12th Grade

Senior year—the culmination of a student's academic career at University School of Milwaukee. Our school's Portrait of a USM Graduate was framed with the culmination of this milestone year in mind, with 12th grade students preparing to finalize their development as learners, leaders, and citizens before moving on to their colleges and universities of choice for the next step in their academic careers.

This senior year is one in which the focus is squarely on preparation for the transition ahead, but it also provides our 12th graders with final opportunities to shine and leave their mark, both individually and collectively. Senior parents are very involved throughout this last year, not only in the college decision-making process, but also through events such as Celebrating Our Seniors Dinner at the head of school residence and the end-of-year Senior Dinner.

Starting with the first day of 12th grade, when our seniors lead our kindergarteners hand-in-hand to the all-school opening day ceremony, and wrapping up at graduation at the annual Commencement exercises, the senior year at USM is one that is full of engagement, reflection, and celebration.

Capstone Experiences

As both the last Upper School grade level and the final year at USM, the senior year includes several unique capstone experiences, some required and others optional. These include:

12th Grade Curriculum

By senior year, most students will have mapped their course selection in previous grade levels to allow for opportunities to take courses of personal interest or importance, complete Program of Distinction required courses, continue taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses, or all of these—while also allowing time for other leadership and service opportunities.

During the senior year, students typically have a maximum of 40 minutes of homework per class meeting, and no homework is assigned over breaks. For Advanced Placement courses, faculty may assign a maximum of 60 minutes of homework per class meeting and also one assignment (60 minutes) over school breaks. There may be up to three hours of homework over summer vacation for Advanced Placement courses.

Leadership Opportunities and Special Events

Early in the senior year, 12th graders take part in the overnight rite-of-passage Senior Retreat at Camp Manito-wish in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin. These three days each year offer students meaningful leadership and team-building experiences with a program that includes outdoor adventures like canoeing and ropes courses, as well as small and large gatherings throughout the trip. This event sets the stage for final senior expectations around learning, leadership, and service.

Reflecting their status as elders of the Upper School student body, seniors are afforded many special privileges, including open lunch tables, special senior-only apparel, extra free periods, off-campus lunch permissions, and opportunities to come to school late and leave early, as schedules allow. Seniors also find many new leadership opportunities such as:

  • Student council
  • Senior class board roles
  • House captains
  • Athletic team captains
  • Upper School Prefects

Seniors wrap up their school year, and their time at USM, in mid-May each year, several weeks ahead of their fellow students in the other grades. In addition to the Commencement exercise itself, when students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas and become proud alumni of the school, seniors are regaled with special rite-of-passage evens and activities before they graduate, including:

  • Planting of the senior class tree
  • Dedication of the senior gift
  • Sharing of palancas
  • "Lifer" Brunch and tower signing
  • Senior-only food trucks at lunch
  • Senior Dinner