13 tips for PCSing with a high schooler

by Ruth Ploeger, Army Region School Liaison Officer/Transition Support Specialist
Family and MWR CYS Services

High school can be the hardest time for a military child to PCS. They’ve worked hard to earn a reputation in their sport or activity and with their teachers. They have friends and a routine they don’t want to leave. Switching allegiance from one school to another is hard. Add to all that possible ramifications on their grades and graduation (especially if a move is made without prior planning in regard to the high school student’s education. ) Following are some things to keep in mind as you move with a high schooler.

1. Hand carry a copy of school records to include transcript, any withdrawal grades, test scores and any evaluations. This prevents a delay in making course selections and appropriate placement in your new school.  ome schools will allow you to register and make course selections prior to arrival if you have some documentation of where you will be zoned. (i.e. you will be living on post, or have a rental) 

2. Check out the high school graduation requirements of your new location. And compare them to DoDEA’s graduation requirements. The earlier you do this the more options you have to adjust fire and ensure your teen won’t be at the losing end of the move. You can access school information for all 50 states on Schoolquest.org.

3. If your teen is a senior and you discover the different graduation requirements may mean he/she won’t graduate, it is possible in some circumstances to graduate under DoDEA graduation standards in your new school. ( You would receive a DoDEA diploma.) Seek assistance from your guidance counselors.

4. As soon as you are aware you will be moving, it’s important to find out the schedule and course offerings at your new school or district. This may save you some trouble and possibly wasted credits when transferring mid-year, especially if you can make good first semester choices that impact mid year moves.

5. High schools typically offer full year, block, or modified block schedules. Most high schools in DoDEA-E offer modified block which is a combination of year long and semester courses offered on an A/B day
schedule. Consider your new school’s schedule and graduation requirements when making course selections. If you are moving midyear and your child’s school only offers semester courses a student may have difficulty completing a year long course. Ask about partial credit for one semester or transferring into a similar class if the new school doesn’t offer your current year long class.

6. Review college admission and SAT & ACT testing dates. Consider completing the tests prior to departure. You can re-take these, but at least you won’t be caught without a score if deadlines loom.

7. Some states require at least two years of a foreign language with both years being in the same language. If your child arrives stateside with one year of Italian, but the new school doesn’t offer Italian he/she may have to either start a new language, or complete Italian privately if the school will accept the credits. Local community colleges or online programs may fit the bill here. Consider your options if you will be leaving Europe before those years of a language are completed. Check 50 state HS foreign language requirements.

8. When transferring credits, you may need to advocate for your child. For example, maybe your child didn’t take a course in civics, but a street law course might satisfy that credit requirement. Negotiate any credits that won't transfer. This process can be more flexible than it seems. Sometimes classes that don't match up exactly at the new school can still be credited as a similar class that the new school does offer. Schools will usually work with you to get the most out of your children's credits, especially if it might affect their graduation dates, so be polite but still assertive.

9. Different grading scales and weighting systems won’t change established letter grades, but may impact GPA. For example a 91% in DoDEA is an A, but in some districts it is a B. The A will remain on the transcript, but the numeric grade may be averaged into overall GPA and identified per the new school grading /weighting standards. If weighting negatively impacts AP or honors placements, work with your guidance counselor to seek a possible remedy.

10. Be familiar with the Interstate Compact on Education Opportunities for Military Children. It’s truly there to enable the school to think outside the box to support your kid. Some schools may not be familiar with it.

11. Check the school calendar. It might be easier to transition into a class between quarters or semester.

12. Be sure to request recommendation letters from your current teachers, coaches, and special program sponsors to use later in college applications as well as for program access in the new high school.

13. Don’t forget that even though they are grown, leaving behind friends impacts high schoolers. Request a youth sponsor. Some teens may balk at this, but once they get that email and can ask questions of a peer, they are grateful. Ask your school liaison officer (SLO) for assistance with this. 

For more to help your student PCS, visit Europe Family and MWR's website for the Inbound and Outbound student handbooks. 

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