Is Your Education Like a Good Workout?
Colleges and employers seek candidates who have challenged themselves and developed a top skill set. Rigorous coursework prepares students to excel both during college and in the world of work.
UCS counselors often remind students that their education should be like a good workout—it should make them sweat. Students grow their brains in the same way that athletes grow their muscles, by pushing themselves to excel. Utica Community Schools offers students numerous opportunities to pursue a rigorous curriculum.
Are You Asking the Right Question?
A commonly asked question is, “Should my child take an advanced course and get a B, or a regular course and get an A?” The most selective colleges in the country will answer this question by saying, “Your child should take the advanced course and get an A.” Not a very satisfying answer!
Parents who ask this question are usually concerned with finding the best approach to helping their child get into college, but another question to consider is, “Are you more concerned about your child getting into college or getting out of college?”
While a higher grade in an easier course may increase your child’s grade point average and help them get in to some colleges, experience with more challenging coursework will prepare your child with the academic skills necessary to graduate and get out of college.
Colleges Value a Strong Curriculum with Advanced Coursework
In a survey of College Admissions officials conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC Admission Trends Survey 2015), the following emerged as the five most important factors in admission decisions for first-time freshmen.
- Grades in College Prep Courses (AP, IB, Honors, Accelerated)
- Grades in All Courses
- Strength of Curriculum
- Admission Test Scores (SAT or ACT)
- Essay or Writing Sample
Students who elect advanced coursework typically perform better on college admission tests and develop stronger writing skills.
Advanced Placement (AP)
The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) offers college-level study in a wide range of subjects and allows students scoring high enough on an end-of-course AP exam to earn college credit. AP courses stress deep learning, critical thinking, and the application of knowledge.
Advanced Placement testing occurs in May each year according to the following schedule . Tests typically cost around $94.
Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch typically qualify for a reduced test fee. In 2017, qualifying students paid $5 per test. Families can determine if they qualify for free or reduced lunch at lunchapp.com
Learn more about the Advanced Placement program:
International Baccalaureate (IB)
UCS offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at the Utica Academy for International Studies. The Diploma Program aims to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge – students who flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally, and ethically. The DP curriculum is made up of six subject groups and the DP core, comprising theory of knowledge (TOK); creativity, activity, service (CAS); and the extended essay. Through the DP core, students reflect on the nature of knowledge, complete independent research, and undertake a project that often involves community service.
Learn more about the International Baccalaureate program:
International Baccalaureate Website
UCS GPA Calculation Rewards Students Who Attempt Advanced Coursework
For each course on the UCS transcript that has AP or IB in the title, UCS students receive a .50 GPA bump. Learn more about calculating your grade point average here.
Guide to UCS Specialty Programs
During 8th grade, UCS students have the opportunity to apply for admission to one of three specialty high school programs:
- Utica Academy for International Studies (International Baccalaureate Program)
- Utica Center for Math, Science, and Technology
- Utica Center for Science and Industry
To learn about these UCS Specialty Programs, please visit this page.
Students who are capable may test out of subjects in order to access more rigorous coursework. Details on the process for testing out are located here.
Honors and Accelerated Coursework
Secondary students are encouraged to challenge themselves by selecting Honors and Accelerated coursework beginning in 7th grade. Honors and accelerated courses offer the best preparation for the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) coursework opportunities ahead.