Regardless of your performance in 9th grade, as a 10th grader, you’ll need to seize more opportunities in exploring and diving into your field of interest. Be proactive in building a competitive resume, so you can be accepted to your dream school!
In this post, we will share the 8 things that 10th graders must do to stay ahead of other students.
What must students do while in 10th grade?
1. Be more involved in your activities, and find opportunities to lead
If you are able to start participating in activities in 9th grade, you may have the opportunity to run for board positions in 10th grade. Begin to take on more important roles in the organization, whether it is running for a position or proactively create events or other opportunities. If your role in the organization becomes more and more important, you will have a good chance to run for even higher positions such as club president, vice president, or captain). However, if you are still just a “regular” member in the group in 11th grade, you will have a hard time running and being elected as the president or vice president in 12th grade.
If you haven’t found an activity that you are interested in, you should use your 10th grade to continue to participate in different activities. From your experience in those activities, figure out which ones you enjoy doing, can contribute, or can show your talent.
Lastly, if you haven’t started doing any activity in 9th grade, 10th grade is a good time to start. Starting to participate in extracurricular activities in 10th grade means starting 1 year later than those who have started in 9th grade, but it still gives you time to take on a significant role in 11th and 12th grade.
2. Maintain your stellar GPA
Most colleges will consider your grades starting in 9th grade, so we hope your grades in 9th grade are stellar. Maintain your excellent grades in 10th grade.
However, if your grades in 9th grades are not satisfactory, don’t worry too much. Colleges will look at your overall GPA, but they will also consider the trend in your GPA. This means that, although 9th grade GPA is very important, if your 10th and 11th grade GPAs are great, you can show an upward trend in your grades, which will still help you. If you get a chance to read admissions requirement for UCLA or admissions requirement for Berkeley, you’ll see that UC schools put a lot of emphasis in 10th and 11th grades.
Though, with that said, getting 3 years of straight A’s is, of course, still better than getting a year of C’s and then 2 years of A’s.
3. Try to take rigorous courses
If your school is under the IB (International Baccalaureate) system, you probably won’t be able to take advanced, IB courses until you’re in 11th grade. However, if your school is under the AP (Advanced Placement) system, you may be able to start taking AP classes this year–or even in 9th grade already. In this case, if you are able to handle your regular or honors courses, you may want to consider taking some AP courses in 10th grade.
If your school doesn’t offer AP courses or tests for 10th graders, you should still try to challenge yourself with honors courses and do well in them. These difficult courses will not only make you very competitive when applying to colleges but also make courses in 11th grade easier.
When you are deciding what classes to take, you can focus on choosing classes that you may be interested in taking in college. For example, if you are interested in math or engineering majors, you can take honors 10th grade math (typically, this is geometry, math 2, or math 10) or even petition to skip to 11th grade math (typically, this is pre-calculus or math 11). You can also take engineering-related classes like AP Computer Science. These courses will help you explore your potential fields of interest once you are in college.
4. Prepare for standardized tests (PSAT/SAT/ACT/TOEFL/IELTS)
PSAT (aka NMSQT): Almost all schools in the US and almost all international schools will offer 10th graders to take the PSAT. Through PSAT, you can get a free, official assessment on your SAT score, which will help you figure out what SAT subjects you should focus on studying. Taking PSAT in 10th grade will also help you understand what PSAT is like, which will help you in taking the PSAT in 11th grade. If you do well on the PSAT at that time, you can apply for a National Merit Scholarship。
SAT/ACT: You should start planning for your SAT/ACT study schedule. Starting to prepare for the SAT/ACT in 10th grade may be considered “early” because your scores will (or should) naturally increase as your English and math get better in 11th and 12th grade; however, if you start preparing for these tests in 9th or 10th grade, your English and math ability will improve earlier, which will very likely help you get a higher SAT/ACT score in the end!
There are only benefits in starting your preparations early. If you start in 10th grade and realize your progress is slower than expected, you still have 1.5 years in 11th grade and first semester of 12th to continue your preparation. Having extra time will definitely hep you reduce some stress in high school.
Regarding when you should start your SAT/ACT preparation, you can take a look at the video (in Chinese) below:
TOEFL/IELTS: If English is your second language, or if your situation requires you to take TOEFL or IELTS, you can take the test as early as in December in your 10th grade.
TOEFL score is quite nice in that its tens and hundreds place digits represent your grade level–for example, as a 10th grader, if your English ability is that of native English speakers, you should be able to score around 100 on the TOEFL test (which is about 7 on the IELTS) without preparation. If you haven’t been able to do that, please work really hard in getting 100 on your TOEFL test. This will not only pull your English ability up to par with 10th grade native students but also cross out an important item on your application check list, allowing you to focus your attention on other tasks.
5. Start to learn about colleges, and start to draft your college list
Even though you are not applying to colleges for another 2 years, it’s already time for you to start thinking about which colleges you want to study in. Many college counselors will recommend students to wait until the summer before 12th grade to create a college list; however, if you can start your college research process, you will have 2.5 years and not just half a year to learn more about these colleges. Just like how you should move to a new environment only after learning much about that area, or become a person’s boyfriend or girlfriend after knowing that person for a while, you should also spend some time learning more about the school before you call a school your dream school.
Also, most college application consultants in Asia love to pull out college ranking lists like the newest US News Report College Rankings or the newest QS University Rankings to have students choose colleges. However, almost all college application consultants in the US use a very different method to choose colleges.
Instead of choosing colleges based on scores and rankings, experienced college consultants will advise students to put emphasis in other more subjective factors, such as the following:
- School location: do you like the east coast or the west coast? Do you think schools in the north will be too cold?
- School size: do you like schools with thousands of students or just hundreds?
- Type of school: do you like schools that focus on depth, like engineering schools, or schools that focus on breath, like liberal arts schools?
- School resources: do these schools have the courses or clubs that you are interested?
- Student life: What do students in this school typically do every day?
In order to truly get to know colleges, you have to spend some time learning about them. That’s the only way for you to find your Mr./Ms. Right.
6. Get to know the college counselors in your high school
Students should not wait until after 10th grade to begin thinking about their colleges, but students often think they’re “too young” and feel lost in the college application process. When this happens, the best person to go for help–other than a paid, 3-rd party college admissions counselor, is your school’s college counselor.
The college counselor in your school will offer you support along the way to make sure you’re on your way to get into a great college 3 years from now. They are experienced in the college application process; at this time, you should get to know your college counselor, get him/her to know you, and ask that person to help you get to know some colleges. However, if your college counselor in school is too busy to take care of all the students, or if that person isn’t as experienced as you wish, then you need to quickly find a college admissions counselor to help you properly plan for colleges.
7. Think about and plan for your future
Think about the following two questions. Do you have answers to them yet?
- Have you found your interest and the major that you want to study in college?
- At this moment, what is your dream job in the future?
These are huge questions to answer, but they are also extremely important. That’s why Ivy-Way’s college admissions counselors always ask our counseling students these questions in 10th grade. Obviously, students interests and directions can change at any time, but if you can have general or temporary field(s) of interest, you will know what you should be doing now instead of “going to Cambodia to build houses” or teaching English, just like all the other students. By doing things that are specifically interesting to you and building your own resume according to your interests and skills, you will stand out among the rest.
You can learn more about how exploring your major and future will help with your college application through this TEDx video:
8. Start doing the things that 11th graders must do
The first 7 items on this list are things that excellent students must do in 10th grade. If you can complete all of them and want to stand out even more among these excellent 10th graders, then you should start working on the 8 things that 11th graders must do right now.
You can think of this as staying ahead in a race: when all 10th graders become 11th graders next year and just start working on what 11th graders need to do, you are working on them this year already, or have even finished them and have started on the 8 things that 12th graders must do. You will be in a much better position than any other 10th graders.
Action plan: what should you do next?
We recommend 10th graders to follow these steps to have a successful year:
- Do your best in tasks #1-7 in this list, so you are better than all other 10th graders in and outside of school.
- After finishing tasks #1-7, work on task #8 and begin working on things that 11th graders must do, so you will be forever ahead of other students in your grade.
- If you encounter any challenges along the way, or if you feel lost or confused, you must find a college counselor to help you as early as possible. Ivy-Way provides application counseling services to guide students according to their individual needs and make sure 10th graders can do all the right things that will help them stand out in their college application to top universities.