Choosing Your Courses

It is time to choose courses!

We are excited by the breadth and depth of courses we are able to offer. There are some things we encourage you to keep in mind as you select courses:

  • Try to make a multi-year plan so that you are sure to attend to the requirements below and give yourself opportunities to pursue your interests and passions.
  • Just because you can does not mean you should. Students often feel they have to take as many challenging courses as possible; that is rarely a recipe for a happy year.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. High school should be a chance to broaden yourself.
  • Think about all the other things (sports, arts, out-of-school responsibilities) that will be on your plate as you select courses. Your schedule should promote balance and allow for a good night’s sleep.

Menlo Graduation Requirements

  • English – 4 years
  • Mathematics – 3 years
  • Creative Arts – 3 semesters, one through Freshman Rotation, plus one yearlong class 
    Starting with the Class of 2025, 4 semesters required, and students need to take a yearlong Arts class in either freshman or sophomore year. All freshmen will earn one semester of Arts credit for their Freshman Arts Experience (FAX) 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
  • World Language – 3rd or Intermediate level, same language, 2 consecutive years in Upper School
  • Freshman Rotation – Freshman Arts Experience (FAX), Whitaker Rotation, Identity and Wellness Programs
  • Physical Education – 4 semesters, one of which is satisfied through Freshman Rotation; one season in any sport is equivalent to one semester
  • Community Engagement – Students must earn at least 10 community engagement credits each school year by participating in and reflecting upon meaningful experiences that meet at least one of the four areas of focus: getting out of their comfort zone, building empathy, growing their social consciousness, and taking leadership on issues that matter to them. Additionally, students must be full, engaged participants in each grade level’s MTerm experience. 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), and Applied Science Research (H).