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Wooda, Cooda, Shooda: Wood Tech Class in 10th Grade Vs. AP Physics?

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If I have a wood business that is based in my school's wood shop, would it look better to take Wood Tech -- a class offered only at my school for the whole district -- or take AP Physics 1 as a sophomore? I plan to apply to college as a STEM major. FYI, I only have one elective but plan to do Running Start during junior-senior years.

Your wood business can help you stand out from the crowd at admission-decision time, but — at many colleges (especially the highly selective ones) — it will be viewed more as an extracurricular endeavor than as an academic one. In order to be a strong applicant to STEM programs, you should take at least one physics class (for less selective programs) or no fewer than two (for the pickier places) depending on what is offered at your high school and at the college where you will take your dual-enrollment (Running Start) courses. To be contender at the hyper-competitive colleges (e.g., MIT, CalTech, Ivies, Stanford and their ilk), you should submit AP exam scores and/or Subject Test scores in physics ... even where not required.


BUT ... this doesn’t mean that you must give up the wood tech class next year. If you’ll be just a sophomore, you ought to have plenty of time to fit in physics later on. Unless you’re planning to apply to highly selective colleges and yet will have trouble squeezing in more than one physics class if you don’t start in 10th grade, then “The Dean” sees no reason why you have to skip the wood tech class that seems to interest you now.

Because so many applications to sought-after institutions look a lot alike (e.g., top tests scores and top grades in similar classes) you can turn your woodwork into a plus that adze to your admission chances and even bowls over admission committees, especially if you find a way to dovetail these skills with your STEM accomplishments and aspirations. ;-)

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