for Success

Starting Strong with Your High School Career

Why it’s important to plan early

When you’re entering 9th grade, the four years till graduation can seem like a very long way off.

In reality, the time between your freshmen fall semester and your college application due dates is 40 months.

Believe us, the time flies by!

For students looking to attend top universities, these 40 months are going to be packed with a huge list of “to-dos” to accomplish. In order to be a truly competitive candidate for elite colleges, you have to gain top grades, top test scores, and have meaningful extracurricular activities, accolades, letters of recommendation, along with a compelling application essay.

There’s no way to accomplish all of these items unless you start early. Plus, most students want to actually have time left over for a life in high school: friends, experiences, and good memories.

Getting Started

It’s normal to quickly feel overwhelmed, behind,  and unprepared.

But all you really need is a plan!

Below is our 9th grade checklist detailing what you should accomplish during your freshmen year and when you should accomplish it. We’ve also included the MEK Review courses that will best help you accomplish these goals. This will help you create a plan and stay on track.

Remember, this is a checklist for top achievers, so always keep in mind your key priorities:

  • Grades
  • Your well-being


Grades are the most important factor for college admissions, and your well-being is the most important factor period. This plan should help eliminate stress by dividing 40 months of work more evenly across your four years of high school. You don’t want to end up stressed and overworked during your junior year.

9th Grade Checklist: Before 9th grade

Closeup of Young Woman Studying Outside

Remember, we said to start early and divide the work over time.

Preparing early and consistently is the key to not becoming overwhelmed during the fall and spring semester. Start your high school career on the right note by entering your freshmen year confident and ready.

With that said, here is your to-do list:

1. Prepare for more rigorous high school math and science classes

Many students struggle with the environment changes, increased expectations, and decreased one-on-one help during high school. Add new and challenging courses to the mix, and you’ll see why many freshmen’s grades dip. Check out our H.S. Honors courses, designed specifically to help future freshmen avoid this problem by learning exemplary Algebra or Algebra II skills and learning  up to 60% of the upcoming curriculum in courses such as Geometry, Biology, or Chemistry.

During our Summer 2024 Early Bird Discount, available until 3/31, get 20% off your registration when you put down a $300 deposit and another 5% off if you pay in full before the deadline! Plus, save an additional 10% on our select course combinations!

2. Prepare for high school English and PSAT/SAT Reading and Writing

During the summer, start preparing for the PSAT and SAT test.

You may be thinking, “Wait. Isn’t it way too early to start?”


Studies show that students who typically do the best on the PSAT or SAT are those who had early exposure to the test. 

Remember, start early and divide the work over time. Core is a prime example of this concept. Finishing SAT Prep by your sophomore year, frees up significant time in your junior year to complete the many other tasks you need for your college application.

Plus, SAT prep boosts students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary, writing skills, and grammar and mechanics — all essential skills needed for honors English.

3. Create strong study habits

Another skill we focus on in our H.S. Honors classes is teaching students how to take notes, how to study, and how to master more dense and difficult material. These are each key skills students have to develop in high school.

Once you know what classes you’ll be taking freshmen year, it’s time to create a solid routine.  Map out a schedule of all the classes, activities, and commitments you have over the course of a week, then schedule when and where you will study or complete assignments for each class. Once the school year begins, you can adjust the plan as needed. But coming to the first day of class with a plan already in mind is a great way to start!

9th Grade Checklist: Fall – 5 months

In your first semester of high school, it’s crucial you start off strong in your grades and accomplishments. You don’t want to have to play catch up during your junior and senior year. Fall Semester is when the 40 months officially begins!

1. Boost your GPA

Your attention should be completely focused on your grades. Make sure you read the syllabus, talk to your teachers, and write down all relevant information in your student planner. You should have a crystal clear idea of the homework, tests, and expectations required for each class. Check out common myths about high school GPA.

2. Build a strong foundation

Make sure you have a strong core understanding of each new topic you encounter in the classroom. If you’re fuzzy on an idea or feel like you’re groping in the dark, it will affect your grades eventually. Academic topics build upon one another, so you want to make sure you have a strong base. If you feel weak in certain core academic areas such as math, reading, or writing, take advantage of our course prep programs. 

To get the most out of your study sessions, check out this blog on the top worst study habits and how to break them.

3. Continue PSAT/SAT prep

Keep building up your familiarity and content mastery of college admission tests through our SAT Prep programs!

4. Explore extracurricular activities

Now is the time to explore different activities that might interest you. At this point, you don’t have to deeply commit to any of the activities, but you won’t know if you’re passionate about a club, organization, or community service project unless you check them out!

9th Grade Checklist: Spring – 5 months

1. Boost your GPA

Always stay focused on maintaining high grades. Adjust your study routine as needed to give yourself more time to focus on areas of struggle. Check out our blog for more tips and tricks.

2. Build a strong foundation

Keep working on building a strong academic foundation. 

3. Continue exploring extracurricular activities

Your high school will undoubtedly offer more options for extracurricular activities. Make sure you keep exploring the different events and competitions in which you can participate.

Next Steps for Success

Complete these items and you’ve set yourself up for success over the remaining 3 years! If you’re struggling in a certain area – grades, test prep, study habits – MEK Review is here to guide you every step of the way.

One of the best ways to ensure a successful school year is to prepare early. We offer various summer and fall courses for your high schooler, such as High School Honors course prep and AP course prep, which are designed to help you succeed as the new school year unfolds.

Call 855-346-1410 to sign up today.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

Up next! 10th grade checklist


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