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

At Success Academy, we believe high school should be the best four years of a student’s life, and that experience includes not only collegiate-style academics but robust visual and performing arts, sports, codathons, competitive debate, and more. 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. Our website is another great resource.

Please also visit our HS Placement site for all the admission details on how to rank your high school choices.

Academics

How does SA HSLA compare with other elite high schools?

Is SA HSLA a STEM school or an arts school?

How many hours of homework per week should I expect?

What is the schedule like?

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

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 freshmen 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? Dance? Theater?

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?

Are there any trips?

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

Are SA high schools diverse?

General

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

How many SA high schools are there?

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

What does the consequence policy look like?

In an increasingly global world that our kids will work in someday, many of us would like to see foreign languages offered in middle school. Can you please share your latest thinking on this?

Academics

How does SA HSLA compare with other elite high schools?

HSLA is similar to NYC’s other elite high schools, with collegiate level academics that include a full selection of AP courses and the option of Honors STEM or Honors Humanities program. We also offer a wide variety of electives, arts and athletics programming and enrichment opportunities. What sets our high schools apart from specialized high schools is the personal attention and individualized support scholars receive from faculty and throughout the college admissions process. Elite schools like Stuyvesant have one college counselor for hundreds of students; at HSLA the ratio is 1:60. 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 self-advocacy, and invest scholars in owning their own education. 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!

Is SA HSLA a STEM school or an arts school?

The high school offers students the option of both STEM and Humanities tracks. We emphasize scholar choice within core subject areas, so scholars can pursue the topics and Advanced Placement courses that most interest them. Be sure to explore the official Orange Book for more details!

How many hours of homework per week should I expect?

Like elite private high schools and specialized high schools, HSLA expects students to invest in learning time outside of the classroom. 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?

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?

Most classes average 32 students, with English classes tending to be smaller in size. Teachers offer office hours that are optional, but highly encouraged as a habit that the most successful college students develop.  

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

SA HSLA is a true liberal arts high school. Our focus is on offering collegiate-level academics, while also encouraging students to explore special interests. If you are interested in a particular career, it is important to use your dean or advisor as a resource. Students have opportunities to explore a variety of fields and career interests, including computer science, business, medicine, and others, through dual-enrollment partnerships with Columbia, NYU, and Georgia Tech, as well as through SA’s Summer Experience Program. There are many options!

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

To graduate from SA HSLA, a scholar must fulfill course credit and exam credit requirements. Scholars must earn a passing grade of 70% in 23 courses across our academic core and Arts and Athletics offerings. English, History, Math and Science are considered core courses. To graduate from SA HSLA, a scholar must also pass 5 external exams (Regents or Advanced Placement exams). It is possible to graduate with more than 23 credits, in fact almost all scholars will graduate with far more.(See page 78 in the High School Curriculum Guide.)

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 freshmen take AP Biology and AP Chemistry?

We offer a wide range of AP courses, which would make it very difficult for any scholar to attempt to take every AP course offered. Certain AP courses have 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, based on his/her middle school humanities coursework. (Find out more about AP courses in the High School Curriculum Guide.)

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 offer an unparalleled level of individualized college counseling. Our College Access & Persistence team 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. We also provide crucial SAT prep — our seniors typically earn an average SAT score 200 points above the national average! So far, every graduating senior from SA HSLA has been accepted to college.

College counseling formally begins in 11th grade, but our doors are open to all SA 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.

To date, a number of HSLA graduates have also been selected for the Posse Scholars program.

Can scholars earn college credit?

Yes! We offer a growing list of Advanced Placement courses, which are certified by the College Board’s internationally recognized college-level curriculum. 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. We also partner with Columbia University, New York University, and Georgia Tech to allow our highest performing scholars to take college courses alongside undergraduate students, tuition-free. Scholars who take and pass these courses can earn college credit. (See page 10 of the High School Curriculum Guide.)

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? Dance? Theater?

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.For more about our extensive electives, clubs, and teams, see pages 45-71 in the High School Curriculum Guide.

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

Underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) will take 3 electives (including academic electives like art history, computer science or engineering). Upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) 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. Advisors coach and guide students, but the clubs are student-led
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?

All scholars are encouraged to apply to SA Summer Experience. 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. We do not subsidize programs outside of this list and encourage students to thoroughly review the options we’ve identified. Find more about SA Summer Experience on page 72 of the High School Curriculum Guide.

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.

Are SA high schools diverse?

We strive to establish an inclusive and welcoming community in our high schools, with teachers and staff coming from all backgrounds and scholars coming from across the city, who have a wide range of lived experiences. Our Summer Experience programs ensure scholars have a crucial opportunity to engage with peers from different races, socio-economic backgrounds, and experiences on college campuses across the country.

SA schools are located in many different neighborhoods across NYC, and primarily enroll students from their neighborhoods. Our scholars represent the populations — and diversity — of their neighborhoods. In Harlem, the Bronx and parts of Queens and Brooklyn, our schools enroll primarily students of color. In neighborhoods with more of a mix of racial and ethnic groups, our schools tend to be more diverse. Scholars from all parts of the city enroll in our high schools.

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. To graduate from middle school, scholars must complete four years of coursework in English, mathematics, sciences, history, and electives (two courses per year). Completion of a course is contingent upon a scholar earning a cumulative grade of 70% or higher. Seventh and eighth graders must also pass certain Regents exams with a minimum scaled score of 65%; Global History & Geography in grade 7 and Algebra I, Living Environment, and English Language Arts in grade 8. They must also earn passing grades in each of their four core academic classes. See our Family Handbook for more.

How many SA high schools are there?

There will be three high schools next year:

Our Manhattan high school is on 33rd St. and Park Avenue, right next to the 6 train.
Our Harlem high school is on 129th and Amsterdam and is right near the 1 train.
Our new Brooklyn high school location is not yet approved, but we expect it will be in the building where SA Ditmas Park MS is at 72 Veronica Place, between Nostrand and Bedford Avenues, just a few blocks from the Church Avenue subway stop for the #4 or #2 train, or the B49 or B35 bus routes.

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. Scholars are required to abide by the SA Honor Code, which means they are well-behaved, 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.

In an increasingly global world that our kids will work in someday, many of us would like to see foreign languages offered in middle school. Can you please share your latest thinking on this?

We too believe in multilingualism. Our founder lived in France and studied French for many years. It is not a question of belief.  It is far more pragmatic.  We find it hard to find excellent language instructors.  In Europe there is a tradition of teaching foreign languages and considerable expertise.  That is not true in the U.S.  So instead, we focus on what we can do excellently. We find that pragmatically the language we can do well is computer science and so that is our focus.

 

Written by Success Academy April 24, 2020

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