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Counselor FAQs: Middle & High School Students

How difficult is it for an independent study student to get into a University of California school?

  • Admissions policies at universities differ, and currently the University of California's admission standards are extremely competitive. The UC system's schools vary in their admission policies, but basically students are admitted through 3 different ãPathways. For more details, visit UC's Admission As A Freshman site.
    1. Eligibility in the Statewide Context. This is the path through which most students gain acceptance to the university. Required are the Subject, Scholarship and Examination requirements.
    2. Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) In this path, the top 4% of students in participating high schools are guaranteed admission into one of the eight UC campuses.
    3. Eligibility By Examination Alone For those students who do not qualify by the other two paths, students may test in with a composite score of 31 or higher on the ACT or a total score on the SAT I of at least 1400. In addition, you must earn a total score of 1760 or higher on the three SAT II: Subject Tests with a minimum score of 530 on each test.
  • Students educated in an independent study program, frequently receiving instruction in the home, are well prepared for the rigors of higher education, according to the National Center For Home Education (see their article). The difficulties often lie in the admission policy for strictly home-schooled students (not through program such as CORE due to the lack of transcripts, course description, and sense of the quality of the student's education in a more traditional setting. The College Board has devoted a portion of their website to address this question. See Home-Schooled Students and College Admission for more information.
  • Also, for more perspective on the prospects of independent study students in higher education, the Wall Street Journal has written a few articles on the subject. Visit your local library for more information on finding these articles.

How about a CORE student, specifically?

  • In order to apply to a University of California school, the admission eligibility standards are based on a student taking UC approved courses, or a-g courses. CORE is in the process of developing a comprehensive list of courses that meet these requirements. You can see this list at the UC High School a-g Certified Course List site. At this time, as one can see from this site, there are a few gaps in courses that students needs in order to apply, including, for example, English 11 & English 12. What can a student do in this circumstance?
  • The best option for students wishing to take UC approved courses that are not available is to take that course's equivalent at the local community college. This option has the fringe benefit of allowing a UC admissions officer to see that this particular high school student is not only successful within their own high school, but can succeed at the community college level as well. The standard of education at the community college level is easier for a UC admissions officer to trust because their coursework is more closely aligned to UC's.

How do I sign up for the SAT and/or the PSAT?

  • The Scholastic Aptitude Test is given 7 times a year beginning in October. You can register to take the test either online or with a registration packet, available at the CORE Resource Centers. For online registration, visit:
  • The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is given on two dates in the fall of every school year. Students are instructed to ask their school's counselor for registration information. CORE does not administer the test at this time. Your best bet is to contact your local site-based high school to find out if they administer the test and, if so, if you can be a part of it. There will be a charge of $10 plus any administration fees that they may charge.

Is there a way that a high school student can study to take the General Education Development (GED) and be gaining credits or do they need to be enrolled in a minimum of 5 classes, or 25 units?

  • The minimum number of classes in which a CORE student needs to be enrolled is 30 units, or 6 courses, unless that student is a high school senior. In this case, the student needs to be enrolled in 25 units, or 5 courses. The exceptions to this requirement are in the cases where a student is (1) taking community college courses, (2) enrolled in a Regional Occupation Program, and/or (3) enrolled in Work Experience Education. In these cases, the number of courses is worked out accordingly with the student's Independent Study Teacher.
  • With this said, a student may independently prepare for the GED or consider her/his regular course of instruction as preparation for the exam. There are independent course preparation services/schools. For more information, please visit:

What is the minimum number of units that a student must take in order to be a full time student?

Can a middle school student taking a course such as Spanish or Algebra take the course on a high school level and thereby earn high school credit?

  • Middle school students cannot earn high school units. If a student and parent desire to accelerate and transition to the high school level overall, this is a decision reached consensually between the student, parent, teacher, and school administrator.
  • Often times there are students successfully taking Geometry at the middle school level, a course that is typically considered high school level material. This student should then, at the high school level, continue their progress and take Algebra II in high school. This does not, however, exempt a student from taking the minimum of 20 units (2 years) of math in high school, and more for university expectations.

How can a high school student enrolled in CORE participate in a sports program?

  • Many students in Independent Study programs have success entering the local high school's sports program through the laws adopted by the California Interscholastic Federation. To view the bylaw, visit and click By laws under the heading called Governance.

How many units can I earn in the Work Experience program?

  • Students earn units in the Work Experience Education program by being enrolled in the course, completing the accompanying coursework, and being gainfully employed. The number of credits earned depends on how many hours the student works within the time frame of the semester, with a maximum of 10 units per semester and 40 units for a student's high school career. For every 20 hours of work, a student earns 1 unit. For example, if a student works 110 hours (or, roughly, 6 hours/week for the semester) while being enrolled in the Work Experience program and completes the accompanying coursework, they will earn 6 units.
  • For more information, visit Work Experience Course Description Link or click here to email Serene Turner, the school counselor.

Can I graduate early?

  • Students graduate based on the number of their high school units and, beginning in the 2003-2004 school year, the High School Exit Exam. Graduating early could mean that a student is taking coursework beyond the typical 30 units/semester typical schedule. Ways in which students might accomplish this is by taking community college courses during the school year or in the summer and/or completing more coursework during the semester.
  • Both of these options require teacher/administrator permission.

Can I enroll at a college while a high school student? How do I do this?

  • Yes, you can. Each school has its own timeline and enrollment procedure. See (link to college-university page) for more information. Each student must have a concurrent enrollment form filled out and signed by either the school counselor or principal.

How many units can I take at the college level?

  • CORE are encouraged to attempt community college coursework while in high school (and, in some cases, before). Coursework is approved on a case-by-case basis – all courses are approved by the teacher and high school counselor. Ultimately, students may take up to the state maximum of 11 units (community college units) per semester.
  • Some schools (ie. Yuba College) only allow students 10th grade and up to take courses.

How can I get grants and scholarships?

  • For information regarding grants and scholarships, consult this website's section entitled College Planning. There are many links that will help you start the search for financial aid for college. One necessary piece for most financial aid is the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). From this form, most scholarships, government grants and loans determine what degree of aid for which you are eligible.
  • Most students receive some form of financial aid. Some takes the form of grants (don't have to pay back), subsidized loans (loans without interest), and unsubsidized loans (loans with interest).


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