As you gear up for your student’s transition from middle school to high school, the day may seem a long way off when they will cross the stage to receive their diploma. However, as any parent of a high school senior can tell you, that day—and all that comes next—will be here before you know it.
The choices we make as parents during the years leading up to that moment have much to do with the successful outcome we all desire. In particular, the high school your student attends should act as the launching pad for college and career. It’s the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the K-12 rainbow.
Robert Hardis, Superintendent of Beachwood City Schools says, “The importance of high school for students’ future success rests on multiple variables. It’s not solely the rigor of a school’s academics. Parents should help their children strike a healthy balance among taking challenging coursework, investing focused time and energy into a select number of extracurricular activities including sports, and taking advantage of unique school or community opportunities when they’re made available.”
How to Decide on a High School
Families have more choices today than ever before: public or private; large or small; online or home schooling. To help guide you in the decision process, here are four key elements to keep in mind when choosing the right high school for your student.
When it comes to learning, one size does not fit all. Students learn in different ways, at different rates, and with their own unique needs. That’s why it’s essential to have experienced and talented teachers. These teachers can differentiate the curriculum and identify when supports are needed.
Says Hardis, “We know that authentic, high-quality relationships among students and school staff are critical to helping young people reach their full potential. Beachwood leverages its relatively small size and considerable resources toward this end. But ultimately, it’s the value we place on individual students that helps us succeed in creating this kind of culture.”
Rigor of Curriculum
When it comes time to fill out those college applications, a student’s transcript is a key source of information that helps an admissions officer evaluate a potential candidate. Strong grades are viewed on balance with the rigor of a student’s coursework. Colleges want to see that a student has taken advantage of the academic opportunities presented to him or her in high school, such as honors level courses, or Advanced Placement courses if appropriate.
Beachwood High School counselor Meghann Sullivan notes, “Growth and challenge are important factors that colleges consider when evaluating transcripts. One of my favorite stories to tell a college is how a student has evolved during high school. Perhaps a student started out with a little less confidence and maturity. Then over time they have demonstrated mastery of those essential student skills through our more challenging coursework. AP courses, in particular, demonstrate to a college that a student is capable of handling the pace and expectations of college-level coursework. This ultimately gives the college more confidence that a student will be successful if accepted.”
Extracurricular activities are an essential component of a rich high school experience. They allow students to develop areas of interest that go beyond the classroom. It helps them connect with peers and staff in a different way, and often, to develop leadership skills.
Says Hardis, “We are fortunate to offer a huge array of options. Our students are able to pursue their individual interests. In a smaller school system like Beachwood, there’s a higher likelihood that students will land a spot on the Science Olympiad or volleyball team. Another advantage is the impact of extracurricular crossover. When a basketball player is also in the orchestra and a member of the Model U.N. team, she not only has the advantage of these rich experiences, but also forms friendships across diverse demographic and interest groups.”
When considering where you want to send your child to high school, says Hardis, “Consider the opportunities your child will have to blossom outside the classroom.”
College and Career Readiness
Your child’s readiness for the next phases of life after graduation is an important factor in considering high schools. Consider what unique programs or services a school offers. What will provide experiences and skills your child will carry with her or him into college and life?
For example, Beachwood Schools offers two programs targeting experiential learning in STEM subjects: the Beachwood Medical Academy and the Design & Innovation Program.
“Beachwood enjoys a partnership with University Hospitals offering immersion experiences and pre-med coursework taught by medical school faculty over the four years our students are in high school. Those experiences cannot be replicated in a school setting,” says Hardis.
“Similarly, our Design & Innovation Program partnership with the Washkiewicz College of Engineering at Cleveland State University offers Beachwood students introductory through college-level design and engineering coursework and experiences. They leave the program with four university engineering credits. And they get the experience of working at the college-level on real-world design solutions to engineering challenges.”
The bottom line, says Hardis? “Our students have the opportunity to stand apart from their peers when they arrive in their college classrooms.”