Curriculum and Requirements


Mercersburg’s curriculum offers 170 courses from its eight academic departments. Students may also pursue their passion through individualized projects.

Our faculty recognizes that the best demonstrations of learning aren’t in what students can repeat back to the teacher, but in students’ abilities to apply their learning and skills. Undoubtedly, learning and doing are not mutually exclusive, so we prioritize opportunities for students to use what they learn by building upon knowledge, then applying it.

When building our courses, we practice the concept of “backward design”—keeping the end goals of each student in mind. Planning begins—whether the subject is chemistry, history, Spanish, or multivariable calculus—with an essential question: what are the ideas and concepts students should understand and master after successfully completing a course? We start from there and build a flexible strategy that will maximize learning.



Curriculum Focus

9th and 10th grades

Ninth and 10th grades focus on skill development so that students establish a significant foundation in all disciplines, preparing them for more independent and in-depth work in 11th and 12th grade. We limit the amount of homework for ninth and 10th graders to no more than 20 minutes per class each night, because research shows that more homework does not result in better performance by students.

11th and 12th grades

In the 11th and 12th grades, students do more independent, in-depth, project-based, and experiential work. With most graduation requirements finished by the end of the 11th-grade year, students can explore their interests and passions during their senior year; and all students must successfully complete one of Mercersburg’s two capstone experiences for upper-class students: MAPS or Springboard.


Departments and Course Guide

Graduation Requirements

Each student must carry a minimum annual course load of 17 credits of academic work in ninth and 10th grades and 15 credits of academic work in 11th and 12th grades.

Senior Year Requirements

Students must participate in all senior activities. This includes participation in all required senior activities and programs through the end of the year including the senior trip and spring term exams. Seniors must pass all spring term work in order to graduate. 

Diploma requirements for a student are determined by entry grade.

Distributional Credit:

  • English - 12 credits (3 credits taken each year)
  • Fine Arts - 4 credits (2 credits taken in ninth grade and 2 credits taken in 10th grade from performance/studio courses in two different areas: Art, Dance, Music, Theatre—unless enrolled in Band, Chorale, or Strings in both the ninth and 10th grade years)
  • History - 9 credits (including Ancient World History in ninth grade and 3 credits taken in 10th grade); 3 credits must be U.S. History or American Studies
  • Foreign Language - 3 credits each year through the third year of a particular language, or until graduation
  • Mathematics - 3 credits each year until successful completion of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II (or their equivalents)
  • Religion - 1 credit
  • Science - 9 credits (3 credits of Biology taken in the ninth grade and 3 credits taken in the 10th grade), with at least 3 credits of Biology and 3 credits of Chemistry or Physics
  • Interdisciplinary Studies - must either successfully complete a Springboard course or the MAPS program in the senior year

Total Credits: must establish 57 credits

Other Requirements: Must pass four courses in Physical Education (one course at each grade level) and successfully complete all human development and health programs as required by the school.

Distributional Credit:

  • English - 9 credits (3 credits taken each year)
  • Fine Arts - 2 credits in 10th grade (from performance/studio courses in two different areas: Art, Dance, Music, Theatre—unless enrolled in Band, Chorale, or Strings)
  • History - 6 credits (3 credits taken in the 10th grade); 3 credits must be U.S. History or American Studies
  • Foreign Language - 3 credits each year through the third year of a particular language, or until graduation
  • Mathematics - 3 credits each year until successful completion of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II (or their equivalents)
  • Religion - 1 credit
  • Science - 6 credits, with at least 3 credits of Biology and 3 credits of Chemistry or Physics
  • Interdisciplinary Studies - must either successfully complete a Springboard course or the MAPS program in the senior year 

Total Credits: must establish 42 credits

Other Requirements: Must pass three courses in Physical Education (one course at each grade level) and successfully complete all human development and health programs as required by the school.


Distributional Credit:

  • English - 6 credits (3 credits taken each year)
  • History - 3 credits, including a course in U.S. History or American Studies
  • Foreign Language - 3 credits each year through the third year of a particular language, or until graduation
  • Mathematics - 3 credits each year until successful completion of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II (or their equivalents)
  • Science - 3 credits
  • Interdisciplinary Studies - Must either successfully complete a Springboard course or the MAPS program in the senior year

Total Credits: Must establish 27 credits

Other Requirements: Must pass two courses in Physical Education (one course at each grade level) and successfully complete all health programs as required by the school.

Distributional Credit:

  • English - 3 credits
  • History - 3 credits of U.S. History or American Studies, unless an equivalent course has been successfully completed at the secondary-school level
  • Mathematics - 3 credits of Algebra II, unless competence through Algebra II can be established
  • Science - 3 credits of Biology, Chemistry, or Physics, unless two equivalent courses have been successfully completed at the secondary-school level
  • Interdisciplinary Studies - must successfully complete a Springboard course

Total Credits: must establish 14 credits

Other Requirements: Must pass one course in Physical Education and successfully complete all health programs as required by the school.

Senior Year Requirements: Students must participate in all required senior activities and programs through the end of the year including the senior trip and spring term exams. Seniors must pass all spring term work in order to graduate.



Have questions?

Contact Dean of Academics Jennifer Miller Smith ’97 at smithj@mercersburg.edu.