High School - what age?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

PiaSophia

mysterious
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 8, 2019
Messages
630
Reaction score
25
Location
Netherlands
Hi everyone!

I have written a story about a girl just beginning in high school (the first class in high school, I mean).
This girl in my story is 12 years old, which is a pretty common age to go to high school in my country (The Netherlands), where we go to high school at age 11 or 12.

Now, I've translated my story to English and my editor commented that she is way too young to go to high school in other countries. She told me that kids usually go to high school at age 15 or 16 and graduate at age 18. Is that true? I can't seem to find useful info online and I'm really wondering what it's like internationally. So that my story at least makes sense in other countries than mine, lol.

Thanks for reading this!

-Pia
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,262
Reaction score
4,980
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
In the US (with some local variations):

Kindergarten starts at 5 years old, first grade at 6. High school is grades 9-12, ages 14-17. Some places have three-year high schools that start with grade 10.

The ages, of course, are average, because kids have birthdays all through the year, and some kids will start early or late depending on when their birthday falls.

An 11 or 12-year-old in 9th grade would be highly unusual, and the assumption would be the child was intellectually gifted.

ETA: I googled school systems in the Netherlands, and found this link. If it's at all accurate, the start of high school here would be analogous to the 2nd or 3rd year of HAVO or VWO. We do have vocational schools, but the grade systems are the same, and the kids graduate at 17/18.
 
Last edited:

Maggie Maxwell

Making Einstein cry since 1994
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 21, 2013
Messages
10,382
Reaction score
5,003
Location
In my head
Website
thewanderingquille.blogspot.com
All of what Liz said in mind, it IS possible for kids of your MC's age to start high school in English countries with grade skipping. I knew two 12 year old freshmen at my school out of 5000 students. But it's very rare (skipping grades is required) and being so young among classmates made it a very different experience for them.
 

PiaSophia

mysterious
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 8, 2019
Messages
630
Reaction score
25
Location
Netherlands
Thanks for your responses. Maybe it's better to not define her age explicitly in the English version of my story, then. It doesn't change much for the story if she's 12 or 14, but I now understand that it's unusual in other countries to start this young. Thanks again :)
 

PiaSophia

mysterious
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 8, 2019
Messages
630
Reaction score
25
Location
Netherlands
ETA: I googled school systems in the Netherlands, and found this link. If it's at all accurate, the start of high school here would be analogous to the 2nd or 3rd year of HAVO or VWO. We do have vocational schools, but the grade systems are the same, and the kids graduate at 17/18.

yes, this is pretty accurate. I followed the HAVO school system and graduated at 16 (started uni at 16), without skipping a grade, because I started high school here when I was 11 (an early student due to my birthday). But I do know I was a bit young, so therefore I decided to let her be 12 when starting high school, which is pretty common here. But this helps a lot, thanks :)
 

cornflake

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
16,174
Reaction score
3,733
It's generally 14 in the U.S. Twelve is possible (says this former 12-year-old h.s. freshman, heh), but I was the youngest in my class, and it was somewhat notable to people (not super freaky, but notable, like, 'you're only...?' and people did usually assume/ask about skipping).
 
Last edited:

frimble3

Heckuva good sport
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 7, 2006
Messages
8,904
Reaction score
1,625
Location
west coast, canada
My (Canadian) high school experience has been:
Junior High - Grades 8,9, 10 - I started at 13
High School - Grades 11, 12, Graduation. I was 16 and 17.
But, some districts merge the two, as does the high school across the street from me.
Next week school will start, and, once again, I will be aware of how young the new students are, compared to the soon-to-be graduates.

If I read a book where a student was 12 and entering high school, especially if it was set in a foreign country, I would just read on. Might be a different school system, might be a birth-date thing.
I have never really understood the British school system, but I've read lots of stories either set in British schools, or with school interrupting the story. Didn't affect my enjoyment of the story.
 

lonestarlibrarian

senior bean supervisor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 30, 2009
Messages
708
Reaction score
109
I'm in the US. I was age 13/14 as a high school freshman, 14/15 as a sophomore, 15/16 as a junior, and 16/17 as a senior in high school. Then by the time I graduated college-- I was 20/21 my senior year of undergrad. However, I was also generally the youngest kid in my grade; I'd started first grade in Louisiana when I was 5/6. I believe the rule there was "you can start first grade the year you turn 6", so I did, and then we moved.

My kids in Texas-- they had to be 6 years old on or before the first day of school. So both of my kids will be high school freshmen age 14/15, and high school seniors age 17/18.
 

Snitchcat

Dragon-kitty.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 2, 2006
Messages
6,340
Reaction score
853
Location
o,0
You might also take a look at the definition of "high school" that you're using. For the USA, the others are correct.

For the UK, however, the term would be "secondary school" and your character would start at age 11 or 12, the first year being Year 7 (Grade 7). The secondary school would normally be sub-divided into lower secondary (11/12 - 14/15), upper secondary (15 - 16/17), and (if the secondary school has it), the sixth form (years 12 and 13). The sixth form would be split into 2 years: lower sixth (year 12, age 17), and upper sixth (year 13, age 18).
 

cornflake

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
16,174
Reaction score
3,733
Just for the info of the OP -- in the U.S., the age thing (14-18 for high school) is the general norm, but stuff like 'must be X years old before starting school,' is for public school, run by more local governments . Many people attend private schools of one type or another, in which the age rules are particular to the school alone.

Also in the U.S., there's a phenomenon of holding kids back in the beginning, so they start later. Sometimes this has been done for sports (if parents want their kid to be larger, more coordinated than the competition), but mostly under the guise of kids gaining maturity before entering school. Thus being 19 and still in h.s. is not that uncommon.
 

Enlightened

Always Learning
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 5, 2018
Messages
4,850
Reaction score
161
Location
Colorado
In the U.S., most are:

5th grade: 10-11 years old.
6th: 11-12.
7th: 12-13.
8th: 13-14.
9th: 14-15.
10th: 15-16.
11th: 16-17.
12th: 17-18.

My birthday was just before the school year started, so I graduated at 17 years old. There are outliers, such as students who are either held back to repeat grades (we had a 19 year old as a sophomore when I was in high school). Some outliers skip grades and can graduate earlier (well before 17).

For the norm, the above ranges are accurate of most U.S. students and secondary school (high school).
 

PiaSophia

mysterious
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 8, 2019
Messages
630
Reaction score
25
Location
Netherlands
Wow, thanks guys! I didnt' expect this many comments. :)

You might also take a look at the definition of "high school" that you're using. For the USA, the others are correct.

For the UK, however, the term would be "secondary school" and your character would start at age 11 or 12, the first year being Year 7 (Grade 7). The secondary school would normally be sub-divided into lower secondary (11/12 - 14/15), upper secondary (15 - 16/17), and (if the secondary school has it), the sixth form (years 12 and 13). The sixth form would be split into 2 years: lower sixth (year 12, age 17), and upper sixth (year 13, age 18).

This sounds very complicated, haha.
Well, for my story I think the term 'high school' is important, because my MC gets involved with 17-/18-year olds. But in the UK-scenario the term 'secondary school' would suffice. I'll talk to my editor about how we could name this and tackle the issue so it is clear to everyone reading it. Thanks!
 

Arrow

Registered
Joined
Aug 24, 2019
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
Secondary school might work. Where is the story set?
The French system has collège which is grades 6-9 so entering around age 11 followed by lycée if a student is doing university prep, grades 10-12; there is an entrance exam before lycée. Only they aren't numbered that way, they count down from 6th through 1st (second to final year) and the final year is called terminale.
 

BradCarsten

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 23, 2010
Messages
1,179
Reaction score
96
Location
Johannesburg South Africa
South Africa must be the same as the Netherlands. We have primary school which is grade 1-7 and high school which is Grade 8-12. Here, most people are 12-13 years old when they go to high school.
That said, would it work if you made it a private school? There are private schools that cater from grade 1 to 12 (in this country anyway), so there's no reason why yours couldn't start in grade 5. (Unless there's some law that I'm not aware of.) Somewhere in the story, you can mention that it's unusual, and leave it at that.
 

PiaSophia

mysterious
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 8, 2019
Messages
630
Reaction score
25
Location
Netherlands
The story is set in The Netherlands, I think. Although for people reading it from other countries they might feel that it's set in their country. I didn't specify it, nor does it matter for the rest of the story... so I decided to just leave her age out and just state that she went to first year of high school. What matters most is the age gap between the seniors and herself, and I guess by just stating that she was just starting HS it does the story justice without making it weird because of her age.

So in France they start at a similar age at here in The Netherlands, although the school system seems rather different. Nice to know, thanks for responding :)
 

Thurpa

Registered
Joined
Aug 20, 2019
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
Location
Australia
In Australia high school comes after primary school. Depending on the state, primary school ends in either Year 6 (about age 11 or 12) or Year 7 (age 12 or 13). I started high school at age 12. My sister was 11 when she started but turned 12 three weeks into Year 7.

So if your story was released here, starting high school at age 11 or 12 would make perfect sense.
 

kyliesmiley16

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 22, 2010
Messages
96
Reaction score
5
Location
Aussie living in Sweden
In Australia high school comes after primary school. Depending on the state, primary school ends in either Year 6 (about age 11 or 12) or Year 7 (age 12 or 13). I started high school at age 12. My sister was 11 when she started but turned 12 three weeks into Year 7.

So if your story was released here, starting high school at age 11 or 12 would make perfect sense.

Seconding this :) I graduated 10 years ago and QLD high school was Grades 8-12, so most students started at age 12 (turning 13). Graduated at 17. However in recent years they've changed it to better conform with other states and now the high schools are Grades 7-12, with most starting at age 11 (turning 12), and I believe with change ups in prep, that most now graduate at 18 as well. Oh hang on, but that conflicts with starting at 11... :Shrug:Anyway, I don't see a problem with saying the character is 12, completely normal for me!

I believe Sweden is similar to the UK with kind of a primary, middle and upper...
 
Last edited:

A large christmas tree with lights outdoors in the snow, with a snowman, houses, and children