Do colleges look at grades from freshman year?
While freshman grades count, colleges also look at improvement in subsequent years.
Yes, colleges will look at all courses and grades from ninth grade, on. The level of challenge is up to you; only you know how many rigorous courses and extracurricular activities you can balance and still achieve to the best of your ability. Admissions officers do pay close attention to grades in each year of high school and expect students to maintain or surpass their performance in their earlier years. Note that if you are certain you want to major in STEM, make sure to take four years of math and science in courses at the college prep or higher level. Building a strong academic foundation by continuing to take challenging courses will make your college experience that much more enjoyable as you will be well-prepared for the demands of college life.
It is an exciting time for these kids, but I also think it is a time of much uncertainty as they begin to navigate the next stages of their lives. You helped bring certainty to the table, maintained peace in the family, and helped us as parents understand the process and our role.