Academics

A comprehensive look at high school academics. We cover grades, AP and IB courses, and the post graduate year. Learn the secrets of A+ students. Explore summer abroad programs, read interviews with experts and get valuable tips on excelling academically.
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Updated May 25, 2016 |
School Year Abroad
Several private schools offer a whole academic year abroad. Still others offer a summer abroad.
Several private schools offer a whole academic year abroad. Still others offer a summer abroad. These are enrichment programs designed to expose students who participate in them to the culture and customs of the host country. Promoting global understanding is an underlying aim of all these 'abroad' programs.

School Year Abroad
The School Year Abroad program was started by Phillips Academy in 1964. It is now operated by a consortium of about 30 schools located across the nation. Basically SYA offers approximately 60 students in their junior or senior year the opportunity to spend an academic year abroad in China, France, Italy, Spain or India. Students stay with host families. They are able to maintain their academic standing with their home school while at the same time experiencing all that a year living abroad offers.

Summer Abroad
Several schools offer summer programs which take place in foreign countries. Here are two examples of the sort of thing being offered:

"Woodberry in Mexico brings students to Morelia, where they take a variety of classes in nontraditional subjects such as guitar, drums, pre-Hispanic Michoacan, human zoology, and Mexican cuisine. They also have opportunities to experience parts of Mexico few Americans see. Possibilities include tours of artisans’ workshops, a professional soccer match, an excursion to colonial towns, and an orphanage visit. In Ixtapa, students experience an “all-inclusive” resort along the beautiful Mexican coastline. Puebla and Oaxaca offer important archeological sites that teach much about indigenous cultures." ...
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Updated May 25, 2016 |
The PG Year
A PG or Post Graduate year offers time to mature and time to perfect a sport or other interests.
Many students find that a PG or Post Graduate year is a wonderful solution to several situations. Perhaps they feel that they are a little young to go off to college. A PG year offers time to grow and develop without taking a year off. Maybe they want to perfect a sport or artistic activity. A PG year offers a well-focussed span of time in which to accomplish that perfecting. A PG year also offers a chance to remediate any small gaps you might have in your high school transcript. Or maybe you just want a year before you head off for five years of pre-med or bio-kinetic science. The PG offers a great deal.

Admission Requirements
What kind of grades do you need? Pretty good ones! A's and B's are expected. In addition you will need to offer a sport or other exttracurricular activity. That will enable you to fit right into the life and community of your new school. After all, you will only be there for a year. Stellar recommendations from your current school will help.

Application Process
The application process is a little different. Instead of taking SSAT or ISEE, you offer PSAT or SAT test scores. Places for PG year are extremely limited. Be sure to apply as early as you can. Need financial aid? Expect that to be limited. Always ask up front.
Updated May 25, 2016 |
What Is IB?
What is IB? IB or International Baccalaureate is a curriculum offered by the International Baccalaureate organization based in Switzerland.
In What is AP? we looked at the organization which has created one of the most popular college prep programs in the world. In this companion article we will look at the other college preparatory program known as IB. The organization behind the IB program, the International Baccalaureate Organization, itself was founded in 1968. With its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the IB Organization serves over 1.3 million students in 147 countries.
 
What is the IB?
 
Most people think of the IB or International Baccalaureate as the organization which sponsors the highly-regarded college preparatory IB Diploma Programme. Indeed the IB Diploma is where it all started. The IB Diploma is the college preparatory component of a curriculum which begins with the early childhood years and ends with pre-college and pre-career programs. 

The International Baccalaureate Organization has grown into four programs: Primary Years, Middle Years, Diploma and IB Career-related Programmes. This then is one of the major differences with Advanced Placement. Practically speaking Advanced Placement encompasses only the college preparatory years in the academic continuum, although it does now offer a Pre-AP which is designed to encourage studentgs. The IB Organization offers programs which begin with 3 year olds and end with college preparatory and career-related diplomas. 
 
The IB Diploma Programme 
 
Since you are interested in finding out the similarities and differences between the two top college prep academic programs, let's look under the hood of the IB Diploma Programme and find out what's involved. Essentially the
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Updated May 25, 2016 |
What is AP?
AP is short for the Advanced Placement Program offered by the College Board. More here.
What is AP?
 
AP or Advanced Placement Program is a three year sequence of high school course work offered by the College Board in over 34 subject areas.  The idea behind offering AP courses is to provide college bound high school seniors with a level academic playing field. You see, it doesn't matter whether you are a high school student in Dubuque or Darien, AP courses and the end of course examinations are the same wherever they are offered. The course content is the same. The teaching objectives are the same. The preparation for the final examinations is the same. Because the standard is the same everywhere and the final examinations are proctored and graded by the College Board, college admissions professionals are able to compare student academic achievements with confidence. They know exactly what AP means when they see it on your transcript. They know exactly what your AP scores represent. This brief video explains the impact of AP credit and placement.

That is the intrinsic value of AP Courses and their examinations from a college admissions point of view. Admissions professionals want to know that the math courses which an applicant took at a public high school in Kansas are the same as those an applicant from a private school in Tennessee took. In other words they want to compare apples to apples. When one applicant offers a high school math course which is not an AP math course, the admissions staffers have to
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