Make No Mistake, 10th Grade Counts!

While Most High Schools and Families Emphasize 11th and 12th Grade Performance, College Admission Staff Insist That 10th Grade is Just as Important

Somewhere along the way, a false notion became conventional wisdom with local schools and families. The lingering incorrect idea is that the first two years of high school are less consequential in the college admission process than the final two. In fact, there are some who falsely believe that 9th and 10th grade do not matter at all. Well, this notion is flat out wrong.

In fact, the college admissions staff that we talk to (at SMU, UT-Austin, USC, Vanderbilt, Trinity, and Texas A&M to name a few), advise that 4 semesters make or break a student’s chance of admission: Fall and Spring of 10th grade and Fall and Spring of 11th grade. For years, we have advised families that 10th grade performance, both academically and activity-wise, is what separates the winners from the also-rans in terms of college admission success. Yet, somehow this understanding has not become wide-spread.

Why has early high school performance become so important? The increased scrutiny of the first two years of high school followed from the rising demand for early admission decisions and is now applied to all applicants. Here’s why: Many college admission decisions are made before the final grades from first semester of 12th grade are received. With so many families opting for early admission, many local students will have heard an admissions decision from each of their prospective colleges by Christmas. In other words, the college will have assessed the student’s application without any information about grades during the first semester of 12th grade. Even for those applying via regular decision deadlines, 9th and 10th grade performance will be heavily scrutinized. Admissions policy dictates that what is true for early applicants is also true for regular applicants.

Our logic has always been the following: Every student and family in America knows that 11th grade is crucial and all will do their best to achieve the highest grades possible and build a strong resume of extracurricular activities. But, most families and high schools treat 10th grade as an afterthought. If a student can put together a strong 10th grade year, he/she will stand out from the crowd.


So, how do we get 10th graders to stand out? We introduce them to college options so that they can connect current results with future plans. Suddenly, the end of high school seems much closer and academic motivation goes up dramatically. Sophomores perform at a much higher level when they are informed about the consequences of lower performance. Students who have clear goals and appropriate support are much more likely to achieve planned results. Remember, a third party, objective voice can often make a bigger impact than Mom and Dad when it comes to issues of academic performance. We also help 10th graders focus in on those activities that excite and absorb them and highlight their most attractive traits to college admission staff.

The typical family will cram the process of college admission into a very small time-frame and create unnecessary tension at home. Instead of feeling informed and confident about their plans and certain about their choices, families who wait to get started feel rushed, stressed, and overwhelmed. Many will have waited too long to resolve academic or personal issues or have missed opportunities to boost their chances of admission to top college choices. Contrastingly, by starting the college planning process in 10th grade, your family can be certain that you have the time to complete the necessary steps in a consistent and stress-free manner.

Do not make the mistake of buying into conventional wisdom. Get the expert advice that your family needs today. Allow us to guide and inform your family. Let us help your son or daughter to perform at his/her best immediately so that future options are not closed off. Help your son or daughter to stand out from the crowd so that he/she has a leg up on the competition.



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