I have done my O Levels. So, will US 11th grade be very hard or a normal transition for me?

Hello! I have recently completed my O Levels from Pakistan and I am going to move to USA soon with my family (There is no specific state, as we will move to any state which will be more suitable for my studies). Before coming to USA, I will have studied A levels for a few months too. So I want to ask, if i arrive there and sit in 11th grade, will it be a transition similar to going from O Levels to A Levels, or will be a totally different scenario and way more difficult? I am confused about this and will be really grateful for help and guidance!

It will be pretty different but not necessarily more difficult.

For our collegekids, changing systems was usually most ‘difficult’ in math and foreign languages, because they are taught so differently in different systems. When they did placement tests they were both ahead and behind, because they had learned things in a different order. Be prepared to need some extra help from time to time to catch up on modules you missed.

Depending on how old you, the specific school, and any placement tests, you might be placed in Grade 10- which may be a good thing, especially if your real goal is to get into a US college. Grade 11 is a big jump academically from Grade 10, and it is really important for both showing that you can handle tougher academics and that you are taking leadership roles in your extra-curricular activities.

@collegemom3717 Yes I want to study in a US college in the future and I have the ambition to study in a competitive one too. So, do you suggest being placed in 10th grade? If being placed in 10th grade is better for me, neither me nor my family has any sort of hesitation against it. I’m currently 15 years old and at the very maximum will be 16 years old when i arrive in the US. Really appreciate your help!

How far into A levels are you? What kind of visa are you coming in on? What state are you going to school in?

This is relevant in that some states will allow you instate college rates if you do x number of years at high school, for example.

If I was your mum, I would REALLY work at entering 10th, so do some due diligence on your new high school. If they know how your school system works, you may not be able to enter 10th, however, if you are able to just go on your age vs schooling, that would be great for 10th grade. There will be enormous cultural adjustments to make and that 10th grade gives you a buffer, time to make relationships with the school staff for college applications, and develop ECs and to finish classes required for graduation and college entry. Event to sit the PSAT 10th grade practice run.

15-16 is normally Grade 10, and imo the extra year will stand to you. Even if you are superstar student, as @Sybylla points out there is a lot of adjusting to do.

Yes I want to study in a US college in the future and I have the ambition to study in a competitive one too. So, do you suggest being placed in 10th grade? If being placed in 10th grade is better for me, neither me nor my family has any sort of hesitation against it. I’m currently 15 years old and at the very maximum will be 16 years old when i arrive in the US. Really appreciate your help!

I found the academic transition from a European high school to an American one surprisingly easy.

One factor that made the transition easy was that the American grading system rewarded consistent effort. Daily graded homework, weekly graded quizzes. It was almost impossible to fall behind. I also found that exam questions tended to be very similar to homework problems, which made it easy to do well on exams as long as I had done the homework.

On the flip side, having graded work to do each day meant that I had to dedicate much more time to school work every single day.

Another factor that made the transition easy is that most courses are self-contained. E.g. US history is taught as a single full-year course, so I didn’t have to worry about relevant material I may have missed in prior years. That works in the sciences too. A typical American high school student might have one year each of physics, chemistry and biology, and a second year of a science of their choice.

The flip side of that is that you may find (particularly in math and sciences) that you may have seen some but not all of the material of the year-long American course. Then you’ll have to decide whether to take the easier course and face a lot of repetition, or the more advanced course and make up the gaps, as collegemom3717 already said. (For me personally, it worked out fine to take the more advanced courses and fill in occasional gaps.)

Something I didn’t expect, and wish I had known ahead of time, is how much American universities care about extracurricular activities, e.g. sports, music, volunteer work and academic competitions. Since it may be tricky to join activities part-way through the year, you’ll want to be proactive about joining clubs right at the beginning of the school year.

@Sybylla Thank you very much for the guidance! I was wondering the same thing and you have helped clear the confusion. So, if I want to sit in 10th grade, can some high schools deny me that?

I just think that you just apply to enter 10th grade and provide the school with whatever they ask for. If they question it, make a case for 10th grade. Which state are you going to? Again, what is your visa status?

I remember your earlier thread. https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/international-students/2188419-i-have-recently-completed-my-o-levels-so-will-i-be-enrolled-in-11th-grade-in-usa.html#latest

Do you and your family know where you will be living yet?

eh, nm

Try to start as a 10th grader to make your transition easier and give your Guidance counselor and teachers more time to know you (for recommendations).
What were your Olevels and what results did you get?
Were you involved in any activity outside of school (from kite making to football to playing the flute to rocket club…)?
Bring syllabi with you, for math and science placement especially.
You should have one eaxh from English, Math, Science, Social Science, and Foreign Language, + 1-2 more.

If you have taken your O levels, you will be fine entering in 11th. I would be worried that if you enter at 10th, you’ll run out of courses by senior year.

@MYOS1634 I got A* (the highest grade possible) in all my 8 subjects, which were: English, Mathematics, Urdu (language), Islamiat (Religion), Physics, Chemistry, Pak.Studies (History and Geography of my country) and Computer Science
Other than that I was the President of the English Literary Club and the HeadBoy of my School

@gardenstategal can you kindly explain what you mean by running out of courses? I couldn’t understand that.

@happymomof1 Not really. Do you have any suggestion where i should move to? As I also said in my previous post (Glad you remember it!), my family will be willing to move wherever it is best for me and my studies. It will be really nice if you could suggest a place!

Let me give you an example from my own experience.

I moved to the US after finishing 10th grade in Germany. My very first math class in the US was AP Calculus, chosen because that course covered the material I would have seen in Germany in the following year. It also happened to be the most advanced math class offered at that US high school. There was no local math class to take after calculus, so I would have run out of math classes to take if I would have had to attend 2 more years of high school afterwards (“repeating” 10th grade in the US).

There’s options if you do run out of classes, depending on how flexible the school is. You can take online classes. You can take classes at the local community college. You can apply to college before you formally finish high school. You can just not take a course in a subject for a year.

Odds are the high school would not allow you to classify yourself as a sophomore if you want to take mostly junior- or senior-level courses.

As I think you were told in the previous thread, it isn’t likely that you will be able to decide what grade you are put into. That almost certainly will be decided by the school you end up attending and will depend on their specific policy.

Where you and your parents settle is not just a matter of where the “best” high schools and universities are for you. It also depends on where they can find work that will allow them to support the family and pay for your eventual college education. Unless of course they are independently wealthy (as in several millions of US$ worth of money in solid investments that won’t be affected by changes in the world economy). What job skills do they have? How good is their English? Would they be immediately employable here if it weren’t for the pandemic? What have their contacts in the US told them about the job situation in the places where those people are located? Will you need to live with your parents and commute for your university studies, or will they have the resources to pay for you to live on campus? Those are factors that enter into things as well.

Most states have at least one phenomenally good public university. Many have more than one. Every state has at least one very good public university. This means that provided your family will be able to afford to live in any one particular state, you will have the option of a good to excellent public university if other university options don’t work out.

You’ll need to make sure you get credit for your O Levels.
You’ll need to take biology honors (if you’ve never had bio) or ap bio (if you had before OLevels). You could alternatively take ap chem or ap physics 1.
For math, you’d have to bring your syllabus to determine whether you would place in precalculus honors or APcalculus.
You will likely need to take a foreign language for 3 years, and 3 years of history/social science – a world history class (typical for 10th but if you’re placed in 11th you’d likely have to take it senior year) or US history (typical for 11th). These exist as regular, honors, and AP levels. OLevels are ~honors level, AP is harder but easier than ALevel.
Then you’d take an English class, which would be either honors or AP depending on your class.
Alternatively, it may be easier to go from OLevels to the IB Diploma program.

My recommendation would be to move to a town that has a university in a state with lots of universities: North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio may all be worth considering on that account. It also depends on your budget for college.

Complicating factors include the covid situation and the economic recovery or problems that come from an out of control or under control pandemic.

It’s going to be difficult to place a student who is clearly extremely able, but has a relatively narrow set of mostly STEM courses, without some of the basic social science, language and biology courses that would be typical of a US high school student. But teacher recommendations and ECs will be much easier to accumulate over 3 years of high school rather than 2 and those are critical for top tier US colleges.

For that reason I would lean towards starting in 10th grade but going somewhere you can take advanced math courses beyond Calc BC (eg at the local college).

What do your parents do? In terms of location your choices will be very different if they have high paid jobs to go to vs if they will work in occupations where money and economic opportunities may be more limited, but may also not be as specific to a particular part of the country. For example if I was moving to the US at the moment, and I didn’t have a specific job to go to, Salt Lake City, Utah would be at the top of my list (lowest unemployment rate in the country, pretty active hiring across the board in all sorts of industries, even tourism related ones) and I absolutely wouldn’t go to a city like NY or SF that is likely to suffer long lasting economic effects from the coronavirus.