5 Important Things about the SVHS Senior Project (SP)

1. The Senior Project (SP) is a graduation requirement

The senior project (SP) has been an integral part of the high school curriculum since 1997 and was adopted as a graduation requirement in 2000.  It consists of five principal components. 

  • Mentor Supervised-Activity
  • Research Paper
  • Oral Presentation
  • Poster
  • Portfolio

For a detailed description of the individual project components, click here.

2. SP deadlines present challenges for the college-bound

Senior year is a very busy and often stressful time for students. The senior project often adds to the stress of an already demanding course load, extra-curricular activities and college application process.  Students can minimize the stress  by getting familiar with  upcoming deadlines before the start of the school year.

One of the principal challenges faced by seniors applying to competitive 4-year universities is the competing deadlines between the SP tasks and the college application process.  The majority of 4-year colleges have labor-intensive applications, which require supplemental essays and SAT Subject test preparation. Applications for the California State Universities (CSUs) and junior colleges (JCs) are less demanding since they do not require personal essays or additional test scores.

The 2016-17 SP timeline is presented below along with potential conflicts.  Check the SVHS website for updated deadlines throughout the year.



3. Mentor-Supervised Activity (MSA)  to be completed in the fall or spring of senior year

Students are expected to devote a minimum of 20 hours towards their  mentor-supervised-activity (MSA), which must be documented and approved by the mentor. Twenty hours are the bare minimum, and most projects require much more to complete.  Since 2015, students are permitted to start their activity hours in the fall or spring of the senior year.

4. The ‘Learning Stretch’ and Role of the Mentor

One of the principal criteria of the mentor-supervised activity (MSP) is that it must involve  a ‘learning stretch,’ which results in  a deeper understanding and/or mastery of a subject.  Students must demonstrate how the selected activity will challenge them or force them out of their comfort zone.  Many students choose activities that allow them to explore career interests. For example, a former student worked in a hospital emergency room to get a taste of a career in medicine.  Another student learned to train dogs for vision-impaired adults.

Students are expected to identify a mentor who has expertise in the chosen field or activity and can serve as a knowledgeable advisor and resource.  The mentor must also be at least 25 years of age.  An important criteria for students is to select someone who has the availability to guide your activity.  The mentor will also approve the required 20 hours.

5. Getting an Early Start

2016 was the first year in which students had the opportunity to start both their research paper and project over the summer.  Juniors were required to fill out a topic approval application prior to the end of school. So if you haven’t already completed both the research paper and activity hours before the start of the 2016-17 academic year, you are probably on the regular timeline.  It is not clear whether the early start option will be available to juniors in 2017.  Stay tuned….