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Old 01-07-2013, 06:03 PM   #1
Laquesi
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What school year?

So, I need help from American authors. My character turns 16 on August 29, and she lives in California. What school year will she start next (I'm imagining classes will begin on September 3, and the year would be 2012)?
Also, how do I divide the school years, so I can figure out the other characters' date of birth (the ones who are her classmates)?
Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:07 PM   #2
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This depends on many factors.

Is this a public (government-run) school, or a private school?

Public schools tend to have more strict cut-off dates for entering the school system, though there are also kids who are held back, who skip a year, etc. Also, California is a large state. School districts (these run the public schools) have their own schedules and rules and there can be dozens of school districts in a single city alone, nevermind a state. Private schools are different - Catholic schools are run by the local archdiocese, other religious schools are run by their governing bodies, secular private schools can be part of a larger group or singular entities, etc., and all make up their own schedules.

Private schools tend to be more flexible about starting earlier.

She could be anyplace from sophomore, junior or senior in high school (10th, 11th or 12th out of 12) to a university student.

Similar for classmates. My classmates had a two- or three-year range and I graduated high school with a very small class.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:14 PM   #3
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That would typically be the 11th grade, but your date of August 29 makes it somewhat up in the air. Most schools begin the school year in August, but some in early August and some later (and there are different rules about the age); it would depend on whether she started first grade when she was five (soon to be six) or a year later when she actually was six. I think I would still go with being in the 11th grade; but you could choose to make it the 10th.

It would make it easier to say if you moved her birthday back to, say, July 29.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:15 PM   #4
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Most commonly she would be a junior (grade 11) I would think. She would spend her entire year being 16 instead of being 15 and turning 16 before 12/31 or being 16 and turning 17 between 1/1 and 6/30. (Those aren't official American rules or anything, it's just what I've seen from my own personal experience.)
Of course she could have started a year late or a year early so she could still be a Sophomore (10) or Senior (12) if you want her to be. It's totally up to you.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:15 PM   #5
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Either second or third year of high school, most likely. Either should work.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:16 PM   #6
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And yeah, what alleycat said, schools in California tend to start at the end of August instead of the beginning of September.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:16 PM   #7
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Each school district--not the state--determines the cut-off date for children entering kindergarten, so all children who turn 5 between X date and Y date enter the school system during the fall of a particular year. In the early grades, the kids are all quite close in age, except for any whose parents petitioned to hold their child back a year. (Emotional immaturity is often cited as the reason, but more realistically, it's often to give the child either an academic or athletic edge later on, when they'll be a year older than the other kids in their grade.)

Another factor is transfer students who started in some other district with its own rules and are placed in the same grade they were in there. If their education lags or is ahead by only a small amount, they're usually allowed to remain in the same grade, but if the difference is large, they may be put back or ahead one grade. That happened to me when my family moved.

In my present school district, the girl who turned 16 right before the school year started would be entering her junior year of high school and would be 17 when she graduated. But that might not be true in whatever California district your story is set.

If you have a specific place in mind, I bet the district policies are online.

Maryn, hoping this is some help
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:18 PM   #8
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Either second or third year of high school, most likely. Either should work.
For the OP's benefit, this was the same years I mentioned earlier. Second year being the 10th grade, and third being the 11th.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:19 PM   #9
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Also, because high school students make their own schedules and "year" is based on credits, she could be a senior as well and would graduate early. But assuming she's average, sophmore or junior works.
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:22 PM   #10
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http://www.hollywoodhighschool.net/ Why don't you snoop around on this site for a while? It has everything from bell schedules to after-school activities. On their calendar I found that in 2012, their first day of class started on Aug 14. (http://www.hollywoodhighschool.net/a...s/2012/8/?id=0) It might help you get to know American schools a bit more. Pretty much every high school has a website in California so Google whatever city your story is set in and you can find their high schools' page!
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Old 01-07-2013, 06:49 PM   #11
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Just to make it more confusing, the age cut-off date isn't always the same as the school year date -- where I live, for instance, kindergarteners have to be five by October 1st, even though school starts in early September, so it would be possible to start at four. A lot of kids with birthdays close to the cut-off are held back, though, and I don't think you even have to give a reason. (My daughter, with an early August birthday, is one of the youngest in her class.)

Carrying that through to high school, I agree your character would most likely be either a sophomore or a junior.
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Old 01-07-2013, 07:07 PM   #12
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Again, a TON of this is based on what type of school and the very specific location.

All the 'age cutoff'/starting age and district stuff only applies to public schools.

Stuff like high school students making their own schedules and everything being based on credits is specific to particular schools or districts. Others work entirely differently.

Agree you can probably find a school or district - if you want public - that you can use online and work off that.
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:21 PM   #13
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You could easily justify 10th or 11th grade without having to work at it. If you wanted her to be a freshman (9th) or senior (12th) you'd have to think about it. In the district where I started school, the age cutoff was Sep 20 and with my birthday at Sep 26, I was the oldest kid in my class. Where my children go to school, the age cutoff is Aug 1.

Pick the one that works best for your story. Should she be a younger-than-most upper classman or should she be the only sophomore with a car when school starts?
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:57 PM   #14
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I also think this is one of the things you can set up however you like, really. It varies so much that as long as the situation you give is in the realm of possibilities, it doesn't matter if it aligns specifically with a county or district.
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:20 AM   #15
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Thanks a lot to everyone who replied! She lives in San Francisco. I'm considering making up a private school, but I wanted to make sure the system works kind of like I think it does. My initial guess was she would be a junior, younger than most of her classmates, so based on the answers I got here, I think I'm going to go with that. Also, thanks for the info on when the year might start. I'm going to see about moving dates around a bit.
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:46 AM   #16
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Also, Laquesi, sorry if this is a dumb question, but is there a specific reason why she can't just be born in July?
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Old 01-08-2013, 02:17 AM   #17
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All right, my sister, whose birthday is mid-August, was in junior year (grade 11) after she turned 16. We lived in southern California, and our school year ran from early/mid-September to mid-June.
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Old 01-08-2013, 03:06 AM   #18
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Just to confuse you even more, just in case your book happens to be set a few decades ago, the cut-off dates used to be typically much later than they are now. When I started kindergarten in the mid-70s, I was allowed to start even though I was still four years old, because my birthday actually fell on the cut-off date of October 21. So I was still 16 when I started my senior (12th grade) year of high school, and graduated when I was 17. The school year also started much later then than it does now, in early September then as opposed to early to mid August now.

But yeah, typically a 16 year old is going to be starting 11th grade.
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Old 01-08-2013, 06:37 AM   #19
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Yeah I was 16 my junior year blending into my senior. I was 17 when I graduated. (I graduated ten years ago and went to school in California).
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Old 01-08-2013, 07:05 AM   #20
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Here in CA, the cutoff date to start kindergarten was Dec 2nd for years (meaning you could start school at 4 years old if you turned five by that date). Starting this school year ('12-'13) they've moved it up by a month to Nov. 1. For next year, the cutoff will be Oct 1, and the year after that ('14-'15) it will be Sept 1 which is where it will stay.

I only know this because my son will turn 5 in September of 2014. So I have to decide whether to let him start school at 4 years old (which I'm not inclined to do) or keep him at home for a year. Which is an option that parents have the right to exercise.

My point being that your MC can be pretty much in any grade that works for the story. But for anything outside of "normal", meaning 16 years old when she starts 11th grade, you should probably have a reason for it.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:27 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laquesi View Post
So, I need help from American authors. My character turns 16 on August 29, and she lives in California. What school year will she start next (I'm imagining classes will begin on September 3, and the year would be 2012)?
Also, how do I divide the school years, so I can figure out the other characters' date of birth (the ones who are her classmates)?
Thanks in advance!
Like others stated, sophomore (10th grade) or junior (11th grade). More so the latter. Down here in the South, our school years typically start in August and end in May. Mid August to mid December is fall semester, or first half of school year, and early January to mid May is spring semester, or second half of school year. Private school could really depend, but that's usually the division in school years down here.

Since I'm a fall baby (November), I turn an age older in the midst of a typical full school year.
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:54 AM   #22
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Giving her a birthdate like this may actually give you a chance to reveal something interestingly about her. I know some kids who were born in July/August/September ('87) who were the oldest kids in the grade, and then some who were born in July/August/September ('88) who were the youngest kids in the grade. Because birthdays for the time of a year can be kind of up for grabs about if they start school or not - her being a bit younger may imply that it was decided she was advanced enough for school at an earlier age, whereas her being a bit older may imply she wasn't ready to begin school earlier and was held back from kindergarten to catch up.
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Old 01-09-2013, 05:15 PM   #23
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I know these twins who were born about ten minutes apart, but one was born five minutes before midnight on August 31st, the other five minutes after midnight on September 1st. Here in England the age cut-off point is September 1st, so the twins had to be in entirely different grades!

Also, one of the girls I know from church was born on August the 31st late at night, and my mum asked hers, jokily, why she didn't hold on for a few minutes so her daughter would be the oldest in her grade.

The girl's mother said, very nicely, that her daughter was adopted.
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Old 01-10-2013, 04:51 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Ink_Goddess View Post
Also, Laquesi, sorry if this is a dumb question, but is there a specific reason why she can't just be born in July?
No dumb questions in my opinion. And there are a couple reasons: one is that the way I set my story, something happens around her birthday and I need school to start the following week; the other (which might be dumb) is that I want her to be a Virgo.
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Old 01-10-2013, 05:03 AM   #25
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As a side note, I would not use anything that dates the story. If a story is set too far in the past, some readers may loose interest because the things in the story are ... are you ready? ... in the past.

2012 may not seem too much like the past now, but in ten years your book story will be somewhat outdated for YA students.
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