Experienced Posters: Help Me Not Mess Up In Guiding My Kid Through The Next Three Years.

Experienced Posters: Help Me Not Mess Up In Guiding My Kid Through The Next Three Years.

First post here. Found this forum about four years ago when it became apparent that the U.S. education system is byzantine and difficult to navigate without advice.

Our small family has a STEM kid interested in building. Could probably pursue a mechanical engineering degree, followed by a masters in either industrial design or business. That obviously might change but given that their goals are neither illegal, immoral or self-destructive, I’m cool with it.

Said kid currently attends a small CA public school with few high school clubs. Pretty much no activities after 3 p.m. (some clubs meet at lunch for 30 out of 35 minutes available, a handful are sponsored by teachers). Teachers aren’t able/willing/going to actively start or support new clubs; some parents try yearly to fill in the gap but it’s mostly for the k-8 grades. No high school math or science clubs, robotics, Olympiads, debate, model UN, etc. Clubs started by students have low turnout due to one class per grade. Campus vibe is casual and the popular students are the most social, not academic, ones. Most students attend class and either hang out or leave for their ECs - especially gifted ones. Feels more like a commuter college with the occasional school spirit day.

What this public school does offer is flexibility in classes. Next year’s tentative schedule:

-English 1/2 Cluster (9)
-World History & Geography 1/2 (9-10)
-Adv. Biology 1,2 (9-10)
-Chemistry 1,2 (10-12)
-Spanish 7/8 (year 4) (9-12)
-Math 150 (Calc w/ Analytic Geo I) / Math 151 (Calc w/ Analytic Geo II)
(seems to be a new dual-enrollment course taught on campus)
-PhysEd 1/2 (9)

-French 7/8 Honors (year 4) (9-12)
(tentative, taught online only via district, which is dropping courses each year)

The Math 150/151 kind of surprised us; kid is finishing up Int. Math 3 Ad. with an A, but could take Precalculus Honors 1/2, followed by AP Calc AB 1/2 at school.

First question: how much overlap is there between Int. Math 3 Ad. and Precalculus? Can a precalc textbook be checked out over the summer to brush up on topics? (Math is a favorite subject; student is a “smart/works hard” type.)

Next questions: are dual-enrollment courses better than AP courses these days on a transcript? It’s possible that an AP course at this school might be less rigorous than at other large local well-ranked public high schools; how can a parent evaluate this and compare it to DE options at a community college?

Further questions: given the above course load, could said student graduate in three years (assuming two English classes one of those years to account for AP English Language & Composition and AP English Lit)?

Student could study in the US or Canada without visa issues, so Canadian engineering schools for undergrad are a very serious consideration.

However, we are seeking merit, and I am trying to reverse-engineer things so that my kid can try out for some of the prestigious scholarships out there. Given that we don’t know what they are and what kind of student is earning them, we are starting this process now. Not all high-impact scholarships are publicized on school websites, as other recent threads have shown.

It’s possible this post might offend some posters because, childhood, so apologies in advance. Life has made me a planner. Better to know what’s out there in advance than hear about great opportunities afterwards. Always willing to hear advice, even if it can’t always be taken.

tl/dr: parent with no private counselor budget nor deep dive expertise from the public school counselor needs community help guiding a STEM student at an offbeat public school with few of the conventional on-campus resources through the next few years

Canadian schools are an absolute bargain, application process is clear, and it is very hard to get merit aid from a US school that would match that deal.

My honest opinion? Nurture their love of learning, exploring, creating, building and teach them what character and morals mean while making sure they don’t burn out. That’s going to matter far more to their life than tactical decisions like AP vs dual-enrollment or whatever ECs they may or may not have.

You can’t afford in-state/Canadian publics at in-state prices and don’t qualify for fin aid. Then do a lot of test prep to make sure they get high enough PSAT or SAT/ ACT scores to have affordable options.

At some high schools, honors/accelerated integrated math 3 (or algebra 2 in the more traditional math curriculum) includes enough material from the traditional precalculus course that the strong students in that course are ready for calculus immediately thereafter.

He may want to try some “are you ready for calculus?” quizzes to verify his knowledge:

Assuming that the dual enrollment / college calculus 1 and 2 courses are for math, physics, and engineering majors (as opposed to business majors), they should cover material similar to AP calculus BC. It looks like the alternate path of precalculus followed by AP calculus AB is for students who are not as strong in math and could use a traditional precalculus course for more review and reinforcement of that material followed by the slower paced calculus course.

Within the same state, community college courses are likely to be easily transferable to state universities (see http://www.assist.org in California). Otherwise, they may not be as easily transferred as AP credit. If your student takes the dual enrollment calculus course, taking the AP calculus BC exam as extra coverage could be an option (will not get double credit, but may give credit if the later college accepts one but not the other).

A college course taken while in high school will need to be reported for frosh admission, transfer admission, and graduate or professional school admission (if the student applies to any or all of these).

It is not clear from your post what grade the student is in and what courses have been taken already.

(Grateful for the replies from illustrious posters - truly. Searching for the info to format my post and highlight their names in my response.)

Read the long thread (or at least the summaries on the last couple of pages!) by the poster @KevinFromOC . His daughter needed merit, was into engineering and applied to a number of auto-merit and competitve merit schools. She will be attending South Carolina as a McNair Scholar which is awesome.

Already did. Like @KevinFromOC’s style. Incredibly helpful thread with a bang ending.

@roycroftmom Agreed re: Canadian schools. We went to them. Spouse grew up in South America during a civil war, legally emigrated to Canada, did undergrad, met me, then legally emigrated to the US for work. Been here two decades. Our kid is American-born. Going to a competitive engineering school in the US would be great. However, single-salary donut-hole family in a high COL area. Very low-key life-style. Mis-match between our EFC and our financial reality (like most). Hence, merit.

@PurpleTitan Tactical decisions of course progression matters a great deal to us, since crossing a border, while educated, was still no joke. Point taken, and respected.

Which brings us to the love of learning, exploring, building and creating. Hard to do on a campus with limited resources. So, I am teaching my kid to work with their hands. Everyone should have an education and a trade, IMHO. A trade keeps you flexible when the degree doesn’t pay the bills (ask me how I know).

This thread is a bit of an opposite to the one @KevinFromOC started last year. What happens when your kid doesn’t get the elusive scholarship or placement to the outstanding high school, and you have to do the bulk of the planning on your own, as a parent?

Learning a trade is terrific. In terms of learning and creating, there now so much info on the internet. MIT’s Open Courseware has MIT’s entire curriculum on the internet, for instance. Tons of how-to webpages. Tons of insight from folks that only a privileged few would have had access to 2 decades ago. Why would a campus be required? Home-schooled kids don’t have any campus and some of them do exceedingly well.

“Tactical decisions of course progression matters a great deal to us, since crossing a border, while educated, was still no joke.”

I agree on the second part but don’t understand how that ties in with the first part of your sentence. I’m not arguing against becoming educated (or certified), after all.

Different AP or dual-enrollment courses could save you money (or not). @ucbalumnus covered the details well.

In terms of finances, can you afford in-state/Canadian (for nationals) costs? If so, I have to say I’m puzzled by the hunt for merit, unless you want to push the costs below that.

@ucbalumnus Thank you. This is the kind of detailed information/explanation needed. Perhaps the kid can try one or two quizzes after finishing school to gauge how much review could help before September.

The DE path of cc math courses feels more rigorous. If a few DE courses can help the kid build a more interesting college schedule (ie. add a minor or avoid some basic courses for more engaging ones), great. Good idea about the AP testing for backup.

My big DE question:

How do students that take some DE college courses before graduating high school tame the transcript beast? Meaning, if a student takes courses at college A, then college B, then online college C - are they fielding three different transcripts for every application? Does this cost a lot? Frosh and graduate/professional school admissions will likely be happening. So if we need to stick to one or two schools for DE, best to know it now.

The kid is essentially going into Grade 9. Finishing up Int. Math II Ad., Int. Math III Ad., Physics 1-2, French 5-6, Spanish 5-6, and English, History and Phys Ed this week.

@PurpleTitan To paraphrase Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon, “Excuse me if I expressed myself incorrectly.”

Back in the day, my Canadian academic high school experience was straightforward. Don’t remember unavailable classes, or any disjointed course progression before applying to what was regarded as the top program in the nation for my major at that time. I submitted approximately 1 ½ applications - don’t even think the second application was ever finished. Tuition was $1200 CDN first year, but grew to $2400 by final year (and boy, students protested the 50% hike). Did my four years. Graduated without debt, as did the spouse. Boom. Done. Simple. Transparent.

Fast forward many years. Kid is now a student in a school system neither parent has experienced (SAT? ACT?). The math/science course progression for STEM students has been amped up, along with stunning ECs and essays that ‘splain why you should be at such-and-such school. Amidst this arms race, kids are also expected to be authentic. Let’s just say, it’s a whole other ball game.

So the nurturing is already happening as best as a family can ; the kid would be working hard at school, volunteering and pursuing ECs anyway. Now’s the time to not misfire on tactical decisions like AP vs DE because we are at that point in the educational course planning progression.

“I’m curt with you because time is a factor.” (Harvey Keitel as The Wolf in Pulp Fiction.)

Re: going online for learning. A campus may not be required, but facilities are. Last year, the kid set foot on the grounds of a private day school campus for the first time and was blown away. No comparison to the current school environment.

We are seeking merit because there will most likely be a Masters done after undergrad.

I would try to find out how the kids at your public school score on AP exams. Our school was similar to your son’s. One AP teacher was lazy and told students at the beginning of the term to expect scores of 2 or 3. After the test, he took them all out for ice cream so kids were happy despite scores.

We investigated dual enrollment but due to kids’ schedules, ended up doing online AP classes. The online AP classes were so good, we got a foundation to fund 25 spots in the online school for other students. The online classes were a huge success and the school is still using them 10 years later. https://vhslearning.org/

You mentioned that people might be offended but it wasn’t clear. Did you mean because of his age? I am not offended (!) but do suggest you wait a couple of years before you, and he, settle on majors and career paths. Lots can change.

Help him on what classes to take to enhance his talents and interests. I don’t know if you work, but in a school like that, doing things outside of school is important for growth. Encourage him to make friends and become a good person :slight_smile:

Most of all, I would avoid talking about college for a couple of years. You, the parent, can certainly think about it, but focusing on admissions (not that you are) can really affect the high school experience negatively, particularly with burnout but also just not living in the present.

@thealternative Have you looked into online classes with The Art of Problem Solving? These classes are rigorous and would provide your son with a strong math foundation.

@compmom is right to advise you not to be talking to your student about college 24/7.

I encourage you to research on your own to be able to advise your student on best class choices and AP/DE.

A once a year general conversation about family finances for college, and any expectations about college choice, choosing college based on best merit scholarship, or any personal preferences from parents for distance from home, etc is appropriate.

We went through the process this year and will go through it again next year. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Try to enjoy the next few years. It goes by too fast. It’s a fine-line between helping and pushing your kids too hard. Sometimes you have to step back and listen rather than trying to come-up with plans. I wouldn’t talk too much about college until junior year. There’s a lot of stress on these kids. Burnout is real.

Maybe there’s a local college with summer programs or maybe dual-enrollment with the high school to find classes they don’t offer. Try to find online activities that interest him. Anything to keep kids engaged. Graduating early is an option but it really has to make sense. I would only consider it if they’ve truly maxed out classes or have a great opportunity elsewhere.

Being a donut-hole family really limits options unless you’re prepared to go into debt which I would not recommend. You won’t get FA and unless your kid is a top student (4.0, 1500+SAT, EC’s, etc.) you won’t get much merit at T100 schools. S20 got merit at pretty much all schools but it still only got the costs down to $40k/year. Our in-state options were the lowest cost options. We’re in a very good, public high school but most of the kids still go to our state flagships because of cost. Having Canadian schools as an option would be very nice. The nice thing about engineering is that school isn’t as important. As long as the program is ABET accredited it should be OK.

And @KevinFromOC’s thread is epic. It’s a good read. Re: working with your hands…it’s the best way to learn anything. It’s great for problem solving skills. It doesn’t matter what it is…fixing a bicycle, woodworking, or shade tree mechanic.

Pay attention to the Canadian university requirements. All are listed on the websites, along with grade and score minimums. It is a predictable process with close to guaranteed outcomes, and unlike the US,does not take into consideration sports or non-academic activities. Certain courses are required that may not be required at your current high school. Some schools have many American students, and offices for dealing with them, such as UBC.

There are some contradictions in your objectives. For example graduating early is usually not a good idea if you want to “try out for some of the prestigious scholarships out there”. Neither is a lack of ECs.

You are in CA which gives you low cost in-state access to the best public universities in the country. You would need something close to a full tuition scholarship at a private school to match the UC cost, and that is difficult to find (and extremely hard at a university of comparable stature to the UCs).

So unless UC costs of ~$30K pa are out of the question you should start by looking at how many kids apply, get admitted and attend each of the UCs each year from your high school, you can search by school here: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/infocenter/admissions-source-school

Once you know that information it should be a bit easier to plan. Try to find out what the kids who went to UCB/UCLA had achieved apart from being at the top of their class, which may give you some clues about ECs. For example are there roles such as class president?

Yes, completing college frosh/soph level material before college will allow for more options of courses in college (e.g. advanced math, French, and Spanish courses, or free electives in anything). Given how advanced he is in math, he is likely to be able to handle the faster DE track, assuming he finds the quiz questions doable without much struggle.

Transcripts from the DE college will need to be included for frosh, transfer, and graduate/professional school. Cost depends on the DE college. Note that UCs do not require transcripts on frosh application; transcripts are required on matriculation to verify self reported courses and grades.

Many UCs do have good math departments that should be suitable for a very advanced student in math.

True in most cases, but not for all. I’m thinking of the Waterloo CS/software engineering/CS-like majors which are as competitive to get in to as Ivies/equivalents and not guaranteed at all.

Engineering at the more popular Canadian universities requires extracurriculars, essays, and interviews. The extracurriculars do not need to be STEM related. If you want any further info on UWaterloo admissions, let me know.

I don’t understand the comment about crossing the border - as a dual citizen, it’s quite easy.

Be very careful about dual enrollment courses, as was already mentioned, the grades will factor into admissions for any future schooling, including grad school.