You will probably find that the U.S. High School system is quite different from the system in your country. For example, U.S. students do not specialize in one area while in high school. They often take basic foundational classes to prepare them for college. Most U.S. high schools have four grades:
9th grade Freshman ages 14 to 15 10th grade Sophomore ages 15 to 16 11th grade Junior ages 16 to 17 12th grade Senior ages 17 to 18
The Academic Program...
Your school Counselor and Local WES Counselor will help you design an academic program which is appropriate for you. It will most likely include English, Mathematics, Science (Biology, Chemistry, or Physics), U.S. History, Physical Education (sports and exercise), and elective subjects (such as Drama, Art, Computers, Music, Yearbook, Photography, etc.)
Classes are normally held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., although this varies. A student typically carries three or four standard (required) courses and some elective courses which suit the interests of the individual student. There are six or seven class hours or periods during the day. The schedule may be the same every day, or it may vary depending upon the day of the week.
If you are taking classes which will count toward a diploma in your home country, it is ESSENTIAL that you research the requirements BEFORE your arrival. Make a list of the classes you need to take ahead of time so you can avoid the unnecessary confusion and costly phone calls home.
As you establish your schedule of classes, try to include extracurricular activities that will enrich your high school experience. Join one or more after-school clubs. You will make more friends this way and enjoy yourself more.
What grade will I be in?
Your grade level will be determined by a number of factors, the most important being your previous high school coursework. For this reason, it is imperative to bring to the U.S. a copy of your most recent school transcripts. Please understand your grade level is ultimately determined by your school Counselor.
Will I graduate from high school?
It is important to understand that WES students are NOT guaranteed a diploma under any circumstances. Each American high school has different guidelines and rules concerning diplomas obtained by foreign students. In the event that your host high school permits foreign students to earn diplomas, you must consult with your School Counselor upon enrollment to establish eligibility and to select courses required for graduation. All requirements of the high school must be met to receive the diploma.
You are expected to do your best in school, regardless of whether you will receive academic credit. Failing grades will cause students to be placed on probation or sent home. If you are not doing well in a class, it is your responsibility to alert your high school Counselor, your host parents, and your Local Coordinator immediately. If tutoring is recommended, you will be required to cover the cost.
Will I receive school transcripts at the end of the program?
Every WES student will receive an official school transcript which indicates all of the coursework completed throughout the program. Each country has its own requirements for validating high school transcripts from the U.S. The overseas representative can give you the specific procedure for your country. WES will also send you specific information about transcript validation as the end of the year approaches.
Will I be the only exchange student in my school?
There was a time when being an exchange student was fairly uncommon but over the past five years, the number of exchange students has increased dramatically. You will probably not be the only exchange student in your high school, however, most schools limit the number of exchange students they will accept from one country. WES places no more than four exchange students in any single school and no more than two students of the same nationality in one school. This ensures that each student will enjoy a special experience at the high school. While it is natural that you and other exchange students establish a support network of students who speak the same first language, WES encourages you to establish friendships with U.S. students. This will assist you to adjust more easily while fulfilling the objective of cultural exchange.
What happens if I fail or do poorly in school?
WES students are expected to do well in school, in academic work and to participate in extracurricular activities. Students who are doing poorly in some classes must get tutorial assistance, for which they may be asked to pay. Students are required to maintain a minimum C+ grade point average and must maintain passing grades in all classes. Students who do not maintain a C+ average will be asked to leave the program and return to the home country.
Can I participate in athletics or sports in the high school?
Exchange students may be eligible to participate in interscholastic, competitive sports, subject to the rules and regulations of each state's high school athletic association.
Can I drive a car while in the U.S.?
No. The only time you can drive is during a school-sponsored driver's education class. Students can receive a driver's license at the completion of the class. However, the Local Coordinator must hold the license until the student returns to the home country. Driving a car under any other circumstances is cause for dismissal from the program and early return home.