Will Lack of Calculus Torpedo College Dreams?

Question: I really need help and I feel like no one else can answer my question. I am in 10th grade now, and I have been very worried because of the fact that when I am a senior I will not be taking Calculus. Right now I am in honors but I still won’t be able to get to Calculus. Besides that I have an almost perfect college application. I’m worried that that will not let me go to the college of my dreams. I’m in all other AP classes and I am an A student in all of them. I am in clubs, national honor societies and am even the president of the Spanish one. I do dance and play the violin. I have been getting around a 2014 on my SATs. I’m afraid all my hard work will be for nothing.

If the “college of your dreams” is MIT or CalTech or any other top-notch, hyper-competitive science/math/technology school, then you would be wise to find a way to take calculus by the time you finish high school … either online, over the summer, or in the evenings at a nearby community college. (Or, similarly, you could use an online, summer, or college course to accelerate in math so that you will be ready for calculus at your OWN high school by the time you’re a senior in two years.)

But, although calculus does “look good” on transcripts at the most selective schools, for most applicants to most colleges, it is not an imperative. So if you can’t get to it in two years, please don’t worry.

You don’t say in your message what the “college of your dreams” is, so it’s hard to be truly helpful without that information. But keep in mind that at the highly sought-after colleges, nearly all accepted applicants have top grades, top test scores AND often something that’s “special. This means that many strong students who play an instrument, dance, and lead school clubs can have trouble standing out in a crowd. Yet the vast majority of colleges and universities will welcome an applicant like you, whether calculus is on the transcript or not.

Finally, even if you are not admitted to your top-choice college, never say that your “hard work will be for nothing.” There is much to be gained from doing well in school and from putting effort into a range of extracurricular pursuits, if you like them. Unfortunately, many teenagers today view high school as little more than a path to the “right” college. Try to take time to enjoy what you’re doing and to realize that there are many roads to happiness and success.

Hope that helps. (And if you want to tell me what your dream school is, I may be able to help even more.)