What is the most important year of high school? Countless families ask this question as they hope that it hasn’t passed their students by with mediocre results. Some might say senior year. After all, that’s when students apply to college, right? In reality, colleges see at most the first half of senior year, and many won’t see students’ senior accomplishments at all before making admissions decisions. Others might say Junior year, as that is usually the busiest whole academic year and the first year that students take a large number of Advanced Placement and honors courses. This is certainly the case, but there lies a year even more crucial to students’ high school and, ultimately, college success: freshman year.
While later high school years may be more challenging academically, 9th grade holds its own difficulties for students. In the American school system, this is usually students’ first year at a new school. They must navigate a new building, new social hierarchies, new friendships, and new academic standards all while trying to maintain their grades. Unsurprisingly, many students cannot do all these things at the same time. When freshman year is one of only three years that colleges will see in their entirety, however, slipping can be catastrophic. Countless ambitious students will find their dream schools statistically impossible after getting a handful of B+s in freshman year.
Build an Academic Foundation
Freshman year is also immensely important for students’ future academic options. In many schools, Honors and AP classes do not exist in a vacuum. They require many different earlier courses, especially in the case of STEM subjects. This is most commonly the case in math tracks, where in order to take calculus by senior year, students must take geometry in their freshman year and succeed well enough to stay on that track. In other words, the classes students take freshman year to govern what classes they can take in each successive year. Going light in 9th grade can render certain 11th and 12th grade classes impossible, and with the chances at elite colleges.
Participation in extracurricular activities is also most important in freshman year, for two reasons. First, colleges value deep commitment to activities, and the more four- and five-year activities students have on their resumes, the better. More importantly, however, is that to scale the hierarchy of leadership in time for college applications, students need to get involved early. The title of club president or its equivalent is often only realistically available to those that have put in years as members and then minor functionaries. You can’t join an organization in 11th grade and expect to reach any role offering great leadership and responsibility.
For all the reasons, freshman year is by far the most important year in a student’s high school career. If students are struggling, we highly recommend you seek out an educational consultant immediately to get them back on the course for success.
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Tags: Higher Education, College, College Admissions, College Applications, College Counseling, College Counselors, College Consultants, GPA, Grades, Extracurricular Activities, Extracurriculars, Leadership, High School, Freshman Year, Sophomore Year, Junior Year, Senior Year, 9th Grade, Ninth Grade, 10th Grade, Tenth Grade, 11th Grade, Eleventh Grade, 12th Grade, Twelfth Grade