As one of Tampa Prep’s  College Counselors, I get asked all the time, ‘when should freshman begin thinking about college?’ For some parents, this topic isn’t even on their radar yet, while others have been anxiously seeking information about the college process since their child was in first grade. I want to start by reassuring you:  your student will go to college and will be prepared when s/he gets there. The growth you will see in your student between now and four years from now is tremendous, and it’s exciting to watch! It is OK if your ninth grade student doesn’t think about college yet. In fact, while some may, most aren’t ready to start thinking about college specifically. However, they are all ready to start paving their own path toward college. 

Back in September I spoke to the freshmen class, encouraging them to focus on three things:

  1. WORK HARD. What you do matters. Your academics should be foremost in your mind. Do your best work. Develop good study habits, learn how to take notes and get extra help when you need it. These skills will serve you well beyond the ninth grade.
  2. ENGAGE. Get involved in extracurricular activities and be a part of the school community. This is the time to do what you like to do. Whether it be sports, the arts, service, or something else, do something meaningful to you. It’s also a time to explore new interests and take healthy risks. Get out of your comfort zone! Be a fan, and get involved.
  3. COMMUNICATE. Learn how to communicate with adults and peers. Talk: Don’t hesitate to go to your teacher after school or during Study Hall, especially if you need help understanding a topic you just learned in class. Harkness: Learn how to participate effectively in a Harkness discussion while respecting diverse views and opinions. Email: You need to check your email regularly! Think about when it’s appropriate to send an email (or text) and when it’s best to go talk directly. 


The college counseling process happens gradually over four years. We (the college counseling office) work with students in large groups and individually. Our ultimate goal is to help each student find a college that will be a good fit for him or her. Understandably, parents typically have more interest in talking about college than their freshman. Thus, I have three suggestions for ninth grade parents on how to best support your student during freshman year and throughout high school (with college in the back of your mind):

  1. Don’t do it for them. (Whatever “it” may be). As a parent myself, I struggle with this directive at times. I think we all have good intentions and want to help our students as much as we can. When our children enter high school, it is important for their personal growth that parents start giving them more responsibility. I know this is easier said than done. Life tasks such as doing laundry and setting the alarm clock to get up on their own can be a great way for students to gain more independence.  
  2. Allow your student to experience adversity. We all learn from “failing” or making a mistake. Be there to encourage and support rather than try to smooth it out for them. Last year I heard the term “helicopter” parent morph into “lawnmower” parent. The idea being that we as parents may try to create an easy path for our children. But if everything always goes their way, and they never have to encounter a roadblock, what will happen when someone eventually tells them no for the first time? The more your student can start navigating his/her own path, the more s/he will be prepared to face the bigger challenges that lie ahead.
  3. Hug and listen to your child. Students care about what their parents think even though they don’t always show it. Talking with your student about their interests will encourage participation in activities that are meaningful to them.  Listen to your child and be careful of the background noise that dinner parties and the media can sometimes create.

The Tampa Prep College Counseling Office is here to support you as well as your student.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office. We have several programs throughout the year to provide parents with college-related information.  Below is a list of resources for parents as well as a chart of annual programs we offer. Additional college counseling resources may be found on our website.


Recommended Reading

  • The Truth about College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together (Barnard & Clark)
  • College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step  (Mamlet & VanDeVelde)
  • Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admission Mania (Bruni)
  • There is Life After College (Selingo)
  • Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges (Pope)

Have Twitter? We think these accounts are worth following!

  • @TampaPrep_CC - Facilitated by Tampa Prep College Counseling
  • @gtadmission - Facilitated by the Director of Admission from Georgia Tech
  • @DrgravesUGA - Facilitated by the Sr Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at UGA
  • @jselingo - Author, Washington Post columnist
  • @grownandflown - All about Parenting Teens and College Kids

Tampa Prep College Counseling Programs throughout the '19-'20 School Year include:

  • College Night for 12th Grade Parents - 8/19/19
  • BAIS College Fair - 9/22/19
  • Northwestern University Admissions Guest Speaker - 10/1/19
  • Secrets of Paying for College program - 11/6/19
  • College Counseling Coffee for Middle School Parents - 11/20/19
  • College Planning Night for 11th Grade Parents - 12/4/19
  • College Planning Workshop for 11th Grade Students - 1/20
  • Case Studies Program for Junior Students & Parents - 1/12/20
  • College Counseling Coffee for 9th Grade Parents - 1/24/20
  • NACAC College Fair - 3/10/20