Is 9th Grade Too Soon To Start the College Admissions Process?

Ninth grade is the time to start looking for a college according to some educators. In New York, a number of new for-profit schools have opened that start college counseling for students who have barely started high school. Léman Manhattan indeed has seventh- and eighth-graders take a 3-day trip in the spring to visit college campuses. This school and another one called Avenues also advise parents about how to have students shape their “high school career” so as to make an applicant as appealing as possible.

Eleventh grade is the traditional time at which high schools have had students start planning for college. The New York Times quotes administrators from two elite private schools, Trinity School and Ethical Culture Fieldston School, who feel that starting any earlier puts too much pressure on students and turns high school into, in the words of the head of college counseling at Trinity, Larry Momo, “résumé building.”

Administrators at the for-profit schools counter that starting in the junior year of high school means that a student has lost valuable time to, in particular, make the best use of their summers, via internships or other activities.

(One does have to wonder: Are such for-profit schools measuring their “profits” based on where their graduates go to college?)

Lost in the discussion is one vital question: Are students as young as 14 (or younger) really ready to make decisions that will affect not only the next several years of their lives, but potentially their entire futures? Many of the freshman students that I talk to have no idea what they want to major in, let alone what sort of job and career they would like to pursue. Even the students who start college with what they say are very definite plans — medical school, a career in law — often find that they would really rather do something else, a decision reached largely as a result of them maturing, figuring out their own interests and inclinations, sizing up options and realities.

Should all of high school be exclusively devoted to preparing for college? Or is turning high school into full-time college prep quite missing the point about what education should be for a teenager, “allowing kids to develop their natural talents and inclinations and support those inclinations” as counselor Momo says?

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Photo of prospective students on a college campus tour by Peter Gene


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

9th grade is too soon to DECIDE on a school, but it is never too soon to begin visiting and looking at options. Especially if you a) know what you plan on doing or b) want to see what colleges have to offer before you try to narrow it down.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago

I'd say...

Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P5 years ago

yes grade 9 is too early, students are only 14 at that point and it might mess up their chances of getting into a university or college

Joan Mcallister
5 years ago

I don't see the harm in looking, it will give them some idea of what will be expected of them in the coming 3 years if they want to be able to get into the college of their choice.

Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

US places too much emphasis on college- because its all about money not ability. And a college degree today is not as good as a high school degree from 1845

Dave C.
David C5 years ago

expectations that one will go to college okay....applications no way......

J C Bro
J C Brou5 years ago

i say yes. 9th grade? more and more kids can't spell in the 12th!

Ra Sc
Ra Sc5 years ago

Ninth grade isn't too soon to start learning about your options. I think it'd be good to start kids sooner, but not with a lot of pressure. Let them start learning about colleges in ninth, then learn more about what it takes to get into one in tenth. The problem with cramming it all into eleventh grade is that kids don't have time to research their options or learn about which types of colleges might be right for them. They don't even know which questions to ask, and it makes eleventh grade very stressful. Spreading it out more would be helpful.

Dominic C.
Dominic C5 years ago

People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. only see college as mere desires, perhaps for their elders, but they took the wise decision and lean towards their passion. Frederick Smith, the founder of FedEX, and the pioneer of the very competitive courier service, whilst attending Yale, wrote a paper for an economics class, outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age. His professors did not believe such a possibility and he received a "C." Look what is FedEX today... and what do you think that academician or professor would have think today. P. W. Singer who wrote Wired For War also was challenged by his professors (at Princeton) that the idea of using robotics for war could be an interesting script out of the Star Trek series. Look at the Drones how much they have accomplished in the last 5 years on the war on terror. Kids who do have passion must be persuaded, many great people of today are these "nerds" who think differently than most people even whilst they are young.

Dominic C.
Dominic C5 years ago

College has become commercialized. Everyone wants to get a paper certification because we all have to join the rat race. When the rat race becomes too competitive, parents push harder, wanting their children to be doctors, lawyers, CPA Accountants, etc. Everyone wants to have at least a monthly salary of 5 figures; everyone wants to be in the rat race quick and retire faster; everyone wants to be recognized in his or her field of work and make money from that. Some kids mature faster and wanted to be adults soon; perhaps its not the college but the research; perhaps its not the college but the academics. Some kids are savant in maths, physics, chemistry and languages. Some kids have trouble spelling, have ADHD, does not like education at all. BUT IN THE END WE STILL HAVE TO LIVE.