This is our first year in the public school system and tonight we had a new parents meeting at the high school for kids who will be freshmen in the fall. Our oldest son has very specific career goals. He wants to be in military and he wants to fly. His ultimate goal is the USAF academy, but his "back up plan" (his words, not mine) are ROTC with some type of math/science degree, THEN fly. (flying is not negotiable here) He's applied to and tested for our county Math/Science/Computer science magnet, as well as the IB program (another "back up") but we won't know til sometime in February if he got in or not, so we went to the meeting tonight to find out about registration/options, etc at the local school. The local school turns out to be in the top 2% of high schools in the US for rigor, and they have a "signature" program that is an AP scholar program. AP courses start in ninth grade. They ALSO have a new pre-engineering program through "project lead the way" (www.pltw.org). So now, his choices are; magnet school, AP scholar program, pre-engineering program, ALL of which provide some college credits as far as I can tell. Add to this that in 8th grade, he is already taking two courses that will count for high school credit, and towards his final GPA. So basically, in 8th grade, you can totally screw up your entire future, either by performing poorly in your high school credit courses, or by making the WRONG DECISION when you pick your 9th grade schedule!!! SERIOUSLY!!! It makes ME want to eat a bottle of tums, and I already HAVE my degree. I don't remember having this kind of pressure when I was in school. Of course, I didn't go a military/math/science route, but STILL! Has it always been this...competitive? eta: I think the best thing for him to do is going to be contact the academy, tell them what his options are and see what they recommend. I mean, that's the gold standard here, and it's not like it'll hurt him anywhere else.