South Orangetown Central School District

Sophomore year is a special year, say Tappan Zee High School school counselors. With the transition adjustments of freshman year behind them and the college search process a year into the future, tenth-graders have the opportunity to focus on academic success and explore their interests.

“It’s a good time to get involved in extracurricular activities,” School Counseling Team Leader Rich Weissberg told those attending the Grade 10 Parent Workshop on January 10. View presentation. “Some students will say that they join extracurricular activities because ‘it looks good to colleges.’ But the most important reasons to get involved is because it helps them grow, it expands their horizons and gives them opportunities to meet new people.”

Building a Transcript
In sophomore year, students should continue working on building a strong transcript, the most highly-weighted piece of a student’s college application. The transcript includes all high school courses, including those taken in eighth-grade and online through Virtual High School. School counselors explained that students who have a bad quarter should not worry, as they still have time to recover and only final course grades are recorded. Regents exams are also included on a student’s transcript, but not local midterms or finals. Student transcripts, with weighted grade point averages, will be sent home in the fall of junior year.

Students are encouraged to take the most rigorous coursework that is appropriate. “What colleges tell us, time after time, is that they want to see rigor—that students have gone above and beyond what was required to graduate,” noted School Counselor Laura Ferrante. “They want to see students stretch themselves and achieve to their best ability.”

Students may graduate with an Advanced Regents, Regents or Local diploma. School counselors work closely with students to ensure that they meet graduation requirements in a way that is customized to their college and career interests. (Note: There is no community service graduation requirement.)

TZHS offers an array of exciting and challenging curricular options: Advanced Placement, Virtual High School, dual enrollment courses for college credit, and a variety of Career & Technical Education Center (CTEC) programs through Rockland BOCES. View the 2019-2020 Curriculum Guide. School Counselor Kelly Keane noted that CTEC offerings include cybersecurity, welding, culinary arts and a number of health care programs, including the highly-competitive New Visions Health Careers Exploration course for seniors.

Naviance for Career Exploration
In the spring, sophomores will be introduced to Naviance, a web-based college and career exploration platform. “We want them to start thinking about what comes next. To do that, we want them to start with identifying their strengths, their weaknesses and their interests as they relate to careers, majors and colleges,” explained School Counselor Jaime Holzer. “Sophomores should keep their focus on connecting their interests to what courses to take, and what extracurriculars to get involved with, for the next two years of high school.”

Ms. Holzer cautioned that the Naviance interface for parents is limited and suggested that parents ask their children to share their Naviance login and password so that they can access student resources.

Gearing up for Standardized Testing
In October of junior year, students take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT), which is also the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The PSAT is administered at the high school during the school day; no registration is required. Although test preparation is not offered through the school, counselors said that avid readers tend to do well on standardized tests and recommended Khan Academy, a free online resource. However, school counselors advised that the best preparation is for students to apply themselves to the courses they’re taking now.

A small number of highly selective colleges and universities require SAT Subject Tests. Students taking AP or accelerated courses should consider taking the Subject Tests in May or June.

Supports for Students
In the meantime, students who are struggling are encouraged to reach out. Academic success depends on a students’ willingness to recognize when they need help and being proactive in accessing it when that time arrives. Supports available include faculty office hours, the TZHS Learning Center, Tutor Team peer tutoring, and free, online tutorials through Khan Academy. Parents should pay attention to signs that their child may be grappling with more than grades.

“Nationally, there is an increase in mental health issues among adolescents. We are seeing an increase in depression, anxiety and school phobia here, too,” reported School Counselor Randy Altman. “It can be a challenge to differentiate between normal adolescent ups and downs. However, if you see a change of behavior or mood over a couple of weeks, it’s time to consult with someone to see if it’s something to take a closer look at.”

For information and resources, view the Mental Health page. A link to this page is posted on both the TZHS For Students and For Parents pages.

What to Expect in the Months Ahead


  • Teachers submit 2019-20 course recommendations for their tenth-grade students. Students who feel that they can handle moving up from Regents to Honors next year, should speak with their teachers now for their feedback.
  • Begin talking with your children about what they want to take next year. View What Should I Take? A Student’s Guide to Scheduling.
  • Sophomores interested in learning more about CTEC should register in the School Counseling Office for the January 30th informational presentation.


  • Students meet with School Counselors to review teacher course recommendations for next year and complete course requests. (TZHS master schedule development is underway.)
  • Interested students and school counselors travel to Rockland BOCES to tour CTEC programs on February 15.


  • Verification sheets sent home to confirm student course requests.
  • School counselors introduce sophomores to Naviance as a career exploration tool.


  • If a student’s course requests don’t work with the master schedule, her counselor will meet with her before the end of the school year to come up with a revised course schedule.


  • Juniors take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) during the school day at TZHS; no pre-registration required. The PSAT is the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Total testing time is 2 hours 45 minutes. Juniors will receive practice booklet in advance.

Questions? Reach out to your child’s school counselor. View contact information.