Preparing for College

How Will Admission Officials View Bio in 11 and Physics in 12?

Question: My sophomore in high school is planning her classes for her junior year. Since her older sister took physics honors as a junior and struggled a lot, I was considering having my sophomore daughter take AP Biology as a junior and physics as a senior. We plan to have her apply to highly selective schools since she is a great student. Would highly selective colleges view AP Biology in a negative light versus an honors physics class as a junior?

Typical applicants to highly selective colleges have taken at least a year each of biology, physics, and chem. For those aiming at the hyper-selective spots (i.e., the Ivies and their ilk), all three of these classes (or at least two) are commonly elected at the AP level (if offered, of course).

However, the order of the classes doesn’t matter. So if your 10th grader wants to take AP Bio as a junior and physics in her senior year, that’s fine. But as you map out her plans, do keep in mind that her “competitors” are likely to have taken both bio and physics as well as chem, too, and—as noted above—often at the most advanced level available.

(Exception: If your daughter is aiming for an engineering program , she would be better served to take physics next year so that she can include her SAT Subject Test in physics when she submits her applications.)

Don’t worry … if your daughter hasn’t tackled all three of these lab sciences at the highest level, it won’t be a deal-breaker in any admission office. But you should still be aware of what is likely to show up on other applicants’ transcripts at her target colleges.

Good luck to you as you navigate this maze again.

(posted 2/25/2011)