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When should I start researching colleges I want to go to and how do I know what I want to major in?

I am a 9th-grade student, I am into a range of different things such as art and law. I have a lot of things I'm passionate about and I want to be able to incorporate them into my future career.

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Subject: Career question for you

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Nandini’s Answer

Hello Sky,

As my peers mentioned before me, around ninth grade is a good time for you to start researching for college.
Below are some of the things you can do to get started on your journey in identifying what you would enjoy doing for a large part of your life! :)

1. What are you fields of interests? I would go back to a year or two and think about what still interests you. Whatever you choose for your college, you will be studying that subject for a couple years - so I would pick something that you are genuinely interested in.
2. Do you envision a future in that field - Take a reality check. Do you see yourself getting a job in your field of interest and supporting yourself and your family with that income?
3. Affordability - Are there good colleges that can offer your field of study with affordable tuition?
4. Talk to people close to you - your friends, family, some of your teachers and/ or guidance counselors and see that they think.
5. Once you slim down your list of majors, talk to people who are either still studying that major or have graduated and get their opinion as well.

Best of luck!
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Doc’s Answer

Sky high school is a time for teens to figure out what it is you might be interested in pursuing in college. This can be done through internships, after-school jobs, and school clubs. All of these, along with your grades, help you build your resume necessary for getting into a college of your choice. Something that seems far off during your freshman year, but it will come in the blink of an eye in the next three years.

FRESHMAN YEAR - Focus on core subjects like English, math, science, history and foreign language. Colleges would much rather see good grades in a lower-level class than horrible grades in a high-level class, colleges will just want to see your grades improve in future semesters. Join teams and clubs, participate in extracurricular activities, take enrichment classes, and start volunteering to explore outside interests and hobbies. College admissions departments want to see a crafted narrative—the story of what kind of student you are, what you enjoy, where you excel and what unique qualities you can bring to their school. These experiences will be an ideal starting point for your college application.

SOPHOMORE YEAR - By the time you’re a sophomore, you may have already realized why preparing for college requires a four-year plan. Your current school work and activities are beginning to pile up, so it’s natural for you not to think about anything but the present. Check back with your counselor and see how you are doing academically and whether you’re on track with your yearly plan.

JUNIOR YEAR - Your junior year of high school is usually the most difficult. Not only is it the year in which you take your toughest classes, but it's also the year in which talk about college prep is the most intense. But don't worry; you still have time to do what you need to do. Continue to meet with your counselor and ask questions to make sure you’re academically secure to graduate high school. You can also make sure you know the academic requirements for the colleges and universities you might want to attend and see if you are academically secure for those, too.

SENIOR YEAR - You made it to your last year of high school. Congratulations are in order, but don't relax just yet. It's important that you finish strong without giving in to senioritis. During your senior year, you can now apply to the colleges you narrowed your choices down to. You can also continue to retake the SAT or ACT. And, of course, make sure you keep in touch with your advisor to ensure you’re on track for graduation.

Hope this is helpful Sky
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david’s Answer

Hello, Sky,
I admire that you are interested while in 9th grade. Careers affect our lives, and it's good to be thinking ahead. For now, my advice is to keep your focus on the broader spectrum of post-HS education. By the end of tenth grade, you will enjoy taking opportunities to visit colleges, and I encourage visiting as many as time allows, even those where you may not have interest. I say this because you will learn more of your own interests at every visit. And professors are often available to speak with at such events, and time with them is priceless to hear their feedback. At this point, you could focus on the broader goal of taking college-prep courses in a variety of areas.

On your career interests, I suggest exploring career areas that may be relevant to your interests. Sometimes, key areas of interest evolve into hobbies, and other areas become more primary. Please give yourself time on this. What you like now may not be your priorities when you're a HS senior, and being in college may alter them more. I feel confident you will do well, especially because this is already a concern of yours. All the best to you.
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Chirayu’s Answer

It’s great that you are already thinking about your future and exploring your interests! Starting to research colleges and potential majors in 9th grade can give you a head start on the college application process and help you make more informed decisions about your future. You can also attend college fairs and information sessions to learn more about different schools and programs. When it comes to choosing a major, it's okay if you don't have a clear idea yet. Many students enter college undecided, and colleges offer a range of resources to help you explore and decide on a major. You can take general education courses to see what interests you talk to professors and students in different fields, and even participate in internships or job shadowing opportunities to gain real-world experience and see what different careers are like. One thing to keep in mind is that your major doesn't necessarily determine your future career. Many graduates end up pursuing careers that are not directly related to their major, so it's important to focus on developing skills and gaining experience in areas that interest you, rather than solely focusing on a specific major. Ultimately, the most important thing is to stay curious, explore your interests, and keep an open mind as you navigate the college application process and plan for your future. Good luck!
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Suze’s Answer

You may change your ideas for future career a few times, that's normal. There are occupations you haven't even thought of yet. For example, I didn't even know what a phlebotomist was until I was older and established in my current career path. But boy I think I would have loved that job and I didn't know it existed! So my advice is, no matter which path or major you pursue, they ALL start with the 2 year junior college curriculum, so get moving on getting the basics out of your way, and most likely in that 2 year span you will narrow down a field of study. Don't wait until you pick a career goal to get that first 2 years under your belt!!!
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Jacob’s Answer

We encourage organizing your search into a few key areas of focus. By going through the following steps you'll be able to explore and compare the benefits of various colleges.

1. Career interests
i. Start to narrow search by reading and narrowing down interests
ii. Identify list of interests
2. School Curriculum
i. Explore curriculums and determine which schools position for success in desired field
3. School Demographics
i. Identify tiers (reach, target, back-up plan)
ii. Financial Considerations
iii. School size, urban / rural, private vs. public
iv. Athletics / extra curriculars
v. Distance from home

Sign up on Access Your Potential’s site for group/semester or one-time mentoring with PwC professionals focused on fostering connection, community, accountability and learning as you work toward your career goals. Sign up to have access to this free program and more at accessyourpotential. pwc. com.
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Lindsey’s Answer

Hi Sky! As a ninth grader, my advice is to be patient and keep focus on learning what you enjoy and what you are good at. It is likely that you will change our mind many times around what college and what major you may want to pursue.

Since you have a lot of different interests, I would recommend taking a variety of courses and talking to your school advisor / guidance counselor about how different classes you enjoy and do well in relate to different careers.

For selecting colleges, you may want to consider your financial situation, educational structure (e.g., liberal arts colleges, specific colleges for majors like engineering, large v. small class sizes), location (e.g., close to home and family, colleges with a regional reach versus a national reach), do you want to try community college prior to a 4-year degree program. Some colleges, like liberal arts colleges, allow you to try a lot of different classes to identify what your interests might be. You may also want to consider if you would like to be at a school small enough to know everyone, or if you'd prefer a large population to meet new people.

Again, you have plenty of time to explore and be patient! Good luck in your research :)

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Brianna’s Answer

Ninth grade is a nice time to start looking into potential colleges. It gives you a good amount of time to research them, visit the campuses attend college fairs, etc. so you're sure of your choice.

When looking for colleges, you should first start thinking about the bigger questions and what your priorities are. Do you want community college or a 4-year degree? Public or private university? In state or out of state? Close to home or far away? Do you want to live at home and commute, live in an apartment near the campus and commute, or live in on campus dormitories? Do you care about prestige of the college, or is that not as important as earning a degree in general? Do you want to attend a less expensive community college or public school for your first year(s) then transfer to another university, or try to stay in one place? A college counselor can help you piece those together, especially the financial aid portion, which can be very daunting.
US News also has a good breakdown for most universities in terms of what majors and unique peograms they offer, average GPA, SAT/ACT scores, etc.

Try looking into opportunities to visit the campuses, talk with the students, meet professors, and sit in on classes. In my experience, many schools offer travel stipends to students looking to visit the campus. That way you can get a feel for what campus culture suits you best. Every university "feels" different, and it's good to visit beforehand.

As for your major, I wouldn't worry about it too much. A lot of universities ask you to list your preferred major/acedmic path on your application, but you're not held to that (at least not in schools in the US). Definitely keep what majors they offer in mind when applying, especially if a college offers a more rare or unique major you're interested in. However, you're typically not required to officially declare a major until the end of your sophomore year, which gives you a good amount of time to take a variety of courses that interest you to nail down what your best option for a major will be.
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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Sky,

In 9th grade, you have the opportunity to start thinking about where you want to go and how you are going to pay for school. I think that it is great for you to start researching scholarships. I believe that most scholarships would pay out in your senior year, however, it is never too early to do research. You will want to check on a variety of scholarship options. Make sure to look for all kinds of programs, not just in the field that you want to study. There are a lot of scholarships that vary from your ethnic identity to artistic endeavors. My friend applied for scholarships for Hispanic youth and won a scholarship through a creative writing competition. You would need to determine what areas may fit the skills you already have or how you identify. Why start now? Many scholarships have a writing or presentation component. You can begin early to learn about what you need to earn a scholarship and work on your writing skills. You can practice writing the essays without submitting them but sharing them with teachers at school who can help you improve your skills. One thing to note: some scholarships are dependent on you using the scholarship for a specific major. I would say avoid those until you know exactly what you want to study. I changed my major five times in college. It is probably easier to apply and get scholarships that allow you to choose or change your major. Also, you should apply for scholarships every year of college, not just your freshman year.

Gloria
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Aisha’s Answer

Hi There.

This is an excellent question. You should definitely start the application process during your Junior year of high school, no later than the summer before your senior year. Before you start your college search, you should have an idea of what you’re looking for. Basic things to consider include your grades, your test scores, location, major, and on-campus facilities and the specific requirements for admission. However, that’s just the beginning of it. If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend visiting some of the campuses of the schools you’re planning on applying to. This will help you visualize whether or not you could really see yourself at that school. A campus visit is also a great opportunity to ask questions directly to school advisors.
Thank you comment icon Hi Aisha: Your comments are on point. I'm currently experiencing this process with my niece who is in the 11th grade. Thanks for sharing. Sheila Jordan
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