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  • Debra M. Shively

Secondary School Courses and Studying in the USA

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

US colleges and universities take a holistic approach in reviewing a student’s application for admission. One of the most heavily weighted components is the transcript, or summary of a student’s marks, from every course from year nine – year twelve. These courses will be assessed on student performance and rigour. US admission committees are looking for evidence which demonstrates that a student is continuing to academically challenge themselves while at the same time maintain a high level of academic performance. Student transcripts should therefore demonstrate a balance of rigorous courses across many disciplines.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) is considered one of the most academically challenging secondary school curricula in the world. If a student is interested in pursuing a degree overseas, has an opportunity to earn the IBDP over the HSC, has demonstrated high academic standing by year 10, and has an interested in the academic content we encourage pursuing the IBDP. However if a student does not have the opportunity at their secondary school to pursue the IBDP i.e. only the HSC is offered, the HSC is sufficient in gaining admission to US universities. A student’s academic credentials will always be assessed within their context – so not having access to IBDP at the student’s school is not necessarily a disadvantage either.

The New South Wales High School Certificate (HSC) meets entry requirements to US universities and also offers an array of subject selection. US admission staff will have access to information on the Australian curriculum and will assess each student’s credentials within the context of the Australian system which is available at their respective school.

Although specific course requirements for admission purposes will vary per US institution, secondary school students are encouraged to take academically rigorous courses in core areas such as English, maths, science, and social science.

Students should not be discouraged if their marks are not top of the class or if they are scoring middle of the cohort. With over 4,000 degree granting institutions in the US there truly is a best fit institution for every student. An ultra competitive environment may not be the best fit for some students while others may thrive in this environment. Internationally Educated works closely with students and their families to identify and apply to best fit US institutions based not only on merit but on identified attributes which are key to their US university experience.

Students who are interested in competing in NCAA intercollegiate sport at university also need to ensure they meet the 16 core courses required for eligibility.

Internationally Educated works with HSC and IBDP students in the course selection process for year 11 and 12 courses. Students interested in pursuing a US university degree should obviously plan ahead. Course selection and associated marks are a significant component in the holistic admission process. And there are always a range of institutions that will fit your academic and extracurricular achievements and ambitions. We look forward to meeting you.

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