MVLA > Los Altos High School > Counseling > Frequently Asked Questions
 

Counseling Frequently Asked Questions

Counselors are always happy to answer any questions that students or parents might have. Below are some of the most common ones, so you might find the information that you're looking for here:

 

1.    What is the role of a counselor at LAHS?

2.    When can a student see his/her counselor?

3.    How do I get up-to-date counseling information?

4.    How can a student or parent reschedule a counseling appointment?

5.    My student is struggling in one or more courses. What can I do to help?

6.    What is the procedure for dropping a course? How long do students have to drop without a penalty?

7.    What's the difference between college-prep, Honors, and AP courses?

8.    When do courses need to be repeated? What are the options?

9.    Can students request specific teachers?

10. What do the different GPAs on the LAHS transcript mean?

11. Do 9th grade classes count for college?

12. Can I take classes at a community college or institution other than LAHS?

13. What are 'a-g' approved courses and why are they important?

14. What is the difference between SAT and ACT?

15. What are SAT Subject Tests? What colleges require them?

 

  

1. What is the role of a counselor at LAHS?

All students are assigned a counselor who will work with them over the course of their four years at LAHS. Counselors meet with students each year to plan courses, discuss college and career plans, support students through the college application process, refer students for support services when needed, and help students with personal/social/emotional/mental health problems. Counselors also give presentations and plan events throughout the year to help students and families become informed on post-high school options. Counselors get to know their students very well and serve as a support person on campus when help is needed.

 

2. When can a student see his/her counselor?

Students can drop in to see their counselor before or after school, during brunch, or during lunch. For issues that require a longer conversation, students can make an appointment to see their counselor by contacting the Counseling Secretary, Cory Brent, in person, by email, or by phone (650-960-8823). Every student will also have one 30-minute scheduled appointment each year to discuss academic progress, courses for the following year, post-high school planning, and any other concerns.

 

3. How do I get up-to-date counseling information?

The Counseling Department attempts to reach as many students and parents as possible by disseminating information in a variety of places. Many Counseling documents, handouts, and presentations are available for download in the Counseling section of the LAHS website. We maintain a Facebook page where announcements are frequently posted. "Like" our page in order for our updates to appear in your Facebook News Feed. Additionally, we post our quarterly Counseling newsletter, called Counseling Connection, to the Counseling News page and email it to all families. Announcements are often included in Mrs. Satterwhite's "Words From Wynne" emails as well. Much of this information is also available in Spanish on the website or by contacting Maria Hoerni at 650-960-8473.

 

4. How can a student or parent reschedule a counseling appointment?

Students and parents can reschedule counseling appointments by contacting the Counseling Secretary, Cory Brent, in person, by email, or by phone (650-960-8823).

 

5. My student is struggling in one or more courses. What can I do to help?

Grades, assignments, and attendance can be monitored online by parents and students on SIS. This is the best way to be informed of a student's progress throughout the school year.

If a student is struggling, discuss the issue directly with him/her. What does the student think is the problem? Identifying areas for improvement (such as homework completion or test preparation) can help tremendously to improve grades and comprehension of the course material.

If the student needs help in specific areas or cannot identify specific difficulties in the class, it is important to contact the teacher directly. We encourage students to try this on their own first, in order to build skills of self-advocacy and independence. If this does not improve the situation, parents can contact teachers by email or voicemail. Contact information for teachers can be found on SIS or on the Staff Directory page of the school website. Teachers are an invaluable resource in helping students achieve growth and success in their subject matter.

If these steps have not helped the student to be more successful, please contact the student's counselor to discuss other suggestions or options for support.

 

6. What is the procedure for dropping or adding a course? How long do students have to drop without a penalty?

To drop or add a course, students must obtain an add/drop form from their counselor, which must be signed by a parent/guardian, the teacher of the course being dropped, and the counselor.

Per MVLA district policy, students may drop a course within the first 6 weeks of a semester without incurring a penalty on the transcript. After the end of the sixth week, students may still drop a course but will incur a withdrawal grade of WP or WF, depending on whether the student was passing or failing the course at the time of dropping. This grade will appear on the transcript, but the withdrawal grade is not factored into the student's GPA.  

 

7. What's the difference between college-prep, Honors, and AP courses?

College-prep courses are high school level courses that meet admission requirements for college and prepare students for college level work. Honors courses are still high school level but move through material at an accelerated pace, have more homework, and require a higher level of independence and self-advocacy. AP courses are college level, requiring an even greater amount of work and commitment. All AP courses have a corresponding AP exam given in May, which enrolled students are expected to take. High scores on AP exams may allow students to enter college with college credit. We encourage all students to challenge themselves with rigorous coursework, though it is important to plan a balanced course load that allows for extracurricular activities, family time, social life, and sufficient sleep. Counselors can help students decide which courses are appropriate.

 

8. When do courses need to be repeated? What are the options?

If a student earns an F in a course required to graduate, the course must be repeated (or a different course that fulfills the same requirement must be taken if available). A grade of D- is considered passing for graduation, but colleges generally do not accept D's for admission. Students who plan to apply to four-year colleges should repeat D/F grades in courses that will be evaluated by colleges for admission. Students can make up certain courses in summer school or through MVLA Adult Education. When a student earns a D/F grade, that original grade will always remain on the transcript. However, if the student repeats the course within the district, the credits from the original low grade will be "zeroed out" on the transcript, which removes the value of the low grade from the GPA. The grade and credits from the repeated course will then be factored into the GPA in place of the original. In some cases students can make up courses outside of the district, but the original credits will not be zeroed out. Students should see their counselor for more specific information.

 

9. Can students request specific teachers?

Students may not request specific teachers, though counselors try as much as possible to accommodate schedule preferences.

 

10. What do the different GPAs on the LAHS transcript mean?

MVLA calculates GPA in a variety of ways, which are used for different purposes:

- Total (cumulative) GPA: Includes every single credit earned by the student in grades 9-12. Some colleges use this GPA in the admissions process.

- Academic 9-12 GPA: Includes all coursework in grades 9-12 except PE, athletics, T.A., and a few other non-academic courses. This GPA is used by many colleges in the admissions process, and senior rankings are based on this GPA.

- Academic 10-12: Includes all coursework in grades 10-12 except PE, athletics, T.A., and a few other non-academic courses. This GPA is used by UC, CSU, and other colleges in the admissions process. (UC/CSU will only calculate 'a-g' approved coursework.)

- Weighted GPA: Calculated using the weighted value of Honors and AP courses (i.e. A = 5, B = 4, etc).

- Unweighted GPA: Calculated using the standard value of all grades on a 4.0 GPA scale, regardless of Honors or AP designation.

 

11. Do 9th grade classes and grades count for college?

Grades and coursework from 9th grade are always important for college. Many colleges factor 9th grade courses into the GPA that they use to evaluate applicants for admission and scholarships. However, even if a school does not use 9th grade in the GPA (such as UC and CSU), they will still take into account the difficulty of the curriculum and the student's performance in those courses, just as they will for grades 10-12.

 

12. Can I take classes at a community college or institution other than LAHS?

Yes, students who are at least 16 years of age and a junior or senior may enroll at local community colleges. To register, students must complete an online application and High School Permission Form (available on the college's website). For coursework at other institutions outside of the MVLA district, students need to obtain an out-of-district coursework permission form from their counselor. Students should speak with their counselor regarding all off-campus coursework to make sure that the desired course is appropriate for that student and that credits will be transferred to LAHS. Students are responsible for sending an official transcript to LAHS upon completion of any outside coursework.

 

13. What are 'a-g' approved courses and why are they important?

Courses designated as 'a-g approved' are those that count toward fulfilling the 'a-g' subject requirements for the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems. They are denoted on the LAHS transcript with a 'p' next to the course title. Information about college requirements can be found here. All students are encouraged to attempt completion of the 'a-g' requirements in order to have as many college options as possible when they graduate. Completing this set of coursework will make students eligible to apply to most colleges and universities, including out-of-state schools.

 

14. What is the difference between SAT and ACT?

The SAT and ACT are two different standardized tests used in the college admission process, typically taken in 11th and/or 12th grade. Students must take one of them for admission to most colleges, though generally colleges do not have a preference, unless specifically stated. Students may choose to take one or try both; some students find that they do better on one test than on the other, while others find that they score about the same on both. The tests differ in their "philosophical" approach, scoring system, number and type of sections, and content covered. Numerous books and test preparation courses are available to help students prepare. Visit the College/Career Center or the College Board (SAT) and ACT websites for more information.

 

15. What are SAT Subject Tests? Which colleges require them?

The SAT Subject Tests are subject-specific standardized tests required by some colleges for admission. UCs no longer require them, though they are still generally recommended and may help students gain admission to competitive campuses or majors. CSUs do not require them. Many private colleges do require them, and out-of-state university requirements vary. The Subject Tests are offered in English, math, sciences, history, and languages, and students can choose the ones on which they are likely to score well or are most closely related to their current coursework/planned college major. More information is available on the College Board website.