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What Does It Mean to "Reclass" a Student?

Reclass. It sounds like the title of a new Tina Fey movie. I imagine a bunch of teenagers from different classes thrown together at a New England boarding school. A boy whose entire male lineage went to the same boarding school. A mysterious girl with no backstory. A kid from the city...

But, reclass isn't a movie—at least not yet. It's a real term. It means repeating a grade over in high school in order to position yourself better for the college admissions process.

My movie depiction above has some truth to it. It's a common admissions decision or choice for students attending boarding school or a private high school. Instead of doing four years of high school at one school, they often will transfer after their freshman, sophomore, or junior year and repeat that grade at the new high school, adding one additional year of high school onto their education. The student usually graduates from that new high school rather than transferring back to their old school. 
Sometimes the boarding or private school makes the decision for the student. In other words, the offer of admission is contingent upon the student repeating a grade. Other times, the student (or their parent) deliberately chooses to apply as a reclass.
It's viewed as intentional, smart, and effective. 
What do I think of it? Well, if you asked me this as a public school kid back in the day, I might not have seen the point. Where I am from, it is all about getting out of high school unscathed and as soon as possible. Now, as a mom of three kids and a college admissions expert, I see value in it for certain students.
The best students to reclass fall into one of these categories:
  • A student who did not perform as well as expected at their current high school. 
  • A student who matures, socially or academically, a bit later in high school.
  • A student who is hoping to get recruited for their sport by a college coach.
Students who reclass will have an opportunity to get a fresh start in high school for whatever reason. This can allow the student to take more advanced coursework by senior year, improve their grades, and get stronger as an athlete. 
It is different than a postgraduate or "PG" which is someone who graduates high school and spends an additional year after high school at a boarding school. A reclass makes the switch before senior year of high school.
There are some considerations to make before embarking on becoming a reclass. Transcripts from the old high school and the new one will be required for college admissions. If the student's academic performance before they reclass isn't strong, colleges will still see it. And, unless the student is getting financial aid from the boarding school where they will reclass, the cost of attendance can be as high as college tuition.
Will the student get better results if they reclass, though? Yes, they tend to do better in the college admissions process than if they stayed at their original high school. And, while the college counseling office at a boarding school doesn't have the influence in the admissions process that they used to, they tend to guide students towards a different set of colleges—usually a more selective group of schools. But the results are not going to be dramatically different. 

READ MORE: The Dos and Don'ts of Choosing Your College Essay Topic

Would I do this for my own kid? I would if it was the right choice for them and they were onboard with it. But I would much rather they repeat or "reclass" 8th grade instead of reclassing during high school. The moment a student starts high school it counts in the college admissions process. It is always better to make a big decision before you start high school, if possible.
Maybe Tina Fey will come calling. Reclass sure does sound intriguing and full of complexity. For now, it is not a movie. It is a choice that a small percentage of American students know about, consider, and actually do.