High School Counseling Program

Within this page you will find an introduction to many aspects of the high school counseling program at ACS. More detailed information can be accessed about each topic by clicking the heading links and by contacting the counseling office directly.


ACS offers a rigorous American style college preparatory curriculum. Students are required to take 25 credits in specified subjects in order to graduate with an ACS diploma. In grade 11 and 12, students have the opportunity to take a number of IB certificate courses in order to increase the rigor of their program; some choose to pursue an additional IB Diploma.
Counselors work in collaboration with students and families when advising courses. Counselors meet with students each year to individually discuss the selection of courses and how they relate to future goals. Once students are enrolled in their courses, counselors provide support to those who struggle by closely monitoring progress in collaboration with the student support teacher and intervening when appropriate.
When a student is struggling with the learning in a particular course, the first place the student/family should go is to that teacher. The teacher is the best resource when is comes to giving individual feedback and advice related to a specific course. The counselor’s role is to advocate for students and to help them advocate for themselves to ensure they are receiving the necessary support.
ACS grading and GPA In grade 9, a student begins to accumulate a Grade Point Average (GPA). Only credits and grades earned in ACS courses are included in the cumulative GPA we report. Most North American colleges/universities (and most around the world) place a heavy emphasis on a student’s academic progress when considering an application. The cumulative GPA gives colleges an indicator of a student’s overall progress in grades 9-12. ACS uses a 4.0 scale, however courses that have college level rigor receive a slightly higher GPA. Please see below:
Grading Scale

Grading Scale





























































**50-59 not passing




**Students who do not submit formative assessments will have a Not Turned In (NTI) posted in grade books. If the work is not submitted, this NTI will count as a zero toward the overall composite grade. Summative assessments must be completed. The summative component of our assessment structure greatly impacts the overall grade. If students do not submit this evidence of learning or do not make an honest effort, teachers cannot accurately appraise the extent to which students have met curricular standards. After following the procedures as detailed under the Completing Assignments section below, teachers reserve the right to issue grades as appropriate.

Social / Emotional

Adolescence is a busy time marked with rapid change and growth. As a result, some students experience social or emotional challenges and difficulty that requires support. ACS counselors have an open door policy and welcome students to stop by when anything is troubling them.

Common teenage social/emotional topics that HS counselors around the world encounter include: grief and loss, anxiety, stress, relationship concerns (with peers, parents, teachers, dating), managing pressure, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and peer pressure. ACS counselors are willing and able to help students with these and other types of concerns, and encourage students/families to come forward and advocate for themselves/their children or their friends when help is needed.

Age appropriate lessons are delivered to students during Advisory as well as in our Health curriculum focusing on the understanding of how to navigate the many adolescent challenges that may arise. ACS counselors also have a network of outside institutions/resources that are available for recommendation to families when a student needs ongoing support.


Throughout the year, ACS Counselors meet with high school students to provide structured guidance lessons.

The purpose of the Advisory period is to advance student learning and success. This program is proactive in nature and developmental appropriate by enhancing the establishment of a personal relationship with at least one consistent adult, who serves as an advisor. The program’s curricular themes are designed to bridge the gap between the academic curriculum and the skills necessary for success in school and post‐secondary life. The areas of focus include school success skills, academic planning, career exploration, post‐secondary planning, and interpersonal/life skills.


In High School, students begin exploring career options as early as 9 th grade. All high school students receive access to Naviance Family Connection (also linked in the quicklink section of the HS Counseling main page). This program allows students to access various career aptitude tests, learning style and multiple intelligence inventories, create a resume, and research specific details related to individual careers. Additional resources are located near the counseling office in the college and careers center. This library hosts multiple publications related to choosing the right path including career outlooks.

ACS also hosts an annual career fair, which is organized in collaboration with a very dedicated parent committee. Students have the opportunity to select and attend presentations on 3 different careers each year and reflect on what they learned/experienced in small groups during advisory. Counselors continue to follow up with students regarding career path during individual meetings held to discuss long term planning and scheduling.

Students and parents are encouraged to make additional appointments with their counselor should they seek assistance in using the above-mentioned resources or for questions related to career planning.


ACS High School Counselors work with students preparing for life beyond high school. Each year, 95% of the senior class attend colleges and universities around the world. The High School and International Baccalaureate curriculums offer ample rigor and opportunities for students to plan for post-secondary opportunities.
ACS Counselors provide and facilitate a variety of resources assisting students in their college search
  • Maintaining Naviance - a web-based college and career resource tool.
  • Arranging campus college representative visits
  • Establish and maintaining a college and career library
  • Offering comprehensive workshops, evening programs and one on one time with the counselor
ACS Counselors assist students to better understand and meet entrance requirements.
  • School Transcript (from grades 9-12) showing subjects taken and grades earned
  • Reviewing quality and level of difficulty of subjects, particularly the selection of subjects chosen to take in grade 11 and 12
  • Personal Statement/College Entrance Essays Standardized Test Scores
  • Extracurricular activities, awards, honors, and community service preparation
  • Recommendations from Teachers, Counselors, or Principal
Please click here to connect to the ACS COLLEGE HANDBOOK.

Course Selection

Counselors work directly with students when advising course selections for the following year. Many factors are considered when supporting students during this process:

  • Interests
  • Prerequisite performance
  • College and Career goals
  • Balance with non-academic activities.
Counselors introduce course offerings and the selection process to each grade level in early spring. Counselors support students by holding individual meetings with students. Time is allowed for students to discuss options with parents and teachers to ensure best-fit.
As a college preparatory school, ACS students are encouraged to take the most challenging curriculum where student achieve success. All course choices should foster individual’s goals, strengths and weaknesses. ACS encourages balance between academic and extracurricular life.
For the 2016-2017 Course Description Guide, click here.

Click here to view a video providing insights on what courses are right for you.

Standardized Test

Many students are required to take standardized college admissions test. The most common are the SAT Reasoning, SAT Subject, and the ACT. A growing trend for colleges and universities is to be test optional where students are not required to submit a standardized test score for admissions. ACS Counselors are well versed with college/university admission requirements and assist students when planning for admission testing.

ACS Counselors provide access to a variety of methods when students are preparing for college entrances tests. Preparation support ranges from SAT Prep courses, one on one tutoring and web based support.

Each October, ACS offers the PSAT for 10th and 11th-grade students for free. In addition, ACS hosts SAT and ACT testing campus throughout the year.

Click here for SAT and ACT testing dates and deadlines.

Transitioning to ACS

ACS Counselors work with families during the transition into ACS. They assist with answering questions, building an academic schedule, arranging new buddies and providing orientation events.

When making a class schedule, students may be required to sit course placement exams. There are opportunities to sit these exams remotely or on campus. ACS Counselors use Skype and email to conduct preliminary interviews and answer questions. However, it is highly encouraged to meet with you school counselor face to face prior to the start of school.

One to One Computer Program
ACS offers a 1 to 1 laptop learning environment. All students in grades 8-12 are expected to have their own Apple (Mac) laptop computer.


Students who join ACS at the start of the school year will attend an organized orientation for all new students and families. For those that join later in the year, the HS Counselors will provide similar information during the scheduling meeting in order to help with the transition.

New Student Ambassadors

The ACS student body is transient. Many students come and go each year, and, therefore, most new students find the returning students to be quite welcoming. The HS Counselors will help match up returning students with new students through the New Student Ambassador program.


Unlike most schools in Abu Dhabi, ACS does not have a daily uniform. Students are required to follow a dress code with the following guidelines:

  • Pants should not have rips or holes,
  • Skirts and shorts must approach the knee,
  • Shoulders and midsection must be covered,
  • Tights and leggings must accompany a dress or long (not form fitting) shirt
  • Clothing slogans must be school appropriate.
  • There is a required PE uniform and may be purchased upon your arrival.


ACS operates on rotating schedule with students attending four courses on one day and four different class the next. Courses are 80-85 minutes long with a break period mid-morning and lunch. The high school schedule does offer extra help opportunities in the form of a 40-minute daily study hall and after school from 3:20pm to 4pm.

School Calendar

ACS operates on US style academic calendar. School usually begins in late August with a fall, winter and spring break. Please refer to this website for the latest calendar.

International Baccalaureate ACS Counselors work with families during the transition into ACS. They assist with answering questions, building an academic schedule, arranging new buddies and providing orientation events.

ACS has a cafeteria that offers two different “hot lunch” options, as well as a salad bar and soup. ACS also has a Kiosk that sells sub sandwiches, juices, and other healthy lunch and snack items. Some students at ACS also opt to bring their lunch. Lunch on campus is approximately 15 to 20 dirhams.


ACS offers a huge variety of extracurricular opportunities. Our athletics, fine arts, and activities programs are well developed with opportunities for travel and competition at an international level. In addition to these activities, students at ACS are active with service initiatives and trip abroad.


ACS is an American School in a Muslim country and celebrates holiday of our host country along with traditional American holidays.

Transitioning from ACS

Many students pack up and leave their homes each year. Most teens experience mixed emotions of excitement, fear, anger, wonder, and more. It is important for parents and students to recognize the challenges that come with moving and try to be as proactive as possible.


Communicate your feelings:
Talk to someone, friends and family about how you are feeling regarding the move. Be honest with yourself. Often times, our brains can completely comprehend why this move is important for the family, and can even get excited about new opportunities it. However, at the same time our heart has a tough time doing the same thing. It is normal for teens to have feelings which do not match logic. They often feel confused as to why they cannot control their emotion. Talking with others offers supportive help.

Stay in contact, but not excessively:
It is important for students to say goodbye to friends, teachers, family, pets…to ensure there is a plan to stay connected. However, it is also important to ensure there is space in their lives for new people. Students who cannot make space in their lives often have the most difficult adjustment period.

Keep an open mind:
Try not to be too positive or too negative about the move. Keep an open mind and let the experiences come to you. Keep a balanced perspective and give yourself time to adjust.

What will you take away with you when you leave your current home? Not material possessions, but the memories of who you have become. What parts of yourself will you ensure remains intact, and which parts are you open to something different or growth opportunities? Think about what is most important to you, maybe this will help you make choices and connections when you arrive at your new school.

Tie up loose ends:
Be sure to let the appropriate people know that you will be leaving your current school. Most schools have withdrawal procedures that need to be accomplished in a timely fashion.

Things to consider:

  • Returning books and materials
  • Finishing last assessments
  • Gathering withdrawal paperwork
  • Obtaining transcripts and transfer certificates
  • Speaking to teachers about writing recommendations, if necessary
  • Collecting copies of school records.
Put yourself out there: You will find that students are very interested in you and curious about where you have come. This is where you have to put yourself out there, even if it is out of your comfort zone. Ask people what they are doing on the weekend. Ask if you can sit with them for lunch, and strike up a conversation with each of them, try to find something in common. Sometimes it may take a few tries, don’t give up until you have found others that you feel you can develop friendships with.

Get involved:
The best way to meet people quickly is to get involved. Try out for a sports team, or the musical. Even if you do not make it, you have the opportunity to meet people that have similar interests as you. Take advantage of joining a club or program that did not exist at your last school. If you find that something you were passionate about at your old schools does not exist in the new one, figure out a way to start up a club.

The biggest mistake a new student can make academically is to expect the academic transition to be seamless. Schools offer different curricula. Even when a student moves from an Algebra 2 class and their current school to an Algebra 2 class in their new school, the topics and pace often do not match up. It is important for students to recognize that just because you were always a start in a particular subject and now might be struggling, it does not mean that they are bad at that subject. The best way to rectify this is to ensure the student is placed properly based on the students mastered learning objectives rather than by course name.

As difficult as it might be to do in a new space, new students need to advocate for themselves. It is ok to need help, and one is encouraged to recognize when this is the case and go out and seek that help. Teachers are the best place to start with academic concerns and counselors are the best place to start for anything else. Take advantage of the help that is being offered, and soon enough you will be able to manage and succeed on your own.

Allow yourself to enjoy all of the new opportunities that your new school and home will bring to you. There is so much this world has to offer, and you get a chance to soak up a new experience at an early age, that will help shape who you become. Embrace the opportunity.