What Are 9th 10th 11th And 12th Graders Called?

What Are 9th 10th 11th And 12th Graders Called

High school in the United States starts from grades 9 to 12. But unlike elementary and middle school where grade level numbers are used to refer to students in their corresponding grades, high school years have more popular names outside their grade numbers.

If you’re new to high school or you simply aren’t familiar with these names, it might be confusing at first. This is why we’ve done some research and put together their meanings and some backstories on each.

Freshman (9th Grade)

A freshman means someone in their first year of high school education. Simply put, a freshman is someone in the 9th grade. These same terms are used in the case of undergraduate students.

However, you might find freshman shortened to frosh for a singular first-year student or froshes for plural, at the undergraduate level.

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Why 9th Grade Is Called Freshman Year

The word “Freshman” is derived from the word “fresh”. It indicates that the student is new to the high school environment. This means a freshman is someone who’s still adjusting academically and socially to their new environment.

Usage of the term “freshman” dates back to the late 19th century and has been consistently used across the United States. In places like the United Kingdom, 9th graders are simply referred to as “first years”.

Sophomore (10th Grade)

A sophomore means someone in their second year of high school. It can also be used to represent someone in their second year of college. Simply put, a sophomore is someone in the 10th grade. You may see it shortened to “soph”, especially at the college level.

Why 10th Grade Is Called Sophomore Year

Out of the names given to the four grade levels in high school, sophomore seems like the odd one out. After all, freshman, junior and senior are easy to understand.

So, why’s sophomore the odd one out? The word “Sophomore” comes from two Greek words namely “sophos” which means wise and “moros” which means foolish. So essentially, sophomore means “wise fool”.

When it was first used in American high schools in the 1800s, it served as a simple way to differentiate between new students (freshmen) and second-year students who had demonstrated an aptitude for learning.

These students had shown an aptitude for learning but they weren’t yet there or were only scratching the surface. Calling them “wise fools” seemed harsh but conveyed where they stood academically.

Junior (11th Grade)

The 11th grade is referred to as “junior”. It’s the third of high school education in the United States. Students at this level of education are considered more experienced than sophomores but less experienced than seniors.

Why 11th Grade Is Called Junior Year

The term “junior” comes from the Latin “junior” which refers to young. Its usage to represent the 11th grade meant that they were the younger of the top grade levels in high school.

It’s worth noting that juniors have been called “Junior Soph” for short, or “Junior Sophists” back in the 13th century. Over time, the Sophists was dropped leaving only the “Junior” by the mid-18th century.

Senior (12th Grade)

Senior year is the final year of high school. It can also be referred to as grade 12 almost “senior” is most popular. With students at this level turning 18, seniors are expected to show some level of maturity.

Why 12th Grade Is Called Senior Year

Since the 12th grade is the last year of high school, it is referred to as the “senior year.” “Senior” designates a student who is in their last year and about to graduate.

In the early days of American high schools, 12th graders were referred to as “seniors” since they were the most seasoned and were getting ready to graduate. They were accorded advantages and obligations in line with their standing as the student body’s “elders.”

In the American educational system, the term “senior year” is widely used. It acts as a benchmark for understanding what is expected of the student in their senior year of high school by parents, and teachers.

For high school students, “senior year” marks an important turning point. Their high school life will be coming to a conclusion, marking the beginning of a new stage in their lives. It’s also a moment for planning for the future and reflecting on past successes.

How Old Are High School Students

In the United States, students start high school at 14 to 15 years and finish at 18 or 19. Keep in mind that this isn’t always the case as some students may be younger or older depending on various factors.

Grade LevelAge Range
Freshman (9th)14-15
Sophomore (10th)15-16
Junior (11th)16-17
Senior (12th)17-18

Factors That Affect Age Of High School Students

If you’re wondering what can impact the age of students, let’s take a look at a few. Keep in mind that individual students may have unique circumstances which may not be included in this list.

That said, it’s worth noting that the points listed here may not only affect high school students but pre-tertiary students in general.

Early School Entrance

Some students either simply started kindergarten earlier than their age mates or skipped a grade. These students would obviously end up a year or more, younger than their classmates.

Grade Retention

This one should be evident. Due to subpar academic performance or other factors, a student may be held back one or more grades. Such students would eventually grow older than their peers.

But while some may argue the advantages of grade retention, others consider it as an action that has mostly negative effects on the students. After all, no student wants to be left behind by their peers.

This can lead to discouragement and self-esteem issues which can result in students dropping out of school.


Children who are moved about a lot can sometimes end up getting held back, especially when the new school deems the student’s credit insufficient to be in the same grade as their peers.

Additionally, some students sometimes find it difficult to adapt to the culture and curriculum of the new school which can lead to poor performance and the students repeating a grade.

Special Education Services

Students who receive special education services may progress through education at a different pace than their peers. A typical example is a student who receives special education services may take longer to complete the curriculum for their grade.

Additionally, students receiving special education services have an individual education plan (IEP) that is tailored to the student’s strengths.

Language Barriers

Depending on the native language, immigrant students may have a hard time adapting to the country’s education system due to language barriers. This can lead to students repeating a grade to take added lessons in the necessary language of instruction.

Without the necessary language proficiency, students may be unable to understand instructions, assignments, and other assessments. This struggle can lead to underperformance and possibly failing their grade.

Academic Prowess

Students who excel academically may be placed in advanced courses and programs that cover topics typically taught in higher grade levels.

Schools may also offer such students accelerated learning options which results in these students completing the curriculum faster than their peers. This results in some students skipping grades.

Akshay Vikhe

I am an aspiring Data Scientist with a huge interest in technology. I like to review courses that are genuine and add real value to student’s careers. Read my story

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