Sophomore Parent Night Notes

For those parents who missed Sophomore Parents Night on February 12, here are some highlights of the evening:

After a quick set of introductions, Shelly Borg, Director of Guidance, gave a presentation. The majority of the presentation was about testing and choosing classes for next year.

SAT Subject tests (also called SAT II and formerly known as “Achievement” tests) cover one subject in an hour. Subject tests are only needed if your student is thinking about applying to one of the more competitive colleges. If you think that might be the case, it is recommended that a student take the SAT Subject test right after they finish the class of the test they wish to take. For example, if your student is taking Honors Chem this year, and doing well in it, you should email their teacher and ask if it would be a good idea to register for the Chem subject test. Most students take this test in June. Registration is through the College Board website.

PSAT: This is a practice version of the SAT that is given at Newton South the third Saturday in October. Most Juniors choose to take this practice test. Unlike the regular SAT, the registration for this test is done through Newton South in September, usually around the second week of school. Please watch the Sunday night PTSO newsletter or the school calendar for registration information and deadlines. This test is required to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.

SAT and ACT: The SAT is a 3 hour test that most juniors take. The alternative is to take the ACT test. Currently, most colleges accept both tests. (Some colleges don’t require either–a list of these can be found here.) The SAT is given at Newton South, while the ACT is given at Newton North. Go to the websites of each test (SAT or ACT) to learn the dates that the tests are given and how to register/prepare for the tests. Do this research some time over the next few months so that when your student is a Junior, you will understand how this works and figure out the best time for them to take the SAT or ACT. Note: there a differences between the two tests. Click here for some examples of how they are different.

If you are not sure which one is better for your student, ask your guidance counselor. If your student receives special education accommodations for testing, please contact your guidance counselor or the PTSO Special Ed PAC Liaison who can give you all the information you need on making sure your student gets those accommodations when taking their SAT/ACT.

During the registration process, teachers will be speaking with their classes about options for next year, and making a recommendation for where they think each student should be. Please keep in mind that each teacher only looks at their subject area in isolation of the others, so it’s entirely possible for a student to be recommended for 5 Honors classes, but that would be way too much for them to take. It’s important for the parent, working with the Guidance Counselor, to focus on the balance in their student’s life. Balance means enough time for family, friends, sleep, exercise and time to relax, in addition to homework. Keep in mind that half the kids at South don’t take any Honors classes at all, so a student shouldn’t feel pressure to take any, unless that is what is right for them. A general rule of thumb is that a student should not only be good at the material, but also really enjoy the subject, so that the extra reading and writing necessary for an Honors class is realistic for the student to complete.

Sophomore MCAS Dates:
English and Reading – March 18, 19 and 21
Math – May 13 and 14
Science – June 2 and 3
Please make every effort to make sure your student goes to school on these days, as makeups can be difficult to schedule and passing the MCAS is required for graduating from high school. Note: please watch the PTSO newsletter for a special schedule on these days, as the Sophomores go to school regular time but the other grades come to school late, to allow the Sophomores the space and quiet needed to do well. If your student does really well on their MCAS they might qualify for an Abigail Adams Scholarship given out by the Commonwealth for use at a Massachusetts college. If that is the case, you will get a letter in the mail Senior year.

March 15 is the Sophomore Spring Fling, which is the big social event of year for the class. There will be inflatable bouncy houses, etc., in the student center, plus a hypnotist entertainer, etc. Tickets are around $35 and include refreshments. This event raises money towards your student’s Junior Semi-formal dance and the Senior Prom. More information to come as we get closer to the date.

The Guidance Department has decided to give all Sophomores partial access to the Naviance software system this spring. This is the software system from which all transcripts, teacher recommendations letters, etc. are sent when Seniors apply to college. You can go on any time as a guest. It also has career discovery tools, including a survey called “Do What You Are”. These are the sections that Sophomores will have access to, so they can spend time on them over the summer at their convenience, and start to think about which career fields make the most sense for them.

There is a lot of information available under the Guidance section of the Newton South High School website. One of the best things a Sophomore parent can do is take the time to click on the links on the site, to become familiar with what is available. This is information you will need come January of your student’s Junior year, when the college admissions process kicks off.  Click here for an example of the Junior year timetable.

While Sophomore year is a good time for parents to bring themselves up to speed on how the college admissions process works, for most students it is NOT yet time to engage them in lengthy discussions about it. It’s much more important that a Sophomore student stay focused on doing well in their classes, finding extracurricular activities/community service that brings them joy, and doing high school well (meaning finding that balance of school, family, friends and sleep). Of course, you and your student are always welcome and encouraged to make an appointment with your student’s guidance counselor to make sure you are on the right track for your student needs. Please note, that if vocational training, military service or gap year opportunities are options you want to explore for your student, the guidance counselors have lots of information on them.