Before the overview for the sequence of the courses is given, it is important to emphasize that Cistercian considers the curriculum of its Middle and Upper Schools as an integrated unit which achieves its purpose fully only for the student exposed to the whole sequence of the curriculum. Although the Middle and Upper Schools are separate in both organization and discipline, the student body receives instruction from the same faculty and the courses are aimed at achieving one common purpose.

The curriculum of the Upper School presupposes mastery of what is offered in the lower grades, while the curriculum of the first years anticipates and prepares for what is offered on more advanced levels. Several of the courses in the Middle School, especially in the Third and Fourth Forms, cover material that is elsewhere routinely taught at the high school level. Thus, compared to traditional junior and senior high school programs, ours is increasingly accelerated and culminates in college-level courses with the accompanying opportunity to earn a substantial amount of college credit by the time of graduation from Cistercian.