Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Making plans for next year

Happy School Counseling Week!
On Monday of this week, our students received materials to request their courses for next year, and watched a video made by Mrs. O'Brien-Krack and three of our esteemed curricular chairmen:

Students are encouraged to consult with their teachers to obtain recommendations for electives, since the course request forms are already populated with recommendations for next year's primary course contents and levels, based on test scores, current courses, and teachers' observations thus far this year.
The forms need to indicate seven credits, include alternates in case students' first choices are not available or are in conflict with each other, and are due back to homeroom teachers on Friday. Then, starting next Tuesday and going through March 1, every single student in grades 9 through 11 has a prescheduled appointment with his or her school counselor to discuss these plans to ensure appropriate rigor and to check on their four-year plans.
Some students have already noticed that they have the same time as their peers. This is because some students may need 3 minutes to just verify that everything makes sense, some may not even show for their appointments, and some may need at least ten minutes. To plan for that, each counselor has six 30-minute blocks each day to meet individually with three students each. We will spend this time to review the four-year plan, enter course requests into the scheduling software, and discuss any pertinent issues like testing plans or senior year requirements. Additionally, the school counselor will be available during their assigned lunch shifts to meet with any student who needs to do so.
To prepare everyone, here are a few guidelines to remember:

  • Regardless of your grade or intentions, please seek balance. You need to challenge yourself, but not at the expense of your youth and/or mental health. Make sure that you are challenged, with ample time to also pursue your extracurricular interests and family responsibilities.
  • Current freshmen and sophomores are required to have two different years of the same world language in high school for admission to four-year colleges in Maryland, regardless of what or how many credits in world language in middle school.
  • Current freshmen and sophomores are required to continue with math through senior year for admission to four-year colleges in Maryland, regardless of how difficult their math track was when they started high school.
  • We encourage students to get their fitness, engineering, health, and fine arts completed as early in high school as possible, while also acknowledging the value and integrity of other programs like multi-media, AVID, Project Lead-the-Way, and staying involved in performing arts all four years. It always comes down to the individual student's priorities and values. It helps to write out the four-year plan in order to get a sense of when and how those priorities fit together.
  • AVID is for students who are in the academic middle - students who are interested and capable of pursuing four-year college admission, but may not have the support or resources available from parents or case managers. AVID is not for students who need remediation or motivation. AVID students are expected to take honors classes in grades 9 and 10, and AP classes in grades 11 and 12. If you are prepared for that kind of challenge, ask for an application. If the AVID site team feels that you would be appropriately suited for the program, then you will be invited to join the ranks of many successful AVID scholars.
  • All students have the remainder of the 2012-13 school year to change their minds about next year's classes, as once the schedule is built over the summer, no changes will be made. Staffing decisions are made based on your requests, and it is not fair to teachers or your fellow students to pursue changes to your schedule next year. You get what you ask for, so please make sure that you are certain about what you want.
  • To help ensure proper consideration, we launched a "Get AP Fit" video playlist so students can hear about 14 different AP courses before taking the courses, so there are no surprises. View the playlist at
  • Remember that for college admissions, the priority junior year is grades and the priority senior year is rigor, to ensure both college admission and completion.
  • Current juniors who wish to have a partial schedule next year should consider several things. Such a request is not an option if service learning hours are not complete, or if there are any HSAs which you have not yet passed. Plan to be in school every day, all year. If you are eligible and wish to pursue this, be certain that it is really in your best interests. Consult with college admissions counselors and ask them in general terms what they prefer when reading high school transcripts - more AP classes, parallel enrollment at the community college, internships, or released time? You can ask them at college fairs (CCBC will hold one in the first week of March), or on campus tours, or by calling the campus and asking to speak with an admissions counselor (secretaries and undergraduate work-study students usually answer - ask to speak with the rep responsible for your geographic area). 
  • Whatever plan you pursue for senior year, remember that in addition to your classwork, you will also be expected to balance homework and studying with college visits and applications, and scholarship applications, all of which are quite time-consuming.
We look forward to meeting with all of our students individually, so please make sure that you arrive on time for your designated appointment. We will resume our regular schedule in March. Again, change your you mind about next year's classes as often as you want until June; after that, they are yours to keep.

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