Attention 9th and 10th graders! One of the best parts about being an “underclassman” is that you have more time than juniors and seniors to try new things. By the time you get to 11th and 12th grades, you’ll have harder classes and more demanding teachers; more standardized tests with higher stakes; and college visits and applications to contend with. So enjoy your relative freedom while you can and take advantage of opportunities to try new things.
What new things, you ask? Good question, glad you’re paying attention. Start with your hobbies and interests—what we in the college admissions industry call “passions”—and see whether you can pursue or develop those interests in school clubs or after-school activities. Play an instrument? Join the concert band or jazz band or pep band. Or maybe start your own band. Like taking pictures and posting them on Facebook (or not posting them on Facebook)? Go to some school sporting events with your camera and then submit your work to the school newspaper or magazine. Or perhaps a local paper or website. Like to help others? Get involved in school-sponsored community service. Or community service outside your school for that matter, particularly if it’s in an area that speaks to another one of your passions; for example, if you love soccer, try volunteering to coach at an elementary school or at the Special Olympics or in your town’s recreational or travel team leagues. Like to argue, to fight for social justice, to act, to tell jokes? Try the debate team or mock trial or model UN or your school’s social action club or gay-straight alliance or drama society or comedians club. What, you say, your school doesn’t have all those clubs? Well, then, take some initiative and start one! When I was in high school I started a pep band to show up at football and basketball games (which was a blast and no doubt helped me get into some colleges), and recent CPE students have founded school spirit clubs (to bolster attendance at athletic events), ultimate frisbee clubs, and a social activism club. Find a faculty advocate and get going!
Trying new things in 9th and 10th grades will help you home in on your interests–help you discover your passions–which you can then pursue in leadership positions as a junior and senior. One college admissions point to keep in mind is that for every Activity you report on your CommonApp–from sports to extracurriculars to community service to paid jobs–you are OBLIGATED to indicate which of your four high school years you pursued it (see CommonApp screen capture at right). Getting involved in activities, in and out of school, early in your high school career will enable you to have at least some Activities where you can check off 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. Admissions committees these days tend to prefer depth to breadth.
By getting involved NOW, you can kill two birds with the same stone: Discover what you love AND better position yourself in the college admissions game.