High school is filled with new experiences, challenges, and adventures, and for each student, academics play a central role. As your child transitions into this important time of life, there’s a lot to learn. We’ve highlighted some basic course information and common terminology you’ll hear throughout the next four years, as well as some tips to help your child stay on track.

Classes

High schools require that students take a certain number of classes in each subject area to graduate. Review the academic guidelines in the Massachusetts High School Program of Studies (MassCore). In addition, colleges require minimum course completion to apply. Look at different college websites now to get an idea of what’s required, and have your child work with a school counselor to select each year’s high school courses. You may also want to reference the admissions standards for the Massachusetts State University System and the University of Massachusetts.

Terms to Know

Advanced Placement (AP): College-level courses in 37 subjects, which can provide college credit if a certain score is achieved on an exam
International Baccalaureate (IB): Rigorous courses with a large amount of reading and writing that some colleges accept for credit
Dual Credit or Dual Enrollment: Higher level courses that may be taught at a nearby college, which can allow students to earn high school and college credit at the same time.
Grade Point Average (GPA): Number that represents a student’s academic performance. The GPA is calculated by dividing the total grade points (each grade is assigned a number of points) by the number of credits taken. Most high schools have a minimum GPA required for graduation.
Class rank: Place in class, from highest to lowest, based on grades. Many schools no longer use class rank.
SAT and ACT: Standardized tests used within the college admissions process and intended to measure college readiness

Academic Success Tips

Students can excel in school by making smart choices and adopting positive habits. Encourage your student to review and follow the tips below for academic success.

  • Do homework during free periods. This will allow you to tackle it soon after class, while your notes are still fresh. And if you have a question, you can stop by and ask your teacher for help before you go home.
  • Pick a quiet place to study. Try the school library during the day or the public library at night and on weekends.
  • At home, study somewhere away from family activity. You’ll need a good light and a table or a desk (not your bed!) where you can spread out your notebooks and materials.
  • Listen to music only if it helps you concentrate. Turn it off if it’s a distraction.
  • Consider forming a study-buddy group. Invite friends who are good at different subjects to join so you can help each other. Connect online, through texts or IMs, or talk on the phone. Or make a schedule to get together in person. (But don’t let it become a social hour!)
  • Ask questions in class. Other students might be puzzled by the same thing, and you’ll be doing them a favor if you speak up.
  • Be active in class. Join discussions, share your thoughts and questions, and participate in each activity.