The High School Crescendo: Preparing for Academics & Extracurriculars

27/12/20215 minute read
The High School Crescendo: Preparing for Academics & Extracurriculars

What to Expect as You Prepare for High-School-level Academics & Extracurriculars

by Gala Radinovic

I’ve always thought of grade school as an orchestral piece, with a gradual crescendo building up to the graduation finale, at which point talented students will be going off into the world at a prestigious higher education institution of their own choosing with the guidance of their family and Crimson Team showing that at the end of the day, yes, hard work does pay off.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a crescendo as “a slow steady increase in how loudly a piece of music is played or sung,” and the same logic truly applies if transferred to academics.

Go back in time to when your child was first learning how to read. Regardless of the language, s/he began with the basics, and the level gradually increased—from vocabulary complexity to page count, difficulty of comprehension questions, etc.

(Please note that the quest to develop reading level, although prominent in the elementary years of education, usually is highlighted until around grade 8 depending on the curriculum your child is studying under. By the time your child reaches high school, s/he should have the reading maturity to handle more complex reading—but I’ll be addressing that in a future blog so stay tuned!)

The same logic applies in middle school academics vs those of high school: the length, breath, and scope of everything increases. Going back to the crescendo metaphor—grade by grade, everything is just a little bit louder. From having the power to choose which subjects and extracurriculars, navigating the “alphabet soup” of education types, and having every grade make an impact… the volume is turned up!

Power of Choice – The first big change in middle school vs. high school is getting to choose subjects and extracurriculars in a broader range than in middle school. For example, in the American curriculum, students are no longer tied to just “science” each year, but some choose more courses in biology, others may choose a variation and tackle biology, chemistry, and physics while dialing back in the arts and foreign languages. Each educational system has regulations as to minimums in certain areas that must be taken (ie in the USA students must take English class every year to graduate high school with 4 credits in that domain) in order to graduate high school, so knowing these regulations for your curriculum in advance is highly beneficial. You do not want to take twice as many Spanish classes as any other subjects in senior year just to get your diploma because you did not plan things out long term or failed to understand the system – no Bueno! Our team at Crimson is highly qualified in helping guide your son or daughter in this journey and we will guide them to making the best possible choices.

Alphabet Soup — With IB, AP, GCSE, O-Levels, A-levels, choosing the right educational system for high school can seem incredibly intimidating in this tech-powered era which we live in. Long gone are the days where we all just did our national curriculum—although that too, is not a bad choice provided it is the right one for your child. My biggest advice is to think about location—where are you now in the world and where does your child want to study? Seek alignment there. Your best bet is to go with an educational system available to you but will prepare her/him for what is to come. This topic shall be covered in greater detail in a future blog so stay tuned!

Concerning Report Cards and Semester Exams – If your child is going to university in the United States of America, please bear in mind that the school s/he applies to is going to ask for their high-school transcript. This is going to have ALL the grades from freshman year to their senior one. As such, making sure to study for tests, completing homework on time, and acing semester exams (which can be worth 20% of each semester’s grade on the report card!) is vital. To prevent panic in the final few weeks of a semester, habits such as studying subjects regularly even when there is no homework, staying diligent with due dates, and keeping organized will go a long way. At Crimson, we try to have the student form these healthy habits while still in Middle School with our Rise program – so that once they are ready for high school (our Core program), it’s all good to go!

Building a Passion – Even though the academics are increasing, high school is anything but “all work and no play” as extracurriculars play a huge part—both in terms of building an impressive portfolio for getting into a dream university, as well as a teenager’s social life. By high-school, most students have a clear set of likes and dislikes for their spare time and quality vs quantity becomes a major component. Look into leadership positions in activities your child has been doing for a long time—i.e. if they have been doing speech and debate since middle school, now would be the time to push for becoming captain of the debate team! It’s best to aim for junior year (second to last year) of high school to really shine there, but positions such as vice president, secretary, etc. are also worth exploring in earlier years. If leadership is not something your child is keen on, encourage individual projects with a guided mentor (programming a robot, organizing a clothing drive for the homeless shelter during cold winter months, etc.) to show initiative and drive. What should also be noted is that sports become much more competitive in high school than they were in middle school—especially at the Varsity level. As such, staying fit year-round even when the sport is not in season is very important if your son or daughter wants to make the team next year. Showing consistency across the domains of creativity, action (including athletics), and service to the community through each year of high school with a gradual increase in skill and responsibility each year is vital for success.

Taking the above into account, I would tell any aspiring high-schooler that Spider-Man is spot on when he says “With great power, comes great responsibility” regarding the crescendo of high school. The beauty of the journey is that students are slowly getting to make more choices, but the choices they make bear a greater weight upon them and their future. This is natural and I implore you to take interest and discuss the choices that are being made—from football team tryouts to deciding which subjects to take at certain levels. It might seem intimidating at first but not only is it about having to make the choices, but learning how to make them as that too, is excellent preparation for university where the menu of choices shall be all the greater.

Your friendly neighborhood Rise blogger,



Learn more about Crimson Rise’s strategic mentorship, academic support, and extracurricular coaching for young students, and request a free consultation on your child’s journey!