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Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts: Frequently Asked Questions

At Success Academy, the high school experience is intellectually demanding and deeply engaging. Scholars tackle sophisticated, collegiate-style academics, discover and develop their talents, and forge special bonds with peers and faculty as they grow into informed, thoughtful citizens. But many of our middle schoolers are wondering: What is life as an SA high schooler really like? We compiled some of the most frequently asked questions from middle schoolers across the network to help shine some light on the SA high school experience.

Academics

Is SA HSLA just like SA middle school, only with more work?

Does everyone at SA HSLA do STEM? Is the school mostly focused on the arts?

How many hours of homework per week should I expect?

What is the schedule like? Does every scholar at HSLA have a different/unique schedule? How long are the classes? Are there half days?

How big are the classes and how can I get more one-on-one support from my teachers?

Are there free periods?

Are there classes relating to: Law? Business? Entrepreneurship? Nursing? Paleontology?

How do credits work? How many credits can we take per year? Can you graduate with more than 23 credits?

Is it possible to take all of the APs offered? Can freshman take AP Biology and AP Chemistry?

College Access & Persistence

Does SA HSLA provide the help the students need to get into college?

Does SA HSLA give out scholarships?

Can scholars earn college credit?

What are other ways I can make my college application stand out by attending SA HSLA?

Beyond the Curriculum

What are the arts and athletic offerings? Is there a debate team? Swimming team? What does the performing arts program look like?

How many electives do students take in one semester? Can you switch your electives?

What types of clubs does HSLA offer? Are we able to join more than one club? What is the process of making a student-led club?

Do you have any clubs or classes that could fulfill community service?

What is the Success Academy Summer Experience? Will Success Academy pay for summer programs you are passionate about but aren’t included in your Summer Experience offerings?

Are there any trips?

What is the culture like among students and between students and adults?

General

Who can go to HSLA? Is there a minimum GPA requirement for 8th graders in order to be accepted?

What materials do I need to purchase for the first day of school?

What does the consequence policy look like?

Academics

Is SA HSLA just like SA middle school, only with more work?

While some aspects of SA HSLA will be familiar to incoming freshmen — the high expectations, the respect shown to both teachers and scholars, the obsession with books and reading — this will be a whole new educational experience. We emphasize independence and push scholars to invest in their own interests and passions. The courses are very rigorous, preparing scholars for college work but also prioritizing engagement and scholar interest. Scholars come to SA HSLA from across the entire SA network, so there are a lot of new faces and new friends!

Does everyone at SA HSLA do STEM? Is the school mostly focused on the arts?

The high school offers a  “liberal arts” education, which means we focus on honing intellectual prowess across four key subject areas: the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. There is an emphasis on scholar choice within core subject areas, so scholars can pursue the topics and Advanced Placement courses that best set them up for college degrees in their area of interest. Be sure to explore the official Orange Book for more details! 


How many hours of homework per week should I expect?

It is important to understand that SA HSLA is a college preparatory high school, much like elite private high schools and specialized high schools. On average, students can expect to spend 18 hours per week on homework: about 2 hours per weeknight and 4 hours per weekend day.

What is the schedule like? Does every scholar at HSLA have a different/unique schedule? How long are the classes? Are there half days?

Currently, our bell schedule is built around “Anchor Days,” which occur on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, and “Orange and Blue Days,” which occur on Wednesdays and Thursdays, respectively. The HS schedule is built around “Anchor Days,” which occur on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, and “Orange and Blue Days,” which occur on Wednesdays and Thursdays, respectively. On Anchor Days, scholars will have all of their courses; on Orange Days, scholars will have half of their courses in longer blocks; on Blue Days, scholars will have the other half of their courses in longer blocks, will attend House Huddles or Advisory. Teams, clubs, and advanced labs meet after school.

The daily bell schedule is as follows:

How big are the classes and how can I get more one-on-one support from my teachers?

English classes tend to be smaller in size, but most other classes average 32 students. Teachers offer office hours that are optional for students, but highly encouraged as a habit that the most successful college students exhibit. 

Are there free periods?” 

Underclassmen do not have “free” periods, but will dismiss earlier than upperclassmen, usually. Upperclassmen will have independent work-time when they are not enrolled in SAT Prep classes. 

Are there classes relating to: Law? Business? Entrepreneurship? Nursing? Paleontology?


SA HSLA is a true liberal arts high school. Our focus is on offering a rigorous and robust academic core curriculum. If you are interested in pursuing a career in law, business, entrepreneurship, nursing or any other field, it is important to use your dean or advisor as a resource. Taking a course does not prepare someone to become an expert in any given field. Identifying and honing the habits required to be successful in that field is far more effective. Lawyers must be strong writers. Business leaders have mathematical prowess. Entrepreneurs use every opportunity to create something new. And so on. It is also a good practice to consider how you can translate your passion into a leadership opportunity, as many of our scholars who are founding leaders of clubs have done.
How do credits work? How many credits can we take per year? Can you graduate with more than 23 credits?


To graduate from HSLA, a scholar must fulfill course credit and exam credit requirements. Scholars must earn a passing grade of 70% in 23 academic core courses as well as Arts and Athletics courses. English, History, Math and Science are considered core courses. To graduate from HSLA, a scholar must also pass 5 external exams. It is possible to graduate with more than 23 credits, in fact almost all scholars will graduate with far more.

Arts and elective credit can be satisfied by participating in a team that has been pre-approved for credit. New teams may petition to be included.

Is it possible to take all of the APs offered? Can freshman take AP Biology and AP Chemistry?

We offer robust AP course offerings, which would make it very difficult for any scholar to attempt to take every AP course offered. It is not possible to take certain AP courses without the required prerequisite courses (for instance, Principles of Biology and Principles of Chemistry are prerequisites for AP Biology and AP Chemistry). 

Freshmen can take AP Art History if they have been pre-approved and will be based on his/her middle school humanities coursework.

College Access & Persistence

Does SA HSLA provide the help the students need to get into college?

Emphatically, yes! From our low student-to-advisor ratio (12:1) to our extensive academic and extracurricular programs, our entire high school design is centered on preparing our students to persist in a rigorous college environment. We provide crucial SAT prep — our current seniors earned an average SAT score that was 200 points above the national average! So far, every graduating senior from SA HSLA has been accepted to college.

The key to unlocking college access is our unparalleled level of individualized college counseling through our College Access & Persistence team. Your college counselor will guide you and your family through the college application process to match you to the college or university where you can maximize your graduation outcome and find your financial fit. College counseling formally begins in 11th grade, but our doors are open to all HSLA students, and many ambitious underclassmen proactively schedule meetings with the College team.

Does SA HSLA give out scholarships?

We prioritize supporting scholars through the complex financial aid process. We strategically match scholars to colleges that will be a financial fit for their families, and coach our scholars to advocate for themselves with Financial Aid offices. By request, the College team will also support scholars through external scholarship applications to ensure that they submit strong applications. 

There are donor-established scholarships, such as the Ruth and Norman Rales Foundation Scholarship and the Daniel Feinberg Success in Chess Award, that are awarded exclusively to qualified SA students. These scholarships are not awarded by SA HSLA; we are extremely grateful for our donors’ support.

Can scholars earn college credit?


Scholars can earn college credit while at HSLA. We offer over 10 Advanced Placement courses, which are certified by the College Board’s internationally recognized college-level curriculum. Most colleges and universities give college credit for introductory courses based on passing AP scores. Students enrolled in AP courses at SA-HSLA are required to take the external AP exam at the end of the year, and students often earn college credit for their passing scores on AP exams.

What are other ways I can make my college application stand out by attending SA HSLA?

By excelling in our advanced curricula, and taking advantage of our intensive SAT prep program, you will make a compelling argument that you are ready for college level work. But that is not all that selective colleges consider. After academics, the next most important factors are a student’s leadership and personal character, which is evaluated through your extracurricular resume. 

To support you, we have a number of opportunities within electives, clubs, and teams that help you develop as a community member and a young leader. A great way to distinguish yourself is to start a club, or take on a leadership position in a club, take an advanced elective, or participate in the Council of Student Affairs. We have college counselors who are available to you as soon as you enroll at HSLA, in addition to your advisor, who can help direct you on extracurriculars.

Beyond the Curriculum

What are the arts and athletic offerings? Is there a debate team? Swimming team? What does the performing arts program look like?

Currently, we offer: Visual arts, photography, filmmaking, debate, chess, band, choir, theater, theater technology, conservatory and commercial dance, basketball, track and yoga. Our Performing Arts program is thriving and very popular. Each semester features a scholar-led, sold-out performance on stage and there are numerous performing arts electives and clubs to choose from.

How many electives do students take in one semester? Can you switch your electives?

Underclassmen will take 3 electives (including academic electives like art history, computer science or engineering). Upperclassmen will take 2 electives, with an option to take a third. Much like college, students may spend the first few weeks of the year adjusting their schedule. If you would like to switch your schedule, you should consult with your advisor.

What types of clubs does HSLA offer? Are we able to join more than one club? What is the process of making a student-led club?

Many scholars choose to join or start more than one club. Clubs currently on offer include: 

Afrobeats Dance • Chess and Strategy Games • Council on Scholar Affairs (COSA) • Echo A Cappella Choir • Film Appreciation Club • Fine Line Art Club • Finance • Gaming & Design • Gay-Straight Alliance • Hawk Drumline • HSLA Ambassadors • HSLA Mentors • Improv Troupe • International Thespian Society • Musical Theater• National Arts Honor Society • Naturally Me • Oh Snap! Photography Club • Ping Pong Club • Playwriting • Pre-Med • Psychology • RockHawks (Modern Pop Band) • SA-NAN (No Adults Needed) Student Tutoring • Sketch Comedy Crew • Studio Squad Elite Photography • Theater • Theater Tech Crew

Typically, forming a student-led club will require a brief description of the club, a petition with 10 student signatures, and identifying a staff advisor.

Do you have any clubs or classes that could fulfill community service?

Any student can choose to start a club. Currently, our Humanitarian Club is one of the most active in the school. They typically meet twice a month on the weekend to volunteer throughout the city. 

What is the Success Academy Summer Experience? Will Success Academy pay for summer programs you are passionate about but aren’t included in your Summer Experience offerings?

All scholars who are in good standing and who meet the minimum GPA requirement — 80 percent — are encouraged to apply to SA Summer Experience. All admitted participants will have their application fees, program tuition, and room and board fully paid for by Success Academy! Scholars have the chance to attend collegiate, artistic, and outdoor leadership opportunities both locally and across the country. We are very proud of our Summer Experience opportunities and have spent years curating our expansive list. At this point, we do not intend on subsidizing programs outside of this list and encourage students to thoroughly review the options we’ve identified.

Are there any trips?

Every year we add more and more trips! Before the pandemic, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn’s Waste Management Treatment Center for our Environmental Engineering course, the NY Federal Reserve, Chicago on Broadway and others. We also have monthly advisory competitions where the winning advisory groups can choose their team’s outing. Some have gone to family dinners, ice skating, the movies and more! We even sent a lucky group of sophomores to Chatsworth in England, where they met the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire!

What is the culture like among students and between students and adults?

Cultivating a warm and supportive learning environment is a top priority at SA HSLA. Scholars form friendships across grades and cheer for each other’s accomplishments, going the extra mile to help each other succeed. Adults at SA HSLA focus on leading by example and encourage scholars to advocate for themselves and ask for help when needed. 

General

Who can go to HSLA? Is there a minimum GPA requirement for 8th graders in order to be accepted?

Every SA middle schooler who passes graduation requirements has a guaranteed place at an SA high school. These graduation requirements include: passing all Regents exams with a 65% or higher (Living Environment, Algebra I, and ELA) and passing all Regents-aligned courses with a 70% or higher; for SY 2021-22 only, scholars must also have passed Global History and Geography Regents. (In future years, middle schoolers will take Global History and Geography Regents in seventh grade. 

 

What materials do I need to purchase for the first day of school?  

All students start the year with a high school starter kit that includes notebooks, pens and pencils and other necessary materials. High school uniforms will need to be purchased to begin the school year.

What does the consequence policy look like?

The consequence policies adjust as students matriculate from underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) to upperclassmen (juniors and seniors). Underclassmen follow a similar Kickboard merits/demerits system found in our middle schools that lead to detention. Upperclassmen do not earn merits/demerits, but may earn detention for egregious behaviors. The suspension policy is similar to ones found in our middle schools. Scholars are required to abide by the SA Honor Code, which means they are honorable and honest, on and off school campus. Scholars who observe violations of our Honor Code are expected to come forward. Those who witness violations but do not come forward are also subject to disciplinary action.

Written by Success Academy April 24, 2020

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