Academic Guidebook

A reference to help navigate course selection.
LWHS offers an engaging Head, Heart, Hands curriculum, with a wide array of unique learning experiences. This handbook explains many of the policies governing the curricular program, and is designed to be a resource for students navigating decision making around course selection.

Scheduling Process

List of 8 items.

  • 1. How to Register for Courses

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  • 2. Course Request Forms

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  • 3. Policies and Priorities During the Scheduling Process

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  • 4. Course Load Requirements

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  • 5. Viewing Student Schedules

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  • 6. Adding, Dropping, or Changing Courses

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  • 7. Auditing Classes

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  • 8. Exceptions and Exemptions

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List of 2 members.

Academic Support

List of 5 items.

  • Overview

    We offer a number of academic support mechanisms to help students thrive during their time at LWHS. A sampling of such support systems include:
  • The Center for Civic Engagement

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  • Learning Strategies Center (LSC)

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  • Mastery of Educational Tools for Achievement Program (META)

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  • Student Support Services (SSS)

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Frequently Asked Questions

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • What should students consider when selecting courses?

    • Students should select courses that reflect their interests, appropriately challenge them, and enable them to maintain social and emotional well-being. Therefore, students should aim to maintain a healthy balance between academics, extracurriculars, and free time.
    • Students should check their transcript to make sure they are on the right path to fulfill all graduation requirements.
    • College counselors inform colleges through the school profile and letters of recommendation about LWHS academic policies and course offerings. There is no predetermined number of Honors or Advanced courses that a student must take for college admission. Juniors and seniors should discuss their course selection plans with parents, college counselors, teachers, and advisors in order to determine the most appropriate and challenging courses.
    • Colleges look beyond a student’s curriculum, grade trends, and standardized test scores; they’re also interested in such things as extracurricular activities, test scores, essays, and teacher recommendations.
    • LWHS electives offer a variety on-campus opportunities for discovering, developing, and deepening extracurricular interests, such as in the Performing Arts, Technical Arts, and Visual Arts. Advancing through these courses at LWHS will show colleges evidence of meaningful engagement and depth.
    • Most selective colleges expect juniors and seniors to maintain a schedule of five courses spread between History, Math, World Languages, English, Science, and at least one course either in the Technical Arts, Performing Arts, or Visual Arts.
    • Frosh should think carefully about enrolling in an eighth class, as maintaining a free period can be important for some students with busy extracurricular lives.
  • How many courses are students allowed to take in a semester?

    • Students are required to take a minimum of six courses in a semester, with five of them from the following departments: Math, Science, World Languages, History, and English. This is a basic requirement for most selective colleges. Seniors who have completed graduation requirements in an academic discipline may choose to take four "solids,” but are advised to check with college counselors first. (Colleges will primarily focus on the "solids" when considering rigor of curriculum, while other courses will be used to assess interests and passions.) Beginning with the class of 2022, students will be allowed to take a maximum of five courses from the departments listed above (a-e). Seniors who have completed their graduation requirement in Math, Science, or World Language may continue with their study in those departments or may take a second course from an a-e department.
    • Students may take a maximum of seven courses, while Frosh may choose an eighth course from the Performing Arts Department, rather than maintaining a free block.
    • A Teaching Assistant (TA), Independent Study (IS), or PPP cohort may count as a seventh course, but not a sixth course.
    • Students may take up to but not more than three Honors level courses per 
year, in addition to 11th grade History and English and 12th grade English. (See relevant section for more about the honors policy).
    • Juniors and seniors may choose to “double” (taking two classes in one discipline). The school cannot guarantee space in courses for all students who wish to double, but every effort is made to accommodate student interest while maintaining a transparent and fair scheduling practices for all students. In order to maintain the low student to teacher ratios and to ensure equitable scheduling, we do not allow students to take three classes concurrently from a single department.
  • Where can I find out about courses for the upcoming school year?

    Please refer to the course catalog to gain a fuller understanding of the curriculum at LWHS. The course catalog is updated each spring, before the student course signup process begins. All courses that will be offered in the school year are listed by department in the online course catalog, which can be found on the LWHS website > Curriculum > Course Catalog.
  • How is a student’s GPA determined?

    LWHS uses an unweighted GPA for all students. To learn how to calculate a GPA at LWHS, please read the information in the green downloads box on this page.
  • What type of academic advising is available to students?

    LWHS offers several resources for supporting students in their course selection process—mandatory info meetings for each class, student panels, drop-in sessions with college counselors, and help desks run by the Deans. In addition, a student's advisor, the Dean of Academic Services, the Deans (Dean of Students and Grade Level Deans), and Assistant Head of School are available for one-on-one counseling as needed. Students should talk to their teachers to receive advice in specific disciplines. Since parents best understand their child's personality, study habits and out of school commitments, it's important that they discuss course selection as well:
    • Should they have one or two free periods? 
    • How many honors courses should they take? 
    • Should they take a sixth homework heavy course?

    For further information about the types of year-round academic support that are available, please see the academic support box above.


List of 2 frequently asked questions.

  • What should students do if a course they desire to take is full?

    We use a priority system for scheduling classes to ensure equitable access. It is critical that students rank several choices on their course signup form so that if they can't get into their first choice the scheduler will have alternative options.

    Occasionally, students may feel it is important to let colleges know that they could not get into a certain course because it was full or conflicted with other courses. In this case, they should discuss it with a college counselor, who can make this information available to admissions officers through their recommendations.

    Continue reading the next FAQ about the add/drop period.
  • What is the Add/Drop period?

    Students should go through the Add/Drop/Change process during the first four days of each semester. The school will do its best to accommodate course requests made during the Add/Drop period using the same priorities that were used during the scheduling process. Schedule changes are not made until the Add/Drop period in order to provide transparent and consistent course selection for all students.

    When students fill out the Add/Drop/Change form they should read the instructions, clearly state the reasons they are requesting a change in their schedule, and then list the courses that they are willing to “give up” in order to accommodate the request. Within 24 hours of a request, changes that have been granted will appear on their online schedule. Students need to follow their existing schedule, as it appears online until any changes are made.

    Students will not be allowed to drop a course after the Add/Drop period, unless there are special circumstances and the drop is approved by Student Support Services and the Deans. Dropping a course will usually result in a Medical Withdrawal or Withdrawal notation on the transcript. If students or parents have questions regarding course scheduling or the Add/Drop procedures they may contact Dean of Academic Services Dr. Chinh Nguyen.


List of 3 frequently asked questions.

  • Why does the school choose not to offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses?

    LWHS decided to phase out its few remaining AP courses following a highly participatory, yearlong, conversation with students, faculty, parents, trustees, and college admissions officers. This change occurred, in large part, because LWHS teachers want to create innovative, rigorous courses that are (1) relevant, compelling, and impelling, (2) aligned with current knowledge and best practice in their fields, and (3) reflect teachers’ particular passions and the school mission. LWHS knows, both from experience and research literature, that teachers are most successful at engaging students when these three goals frame the work they do. It is also the case that LWHS programs have, for many years, been truncated and eclipsed by the intrusion and distraction of AP exams during the first three weeks of May, well before the school year is over. 
    Further, the pro AP argument that AP credits allow graduates to skip introductory college courses and, perhaps, graduate in less than four years, is no longer valid for two reasons: (1) increasingly, colleges and universities are abandoning the practice of granting automatic promotion based on AP scores, (2) entering college frosh are always welcome to take placement tests if they seek admission to upper level courses. 
    In sum, we have found that the AP program has become a limiting, rather than an enriching, factor in the school’s determination to provide a true 21st Century educational experience for the 21st Century students.
  • What should students be aware of regarding the SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests?

    All students will take the PSAT on campus in 10th and 11th grades. All students should then take the ACT or SAT in the late winter or spring of junior year. We recommend students wait to begin official standardized testing until that time to ensure sufficient preparation and optimal results, and to prevent over-testing.

    Most students should take two SAT subject tests in spring of junior year and/or the fall of senior year. Students can choose to take one, two, or three subjects on a single test date.

    The University of California (UC) campuses don't require SAT Subject Tests. However, we suggest that students take two or more to remain competitive for admission. The UCs do not stipulate which SAT subject tests a student must submit, but they will not accept the Math Level 1 Subject Test. Many other colleges and universities require or recommend two (in a few cases three) SAT Subject Tests. Certain programs (particularly those in science and engineering) will require students to take specific SAT Subject Test.

    Please visit the College Board and ACT websites for more information about each test.
  • What is the relationship between LWHS graduation requirements and the UC/CSU admission criteria?

    • By fulfilling LWHS graduation requirements and maintaining a 3.0 weighted GPA (for the UCs, or a 2.0 GPA for the CSUs) in UC/CSU approved courses, every student will be eligible for admission to the UC and CSU campuses. 
    • To satisfy the University of California and California State University A–G Subject Requirement, students must complete a minimum of 15 of these “A–G” college preparatory courses, with at least 11 finished prior to senior year. Please see the UC/CSU A–G Subject Requirements in the green downloads box on this page.
    • Competitive eligibility at the more selective UC and CSU campuses can be achieved by exceeding the A–G Subject Requirements, and achieving a GPA higher than the minimum. 
    • The UCs and CSUs calculate a weighted GPA for each applicant, giving an extra point to Honors, college level, and AP classes. 
    • Most LWHS classes are UC approved. The list of UC approved courses and UC approved Honors courses can be found on the University of California website.

Course Request Policies

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • Can students select their teachers and/or the block that they would like to take a course?

    Due to the complexity of the scheduling process, LWHS does not make accommodations for teacher preference or scheduling elegance. The only exceptions to this policy are given to students with diagnosed learning differences who work with the LSC Director Winifred Montgomery, or to students under active consideration by the SSS (Student Support Services) team. The SSS team takes into account any recommendation made for teacher preference by the LSC Director, and the team makes a recommendation to the Assistant Head of School. Generally, the SSS team makes their recommendations before the course signup deadline in the spring.
  • What is the cap on the number of Honors courses a student can take in a semester?

    Central to an LWHS education is the school’s mission to provide students with a head, heart, and hands education. Pursuing honors courses exclusively can mean that students are not developing broader skills and interests, and may not be maintaining a healthy balance, since these classes are highly challenging and homework intensive. 

    Therefore, students may take no more than three Honors level courses per year from the table below. Students enrolled in three Honors classes may take a seventh class from the following options: Visual Arts, Technical Arts, Performing Arts, Journalism, Philanthropy, Independent Study, or Teaching Assistant.
    Because students are automatically enrolled in English 3, US History (both taken junior year), and English 4 Senior Seminars, those courses do not count towards the honor cap. 


    MathScienceWorld Languages
    Honors CalculusHonors PhysicsHonors Chinese 4
    Honors Precalculus 
    Honors ChemistryHonors French 4
    Honors Statistics
    1 & 2
    Honors Biology:
    Genetics Semester Courses
    Honors Spanish 3
    Honors Biology:
    Anatomy & Physiology
    Honors Spanish 4
    Honors Environmental Science
  • What do students need to know about Independent Study and Teaching Assistant (TA) courses?

    • Independent Studies provide a way for individual students to explore topics not offered in the LWHS curriculum. They can be a way to demonstrate to colleges the depth of a student’s interest in a particular subject. Students work with a faculty advisor, meeting at least once per rotation.
    • Independent Study and TA courses are considered electives, not alternatives to the six required courses. Students may take an Independent Study as a seventh course.
    • Independent Studies are to be treated as formal courses that take up at least one regular block on a student’s schedule in a rotation. TA courses meet either during the class session or during the teacher’s free block, as in the case of science teachers who work with a TA to set up labs.
    • Independent Study and TA courses are graded Pass/Fail, are semester-long, and will appear on student transcripts.
    • Independent Studies can be requested during course requests in the spring and/or the Add/Drop period during the first two days of each semester.
    • Students submit a proposal for an Independent Study or TA to the cooperating teacher, the sponsoring Department Chair, and the Assistant Head of School. Independent Studies are generally meant for individuals and not groups, but students may request an exception.
    • TA’s must have previously taken the course for which they plan to TA.
    • Teachers choose, on an individual and departmental basis, whether or not to participate in an Independent Study project. Each teacher may have no more than one independent study per semester. Teachers may have up to four TA’s but not more than one per class/free block.
    • Public Purpose Program (PPP) Independent Studies allow students to work in groups on topics featuring a service element, and this is one way of satisfying the junior/senior PPP requirement. Proposals should be directed to the Public Purpose Director Alan Wesson Suárez.
  • Can a student “double” in a content area?

    (i.e. take two courses concurrently in Science, History, Visual Arts, etc.)

    Yes, juniors and seniors may take a second course concurrently in a given department, if there is space available after all students are enrolled in their required courses and first choices are granted for non-doublers. Students who have exhausted a program in one academic area (such as World Languages) and need a fifth course will be given priority during course scheduling. We do not allow students to take three classes concurrently from a single department.
  • Can a student sit in on a class that they are not formally enrolled in?

    No. A student may not take a course that is not on their own course schedule. In order to maintain a fair student to teacher ratio, LWHS does NOT permit students to audit courses.

Department Specific

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • Do any LWHS courses have prerequisites and/or require auditions?

    Yes, certain courses require that students take an introductory (prerequisite) course, or receive permission from the instructor before they can enroll.

    MathSee the math flowchart in #10 and read the Course Catalog to learn more about policies on Math placement and sequence of courses. 

    Performing Arts
    Auditions and/or permission from the instructor are required for Advanced Combo, Big Band, Chamber Orchestra, Dance 2, Dance Ensemble, and Vocal Ensemble. 
    ScienceAll upper-level science courses require the prerequisites of Biology in the 9th grade and Chemistry in the 10th grade. Students interested in taking Honors Physics must have also successfully completed Physics and Calculus (or be concurrently enrolled in Calculus). Any questions regarding the Science prerequisites or which Science courses are best suited for a particular student’s interests and skills can be directed to the student’s current science teacher and/or to Science Department Chair Don Rizzi
    Technical ArtsStudents must pass the core requirement Design & Technology to be eligible to enroll in Technical Arts offerings. In order to enroll in Jewelry 2, Fabrications with Fabric 2, or Computing 2, students must pass level 1 of the respective course. Students may choose to repeat a course, but priority will be given in scheduling to students who have never taken the course. 
    Visual ArtsStudents must pass the core requirement Contemporary Media and Art to be eligible to enroll in Visual Arts offerings. Students must successfully pass level 1 offerings to be eligible for level 2 offerings such as Photo 2 or Architecture 2. Students may choose to repeat a level 2 course or a course in the department without a second level, but priority will be given in scheduling to students who have never taken the course.
    World LanguagesAfter third quarter grading, teachers will notify students about advancing to accelerated or honors courses. Students must meet the minimum grade average in the course that they are currently enrolled in. For more information see the World Languages fact sheet on Honors/Accelerated courses in the green downloads box on this page. Questions about the World Languages placement process can be directed to World Languages Department Chair Ivonne Hernandez
  • What does a student need to know about course sequences for Math?

    • A test is given to incoming students to determine their appropriate placement.
    • Students who earn less than a C– in a prerequisite course are required to repeat the course at LWHS prior to advancing in the mathematics curriculum. Repeating with a summer course is possible with department approval. 
    • Students need to demonstrate success in Algebra 2 or Precalculus in order to move to Precalculus or Calculus, respectively.
    • Students who are deciding between Precalculus, Applied Mathematics, and Honors Statistics should consult with their teacher, advisor, or Math Department Chair Annie Mehalchick.
    The following is a visual representation of the possible paths in the Math program:
  • What should a student consider when selecting a Science course?

    As in all disciplines, student course selection in Science should be driven in large part by interest, passion, curiosity, and future academic/work ambitions. For specific questions related to individual Science courses, students should talk to their current science teacher and/or Science Department Chair Don Rizzi. 

    Points to consider in course selection:

    • Both biological and physical sciences are appropriate for admission to college.
    • Students who are considering pursuing a science or engineering degree, a career in medicine or even some types of law are strongly encouraged to take a Physics course.
    • Brain and Behavior is a social science. For the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU), Psychology qualifies as a college preparatory elective, but not a laboratory science.

    Please see the UC/CSU A–G Subject Requirements in the green downloads box on this page.
  • When should a student fulfill their Technical Arts requirement?

    LWHS has a two year Technical Arts requirement. The first year of the requirement is fulfilled by enrollment in the 9th grade, yearlong Design and Technology course. The second year of the requirement can be fulfilled by taking two, semester-long Technical Arts courses at any time during their four years at LWHS. We recommend that students take at least one semester of Tech Arts during their sophomore year, and then another semester some time junior or senior year at LWHS (after the 9th grade). 
  • What does a student need to know about course sequences for World Languages?

    Accelerated and HonorsIn order to enroll in an Accelerated or Honors course it is important for students to read the Course Catalog descriptions and requirements carefully. See the World Languages fact sheet in the green downloads box on this page for more specifics about the process to enroll in an Accelerated or Honors class.
    Students who enter LWHS with a significant fluency in a particular language are encouraged to begin study in a new language. Those who wish to continue studying a language in which they are fluent or very advanced will not be placed in an honors level course as 9th graders for developmental and pedagogical reasons. Please contact World Languages Department Chair Ivonne Hernandez, if you have questions about this policy. 
    Advanced LevelsA student who places into an advanced level of one of the languages offered and who completes the highest course offered in that language in the sophomore year will satisfy the requirement and will not be required to start another language. The highest level courses offered are Spanish 4 Honors, French 4 Honors, and Chinese 4 Honors. 
    Grade requirement to advance to the next language levelIn order to advance to the next language level in the World Languages department, students must earn a C- or higher at the end of their second semester. A student with a second semester grade lower than a C- will need to repeat the course. The World Languages Department strongly recommends that a student who earns a C- for the second semester take a summer course to be better prepared for the next language level.  
    Number of Required Years of StudyIn order to graduate, students must complete three years of study at LWHS in one language. Students may also meet the graduation requirement by taking two years of study in each of two different languages. 
    Placement ExamIncoming students wishing to be placed at a level other than the introductory first-year course must take a placement examination. 

Non-LWHS Courses

List of 2 frequently asked questions.

  • Can a student take courses outside of LWHS?

    LWHS does not allow outside credit. Students sometimes take courses outside of LWHS for enrichment or credit recovery, but the grades earned will not be factored into a student’s grade point average and the courses will not appear on the LWHS transcript. The exception to this rule occurs when students take a semester away from LWHS. Courses taken during the semester away may count towards fulfilling LWHS graduation requirements, in consultation with the Assistant Head of School. However, the courses and grades will not appear on the LHWS transcript.

    Per student request, the College Counseling Department will forward copies of non-LWHS transcripts directly to colleges. Once the course has been completed, students should have the institution mail an official transcript directly to our Registrar Kelleigh Trowbridge.
  • What role does a summer school course play in the LWHS curriculum?

    While summer courses may be desirable and useful for personal academic enrichment, bear in mind that a six week summer course can rarely provide the academic depth that an entire year would. The Math Department conforms to the general school policy and does not allow summer courses to substitute for LWHS course placement. Students who take summer courses despite this policy will be required to retake the class at LWHS.

    The following exceptions to this policy are as follows:

    Students who take Algebra 1 in the 9th grade and want to study Calculus during their senior year. This may be done with either of the following options: 

    • Algebra 1 students who earn an A may take a summer Geometry class allowing them to enroll in Algebra 2 as 10th graders. 
    • 11th grade Algebra 2 students who receive an A may take summer Precalculus for placement into Calculus. 
    Students must provide LWHS with a transcript showing a B or better in the summer class or take a placement test to advance. Students considering this option should consult with the Math Department Chair Annie Mehalchick, and indicate in the appropriate section of the course signup form that summer work is planned. Some colleges do consider summer school courses and grades by recalculating a student’s grade point average to reflect all coursework completed while in high school. 
    Please see FAQ 12 for more information about transcripts and how courses are reported to colleges. 
    All students completing summer work must provide LWHS with a transcript in the summer class AND must take an LWHS placement test to determine advancement. 

    Students considering summer work should consult with the Math Department Chair Annie Mehalchick, and indicate in the appropriate section of the course signup form that summer work is planned. Some colleges do consider summer school courses and grades by calculating a student’s grade point average to reflect all course work completed while in high school.

    Please see FAQ 12 for more information about transcripts and how courses are reported to colleges.
    World Language students who receive a semester grade of a C- in a World Languages course or a D on the final exam will be strongly encouraged to take a summer course in order to prepare for the next level.

Lick-Wilmerding High School

755 Ocean Avenue | San Francisco, CA 94112 | 415.333.4021
A private school with public purpose, Lick-Wilmerding High School develops the head, heart, and hands of highly motivated students from all walks of life, inspiring them to become lifelong learners who contribute to the world with confidence and compassion.