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Counselors Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are questions that students and parents alike frequently ask high school counselors.  Please refer to the answers listed on this web page before making appointments with your alpha counselor.  SOPHOMORE MEETINGS occur in the Fall of a student’s sophomore year.  Many of the questions you may have about high school graduation and college admissions will be addressed in this meeting.  In the case of more specific questions, students may make individual appointments with his/her counselor.  

Covid-19 Updates - To Be Announced as the counseling team receives new and accurate information.

All courses taken outside of Mission San Jose High School are considered enrichment courses and will not be placed on the Mission transcript. It is not recommended to take a community college course, as it may add additional work and stress that could impact your performance in your Mission classes. Be aware that taking a community college course creates a permanent college transcript and record for students. Any requests to register for more than 6 units will not be approved.  Please contact your counselor concerning getting a signature for a permission form. (Updated 1/19/21)


What are the requirements for high school graduation and college entrance?

High school graduation from MSJ and MINIMUM college entrance requirements into the UC and CSU systems differ in a few areas. Please note the following chart.



English - 4 years

English - 4 years

Science - 2 years 
( 1 physical & 1 life)

Social Studies - 2 years

Social Studies - 3 years

Science - 2 years 
(Biology & Chemistry or Physics)

Math - any 3 years  
(Algebra required)

Math - 3 years 
Algebra I & II and Geometry

World Language/Fine Art -
1 year of either

World Language -
2 years of the same language taken consecutively

Fine Art - 1 year

Health - 1 semester
PE - 2 years

College prep elective - 1 year

Electives - 75 units


Service learning
+ 40 hours

SAT I or ACT and SAT II's for UC's

  • Total Units to Graduate = 230 units
  • 5 units = 1 semester  /  10 units = 1 year
  • D grade = 5 credits  /  F grade = 0 credits


How can a student make up credits for classes he or she failed or received a grade of D?

Students may repeat a class through F.U.S.D. Summer School for which they initially failed (grade of “F”) or received a "D”.  If their schedule permits, they may also improve the “D” or “F” by repeating the course during the academic school year, with the student's administrator's approval.  Counselors encourage students to pursue summer school as a first option, but can guide students to improve grades during the school year for a maximum total of 10 credits. Students who wish to improve grades outside of the school district can take comparable classes at the community college, with administrative and counselor approval.


Can students take courses outside of F.U.S.D and do they receive credit on the Mission transcript?

Students who wish to improve grades outside of the school district can take comparable classes at the community college, with administrative and counselor approval. However, students who are taking courses outside of school will be allowed to receive the outside course credit on their high school transcript only if the student initially received a grade of “F”.  If, for example, a student failed a required course for graduation, the student’s outside course will be posted on our high school transcript because the credits are necessary for their diploma.  This option will only be explored after the F.U.S.D. option and other credit recovery options, such as Adult School, are explored. Options such as community college and online providers will be discussed with students.

How do students improve “D” grades outside of the school district?

If students are improving “D” grades at an outside institution, the improved grade remains on the transcript where the student took the course.   For example, students taking courses at ATDP or Ohlone College can expect that the improved grades will remain on ATDP’s or Ohlone’s transcript.


What other options are available besides F.U.S.D. Summer School to improve “D” or “F” grades?

There are other options besides F.U.S.D. Summer School. Fremont Adult School is another option for students who are required to make up “F” grades for high school graduation requirements. Adult School courses will not be admissible for college admission purposes, so students receiving “D” grades should pursue our district summer school option or a UC Approved online provider.  Beyond Adult School, students and parents are advised to speak with his/her Counselor to discuss any credit recovery issue.


Can a student earn physical education credits during the summer?

PE will only be available in summer school to students who have received an “F” final grade.  Intervention dollars/guidelines limit our ability to offer acceleration opportunities to students. 

What is the difference between the high school Fine Arts requirements and the college entrance Fine Arts requirements? 

For a high school diploma, a student must complete either one year of a world language and/or one year of a fine art.  For example, if a student completes the first year of Spanish, then this requirement has been met for high school graduation; if a student chooses to fulfill the requirement by taking one year of an art class such as Photography, then s/he has met the one year requirement for graduation purposes.  The 1 year of fine art/world language requirement is two semesters, or a total of 10 units.

The college entrance requirement, however, specifies that a student must take one year of a visual or performing art (V.P.A.) for admission purposes.  The world language requirement for college is a separate two year minimum requirement, and has no relation to the fine art requirement for admission purposes.  Students should follow our UC A-G List, which is posted on our web site, to make sure that the fine art class they have chosen has been UC approved.  Some examples of how to fulfill the one year V.P.A. requirement include: Art I, Digital Imaging, Drama, Band, and so on.

High School Requirement

College Requirement

1 year Fine Art  or  World Language

1 year Fine Art


2 years (minimum) World Language



I'm a band student.  Does it count for physical education credit?

It can. Students who take band all 4 years will have fulfilled their 2-year PE requirement.

Each semester of Marching band, along with the full year of band during the school year, waives 5 units of PE Credit. Therefore, all four years of the band program are required to waive the entire 20 unit PE requirement. If, for example, students drop out of band during any particular year, then those students owe us the balance of the PE credit. 

One year of band= 5 units
Two years of band = 10 units
Three years of band = 15 units
Four years of band = 20 units

Students must take PE 9 and then PE 10, in that order, to fulfill any missing PE units. If students are upperclassmen, such as juniors or seniors, they are still required to enroll in freshman and sophomore PE classes to fulfill any outstanding PE credits that were outstanding as a result of dropping from the band program.


If I take band, can I choose a second elective?

Yes, you may cross PE out on your registration form.  Band takes the place of PE. Please make a note of this and write in the Band class above the deleted PE class.  Remember that you must add the 7th period Marching Band course for Fall Semester only.  This means that students can take band AND one elective, such as a world language.

What does the Mission Valley Regional Occupation Program (MVROP) program offer:

Generally referred to as “ROP”, the Regional Occupation Program offers comprehensive courses that give students hands-on experiences.  Traditional teaching occurs in the first semester, while internships occur in the second semester.  Students are given opportunities to get “hands-on” learning in the community, and some ROP courses earn college credit, as well. Courses are two periods in length, and are offered at the MVROP site. Juniors and seniors are eligible to register for these exciting classes, and can either drive themselves or take transportation that’s provided from your home school to the ROP Center.  You can learn more at: or talk with your Counselor! To enroll, visit the Career & College Specialist in the Career Center during registration at your school site.


Can I take Health online to create space and take a second elective?

Students MAY NOT take Health online, per board policy.   


Is my outside world language school approved through F.U.S.D.?

Maybe.  The list of Approved World Language Schools can be found on the FUSD district website.


What world language should my student enroll in for college admittance?

Any world language that a student has an interest for or a talent in.  World language levels earned in junior high will be accepted as meeting college entrance requirements if a grade of C or better is earned and the student completes two or more years consecutively.   Universities encourage students to enroll in languages other than their primary language.


Do I need to take 4 years of a World Language to apply to private universities? How many years of World Language does the CSU and UC Systems require? 

Sometimes. It is your responsibility to research which private universities require 4 years of World Language, and you must plan your schedule accordingly. The University of California only requires 2 years of World Language, and 3 years are recommended.


How can my student get into the Honors Program at Mission San Jose High School?
Outlined below are the ways a student can currently qualify to take an Honors class in 9th grade.

Entering Honors Classes:

GATE classes at the secondary level are designed as Honors (H).

Honors classes combine GATE students with other high achieving students in courses designated as Honors classes. To qualify or continue:

  • Non GATE identified students with “A” grades in all previous semesters of 7th and 8th grades, within a subject matter class may enter into an Honors class within that subject area (A’s in English – Honors English, A’s in Science – Honors Science)


  • Successful completion (C or better grades) at the previous level to continue in the Honors course. 

Honors math will follow the established math pathways; see math section of the High School Course Catalog 2020-21 (pdf)



What is a weighted GPA?

A weighted grade-point-average is one that includes extra points for all approved UC A-G underlined honors and Advanced Placement courses, and all college courses.   For every underlined class, a student will receive an extra point in the grade-point-average, so that for every A, a student receives 5 points, for every B a student receives 4 points, and for every C a student receives 3 points.  Our high school transcript does not weight grades, so the G.P.A. listed on the bottom of the transcript is unweighted, and students must calculate honors and A.P. courses on their own.  Please refer to the CSU Application Booklet for a chart on how to weight a grade-point-average for college admission purposes or ask your counselor or Career Center technician.


What are college admissions officers looking for?

College admissions officers are seeking the best prepared students for their particular programs. In general, they look at courses taken, grades earned and college entrance exam scores. They look for candidates who will be successful at their institution, who can bring something of value to the student body. Evidence of special talents, interests, activities, athletic ability, leadership or public service may help a candidate get into the school of choice. Read your college catalog or admissions information pamphlets or check college web sites. Colleges may need or want different talents or students with various backgrounds.


What is the best extra-curricular activity in which to be involved?

Students should involve themselves with the school or community activity that they find most rewarding. The activities that bring personal meaning to you, improve your special talents or meets the school or community's needs will be the ones in which you will likely excel. In depth involvement and excellence will help you stand out from the crowd of other hopeful college applicants. In other words improve yourself in the ways that you find most rewarding personally. It is better to be involved or to excel in one or two areas than to have a superficial list of activities that you jumped into so that you could have a long list on your college application.


When should a high school student take his or her college admittance test? When is the deadline to submit test scores?

Students should take their SAT/ACT exams by the end of their junior year, in May or June. CSU and UC Systems require students to submit all SAT/ACT scores by December of their senior year.  However, Cal Poly SLO and San Diego State University require scores by the October test date of the student's senior year for the early decision programs).  Private schools also require test scores by December of senior year. However, watch for EARLY DECISION PROGRAMS that private universities offer.  These test scores would be due by the Early Decision date, which is typically November 1.

SAT II Subject tests should be taken at the end of the year that the course is offered, which is typically in May or June.  For example- if a student is enrolled in Chemistry her junior year and she wishes to take the SAT II Chemistry exam, s/he should take this exam in May or June when the chemistry course is nearing completion. The SAT II exam is now only recommended, not required, by the UCs. The exception is for students applying to an engineering major, who are required to submit an SAT II Math score. Science, computer science, and nursing majors may also be required or highly recommended to take SAT II exams. 


How many years of world language will “count” for college admissions? Do I need the actual “seat” time? 

Colleges will grant credit for the HIGHEST LEVEL of world language that a student completes with a grade of “C” or above.  Students do not need the physical seat time to demonstrate proficiency.  If a student took two years in junior high and a third year in high school, they would receive 3 years of world language credit.  A student also could take a higher level without completing lower levels and earn the highest level by completing the course, as long as s/he earned a “C” or above.



Will my counselor at MSJH help me choose and can I make an appointment for advice? 

We do not schedule time for students who choose to take enrichment courses, nor do we counsel students.  We can only vouch for our classes at Mission, even though counselors at community colleges may recommend that you talk with us. Some general recommendations could include:

Any entry level class that does not require a prerequisite (which you can find in the course description on their website) will allow you to discover what you are looking for.  Example: Psychology 101A...typically no pre req.  Any class that is 3 units and accepted for credit at UC and CSU is something that might be valuable.


How and when should I take Community College courses?  Will other enrichment courses count towards graduation, such as ATDP? 

All courses taken outside of the high school are considered “enrichment” courses, and these courses stay on the community college or academic program’s transcript.  In addition, grades earned are a permanent record, so make sure your student chooses courses wisely and only takes those courses for which s/he has a passion.  Finally, students can take what they are interested in, but colleges find value in other things, as well, such as students pursing jobs and internships. 

Do these classes go on the Mission transcript and can I get credit for taking these?

Enrichment courses are used for graduation purposes and can be put on the high school transcript ONLY if: The student is in need of credits for graduation, AND if the enrichment course is pre-approved by the Principal.

The community college has a permission form that requires a Counselor and/or Administrator’s signature.  Can I drop by to get it signed?

Available for in-person instruction only: No, we require that students make an appointment or see us during the school day for enrichment course signatures. We do like to guide students since they are the ones taking the course(s). Parents that bring forms on behalf of their students are not serving their needs well, and we will not sign forms for parents. 



What does a balanced schedule look like?

How many AP’s look good on my transcript? A balanced schedule includes a few challenging courses for which a student has a particular passion for.  Colleges are not interested in “those with the most AP’s win” philosophy. There is no magic number of AP courses a student should take. On the contrary, all colleges, but especially selective colleges, want to see students who have the ability to reflect and articulate in their college essays about who they see themselves becoming.  Students need to imagine, dream, and engage in the process of self-discovery and introspection.  Colleges want to see students that are more about “being” than “doing”. Messages such as these are coming from highly selective colleges, and students need to carefully balance their course selections with a wide range of extracurricular activities and pursue their own unique interests. Students who want to take AP courses can create balance by building in “down time”, as well as getting the recommended 10 hours of sleep per night.  Your emotional health comes first and foremost!


Are AP courses better than Community College courses? 

Yes, colleges prefer to see students pursue the Advanced Placement curriculum, which is standardized world-wide.  Colleges know exactly what students have learned when they choose AP courses, and they actually prefer these over community college courses, which can vary greatly in terms of the breadth and depth of curriculum.  In addition, colleges encourage students to “sit” for the AP exam, and demonstrate their knowledge through the test. While scoring is based on a 1-5 scale and “3” is passing, colleges will never hold a score lower than passing against the student. AP exam scores are not part of the college admission process.

Do colleges require AP courses? Why should I take an AP course?  

Colleges do not actually require students to take AP or Honors courses for admission purposes.  Students who have earned good grades in pre-requisite courses can think about taking Advanced Placement courses for which they have a particular interest. Students should take AP courses to compliment their field of interest, outside activities, and summer enrichment programs. Colleges want students who know themselves well and choose AP courses that make sense for them. In addition, the Sophomore Meetings that Counselors offer at MSJH should play an integral role in your selection. Discuss your interest in an AP subject with your Counselor, and decide if you have the time to devote to it.  If those things are true, it might be a good choice.  A final note: AP courses are college level classes that require good study habits and significant time commitments.


What is a “good” SAT/ACT score?
The definition of “good” is relative.  All students are encouraged to research the student profile (average G.P.A. and SAT scores) for each college to which the student is applying.  Average SAT/ACT scores can vary widely, depending on the selectivity of the university and scores be a good starting point when looking for a “best fit” college. Colleges look at more than just SAT/ACT scores when evaluating applications and colleges want well-balanced students!