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

May 19, 2020

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)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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