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(Answered by the Counseling Dept.) If you require more information, it is best to email your child’s counselor.


1.     How can students take rigorous non-AP courses (such as honors) when there is a lack of honors classes due to the cutbacks?

This is a curriculum and budget issue as AP courses bring in money to pay for additional teachers. If these teachers teach other courses, Lowell would have less money for staffing. The counseling department would like to advocate the return of more honors and other regular courses. There are many students who would like to take a one semester regular course instead. If they find the subject interesting, they can then sign up for the AP course the following year. Currently, there are approximately 11 honors courses and fewer advanced courses such as Advanced Journalism and advanced levels in the arts.


2.     Is this forcing students to take APs or drop down to regular classes?

Taking regular classes should not be considered as ‘dropping down”.  Our regular classes are very rigorous. If students have time during their junior or senior year, they should go to City College and take college level classes as a ‘concurrent student’ (free for SFUSD students). They can see their counselor about these opportunities.


3.  Re: VICCI Center – My daughter does not have a lunch – so little time to visit the center between 9AM-3PM. Are there any after hour times or weekend openings? 

No.  However, throughout the year when there are special schedules due to rallies, festivals, and co-curricular days there may be time for her to visit the VICCI when normally she would not have time to do so.   Unfortunately, one of the sacrifices a student makes when taking seven courses is access to some of the resources we have here at school.


4.     When should you interview at private colleges? I thought counselors at private schools will not interview a junior?

Every private school has its own protocol. Call the school to check on its policies.


5.     How do I calculate a weighted GPA?

The district does not have a weighted GPA on report cards or on the transcripts.  The counselors only calculate a weighted GPA during the senior year to be submitted to the private colleges the student is applying to. Individual colleges will determine how they want to use a weighted grade. For example, the UCs will only give weight for “a-g” advanced placement and some honors courses, and only courses taken in the 10th and 11th grades. Private colleges may calculate a weighted GPA differently.  Students can calculate a UC/CSU gpa by using this worksheet.


6.     Why doesn’t Lowell have students take college & career class – beginning/end of 10th or beginning/end of Senior year?

It is district policy that freshmen take College and Career. Previously, Lowell was not following district policy.


7.     Foreign languages: How is it viewed the SAT2 and/or AP in the language spoken at home?  

Even though you are a native speaker you can still take the AP or SAT2 subject test in a language to fulfill a requirement in order to apply to the college.  The college will not penalize you for being a native speaker.  The colleges will view you as a bilingual speaker.


8.     Is it correct that UC Berkeley prefers not to admit Lowell students because they are motivated by grades vs. “love of learning?”

No, this is not true.


9.     How is community service outside Lowell recorded during application process?

Students will self report on their applications any extracurricular activities. Students are responsible for keeping track of their own extra-curricular activities. It’s advisable that students keep a list/resume of their extra-curricular activities to help them keep track of what they have participated in once senior year comes. Students can use ConnectEdu to record their activities.


10.  How does the student get activities on their official transcript?

A transcript is a document that only reflects the courses a student has taken and the final grades. Activities do not appear on a transcript.


11.  Do extracurricular activities play any role in admission to UCs or is it only about grades and test scores?

Yes. Hyper selective colleges want students to be both strong academically as well as to be interesting and a contributing member of the community.  Colleges may look to see if the commitment to an activity is sustained.  They look at the quality of involvement in the activity rather than the quantity of short term activities. Extracurricular activities are part of the UC “comprehensive review”.  Colleges want to know about leadership qualities in an applicant.  The more selective a college is, the greater the expectation that students have leadership roles.


12.  What is a National Merit scholar?

The National Merit Scholarship awards students based on their performance on the PSAT/NMSQT taken during their junior year. This score changes from year to year and varies from state to state. Please go click here for complete details.  

13.  How can I find out my child’s ranking in class?

Lowell does not rank students.


14.  Do you have links to websites with recommended reading lists? 

See the VICCI link on school loop.


15.  Do counselors write letters of recommendation for students who ask for them? How do we know that counselors will write good or accurate letters of recommendations to help students get into their dream school?  Most private colleges ask for two letters from teachers and a letter of recommendation from the counselor, which is part of the “Secondary School Report”. Counselors can only write a detailed letter if the student makes it a point to see the counselor and complete a fact sheet.  Click here to see how to add a Counselor as a recommender to Common App. Students need to make it a priority to meet with the counselor at the beginning of their junior year.  Counselors can only explain special circumstances.  Students should apply to colleges where they are most likely to be admitted. The ‘dream’ or ‘reach’ colleges are those where the acceptance rate compared to the student’s own record makes admission very unlikely.  Just because a college is a dream or reach school doesn’t necessarily mean it is desirable for the student. 


16.  How do I get good teacher recommendations for college applications?

Students should ask recent (not from the 9th or 10th grades) teachers who have known them for more than one semester and who will be able to speak on the students growth/progress and not necessarily because the student received an “A” in the class. Students can ask for teacher recommendations at the beginning of the fall semester during their senior year, if it’s for the private colleges. Student should ask teachers before sending the common application request (private college application site). Click here to see how to add a recommender to Common App.   Students should also give teachers at least a 2-4 week notice before the letter is due.


17.  When (if available) and how can the students get their GPA for UC application purpose (10th and11th grade – A-G courses – weighted and unweighted)?

Students can use this worksheet to calculate their GPA. SUCs do not ask students to indicate their GPA on the college applications. Please note that the GPA is only one of many criteria the UCs use for admissions.


18.  Are the students permitted to get out of their class to attend college visits?

They can with parental permission. Students will not be “excused” but will not be marked at “cut” as long there is a letter from a parent explaining the absences. Use common sense and let the teacher know in advance. Don’t schedule the visit when there is something important happening in class.


19.  How does Lowell rank students? 10th, 11th grade A-G UC courses only or 9th, 10th all classes?

Lowell does not rank students.


20.  How does Lowell feel about the recent book “Crazy U” (memoir on college applications)?

Counselors have not read the book yet.


21.  How does one take community college classes?

Students can do concurrent enrollment and take community college classes while at Lowell. Enrollment will vary depending on community colleges. Usually for City College of San Francisco, students will need to fill out an application signed by parent and H.S. counselor and take a placement test in English and Math. Students will also have to see a counselor at the community college. Students should check in with their counselor if they are considering taking a class at a community college.  Information about CCSF is available here.


22.  Do AP class grades give “GPA” advantage? Please explain which colleges tend to score higher & which do not.

Advanced Placement courses are given an extra point by most colleges, therefore giving the student a higher, or weighted GPA.  You can see which classes are awarded an extra point at the UC Doorways A-G List.  Look under the Honors Tab and those that have a designation AP or H receive the extra point.


23.  Regarding the comment: “If a student graduates in the top 9%” and they only apply to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, are they guaranteed a spot into one of these colleges?

 No, he/she is only guaranteed a spot in a University of California campus beginning in 2012. See Eligibility in Local Context.


24.  UC guarantees admission to the top 4% of HS students. Since Lowell does not rank its students – are Lowell seniors unable to take advantage of the “accepted in the local context” UC program?

For the upcoming class of 2012, UC will guarantee admission somewhere in the UC system if a student ranks in the top 9% of all high school graduates statewide, or rank in the top 9% of his/her  high school graduating class (called ELC --eligibility in the local context).  We will send UC transcripts of our juniors and they will determine the top 9%.


25.  Many scholarships often list “academic achievement” as criteria. What if your child has a 3.0 average GPA. Might they still have a chance or not?

Yes!  Some scholarships look at what the student has accomplished outside of the classroom such as community service.  Others may look at overcoming obstacles and other challenges the student may have faces.


26.   What is the difference between an honors course vs. an AP course? Do colleges view them differently?   

Honor courses go more in depth and move at a faster pace than regular classes, as AP courses do also. However, AP courses are equivalent to an introductory college level course which gives students the opportunity to receive college credit. Students must take the AP exam in May.  


27.  How important are AP courses? Do you have a minimum amount of AP classes you want students to take over the 4 year period?

AP courses are important because universities like to see that students are taking challenging classes that prepare them for college. There is no minimum on the number of AP classes a student should take. But because the courses are very demanding, Lowell counselors recommend that it should be limited to 2 or 3 in each semester of their junior and senior years (few AP courses are open to sophomores). Students should choose AP classes based on a sincere interest in the subject, not because they think it would look good on a transcript.


28.  Is the 3.0 GPA required for CSU admission based upon overall weighted or unweighted GPA?

To be eligible for admission to a CSU a student needs to be meet the minimum eligibility requirements which ranges from being automatically eligible with a weighted GPA in A-G courses over their 10th and 11th grades to needing a combined SAT score of 1300 on the verbal and math sections when a student has a 2.0 GPA.  Click here for more details.


29.  Does expressing one’s potential major or studies have an impact on admission to public or private schools? For example, does it make a difference if you are interested in pre-med vs. sociology when there’s a higher demand/interest for pre-med?

Yes, colleges have different standards for admission depending on the major.  Some majors that are impacted will be very competitive. For example, if a student was applying to major in Bioengineering at UCLA, it would be very competitive and he or she would be expected to have especially strong performances in math and science courses.