An independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, DC

Academic Procedures and Requirements


With the goal of inspiring a love of learning both inside and outside of the classroom, the Potomac Upper School graduation requirements allow students to discover new interests while also exploring individual passions. This, in turn, helps students have a balanced educational experience that integrates academics, athletics, and the arts.

Students in the Upper School are required to take five courses each semester within the departments of English, mathematics, history, science and world languages. A four-year Upper School student must earn 21 academic credits to graduate; a three-year Upper School student must earn fifteen academic credits to graduate; and a two-year Upper School student must earn 10 academic credits to graduate. In addition to meeting the departmental requirements listed below, Upper School students must complete the depth requirement by earning at least one additional credit in each of three different departments.

To earn a diploma, a student must successfully:

A. Earn credits appropriate to the length of his/her Potomac career. A credit is earned by passing (i.e. achieving a grade of D- or better) a full yearlong course. One-half credit is earned by passing a designated semester course. The academic standard for promotion to the next grade level in the Upper School requires a student to receive not more than one grade below C- in a yearlong course, but the final decision surrounding questions of promotion rests with the division head in consultation with the Head of School.

  • A four-year student must earn 21 credits
  • A three-year student must earn 15 credits
  • A two-year student must earn 10 credits

B. Fulfill all departmental and depth requirements. Each student must successfully complete the following departmental requirements:

  • English: A full credit must be earned each year.
  • Mathematics: Three full-year courses including Geometry and Algebra II. Four years of mathematics are strongly recommended.
  • History: Three years of history are required: Early Civilizations and Global Contact (9th grade), The Modern World (10th grade), and United States History (11th grade). Additional coursework beyond the requirement is strongly recommended.
  • Science: Students are required to earn three full-year laboratory science credits, one in biology, one in chemistry and one in physics. Four years of science is recommended. Most students complete a course of study in biology, chemistry and physics before enrolling in elective courses in science.
  • World Language: Students must successfully complete three Upper School courses in the same language: Spanish, French, Latin or Chinese. The completion of a level-four course is strongly recommended.
  • Arts: One and one-half credit must be earned in at least two out of three areas: studio art, drama or music.
    Students must also complete the depth requirement by earning at least one additional credit in each of three different departments (beyond minimum diploma requirements listed above). In certain cases this may be waived or reduced for students who enter in Grades 10, 11 or 12.

C. Complete the Athletic/Activity requirements. Students entering in Grade 9 are required to earn five activity credits during their Grade 9 and 10 years; three of these credits must be in activities offered by the athletic department. In Grade 11 and 12, students must earn four credits; three of these credits must come from the athletic department. In some cases students may apply for waivers or independent studies in order to pursue other opportunities.

D. Complete the Senior Project requirement. During the final month of their senior year, all seniors are required to complete and report on a project of their own initiative and design. Classes for seniors are discontinued for the project period.


  • A student is limited to six courses in English, mathematics, history and social sciences, science, world languages, and most concentration program classes.
  • Diploma and departmental credit will, in certain cases, be awarded for appropriate courses taken in the Intermediate School or at other schools prior to entering Potomac.
  • The Upper School records student progress and achievement with letter grades and narrative comments. Letter grades have the following meanings and numerical equivalents:
      • A Excellent (90-100)
      • B Good (80-89)
      • C Satisfactory (70-79)
      • D Unsatisfactory, but passing (60-69)
      • F Failure (below 60)