How to Decide

Menlo Graduation Requirements

  • English – 4 years
  • Mathematics – 3 years
  • Creative Arts – 3 semesters, one through Freshman Rotation plus one yearlong class
  • History – Modern World History, 9th grade; U.S. History or AP U.S. History, 10th grade; Junior-Year History electives
  • Science – Physics, 9th grade; Chemistry, 10th grade; Biology, 11th grade
  • Foreign Language – 3rd level, same language, 2 years in Upper School
  • Freshman Rotation – Introduction to the Arts, Public Speaking, Freshman Seminar, Wellness Program, Media Literacy
  • Physical Education – 4 semesters, one of which is satisfied through Freshman Rotation; one season in any sport is equivalent to one semester
  • Senior Project – The senior project is a culmination of the Menlo School experience. The senior project gives students time to independently explore a current or potential passion while giving them maximum responsibility for their own learning. In the senior project, students design their own plan to pursue a passion or interest over a four-week period under the supervision of a faculty member. In so doing, students will write a compelling proposal, work on the project for at least thirty hours per week during the project period, monitor their progress and reflect on their experience through journal writing and twice-weekly meetings with their faculty supervisor, and give an effective presentation on their project to the school community.
  • Community Service – For the Classes of 2018 and 2019, students are required to carrying out a successful PACT and participate in at least five Menlo service opportunities.  For the Classes of 2020 and beyond, students will earn 10 community engagement credits each school year by engaging in meaningful community service that addresses a social or environmental injustice.  See more about Community Engagement requirements here.

Course Selection & College Admissions

While colleges like to see students stretch themselves with a rigorous course of study, they do not use specific formulae or have specific requirements. Menlo students should challenge themselves in a healthy way by taking as rigorous a course load as they can without sacrificing their performance and commitments to their lives outside of the classroom, including a good night’s sleep. Since the appropriate academic curriculum varies for each individual, students should take a balanced load of courses with an appropriate level of challenge, and especially pursue particular intellectual interests.

Colleges consider the rigor of a student’s schedule in the context of their school’s offerings, and taking a more rigorous course load can help students distinguish themselves in the college admissions process. Keep in mind that rigor is measured in many ways: the number of classes taken, the types of classes taken, concentration on specific interests and the breadth of classes taken. No one course should be taken solely because it “looks good for college admissions.”

Colleges look for students who are intellectually energized, engaged learners; admission officers do not necessarily like to see students take the “hardest” academic programs, but rather the programs that most engage them. For example, if a student is a budding historian, colleges may appreciate seeing a range of AP and non-AP History electives and will understand if that student ends his or her course of study in another subject to make room for them. Also, students overwhelmingly report that they are happier and more engaged when they take classes that genuinely interest them, as opposed to taking classes they feel they “should” take.

Because there are so many elective choices by junior and especially senior year, students often need to make the choice to stop certain programs of study while still completing all of Menlo’s graduation requirements. For instance, it could make sense for a student who is headed towards majoring in engineering in college to take extra math, science or computer science classes and to close his or her study of history, world language or the arts. There is limited time in the schedule, and colleges understand this. Rather than worrying about what’s not in a specific student’s curriculum, colleges can be impressed that a student has passionately pursued a particular area. In addition, Menlo’s graduation requirements meet or exceed the UC admissions criteria in all areas.

Special Issues with UC Admissions and Menlo Courses:

Menlo’s graduation requirements meet or exceed the UC admissions criteria in all areas.

The University of California gives honors credit to all of Menlo’s senior English courses, whether or not Menlo considers them honors. 

The UC system also gives honors credit to Menlo’s regular (non-AP) U.S. History class; however, Menlo does not give honors credit for the class. 

Menlo gives honors credit to the following courses, though the UC system does not: Advanced Topics in Computer Science (H), Algebra 2 (H), Analytic Geometry and Algebra (H), Applied Science Research (H), and Ideology with Honors designation.

Non-UC Approved Courses:
Certain Menlo classes are not UC approved and cannot be used to fulfill the UC A-G requirements. Taking these classes could impact the strength of an application to the UC system. Families should talk to their College Counselor when selecting courses if concerned about this issue. Non-UC-approved courses at Menlo are:  Essential Microeconomics and Chamber Choir