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Articles / Applying to College / Physics or Double History for Rising Senior?

Physics or Double History for Rising Senior?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Sept. 12, 2019

Question: In registering for my senior year classes I am debating whether to take two AP history courses and dropping my science class, or whether to take Physics I and only one AP history course. I hope to go into history related studies in college. When potential schools are looking at my transcripts which would look better, a more well rounded schedule or more AP classes?

In order to answer this truly responsibly, “The Dean” would need to see your overall transcript (all the classes you’ve taken so far and the grades you’ve earned) and also have a rough idea of the colleges you want to attend.

However, responding in a vacuum as I am, my reply (unfortunately) is that you should go with the physics + one AP history class … if you’re aiming for highly selective colleges. If, however, your top-choice schools are those that accept at least as many applicants as they reject (and if you think you’re a reasonably strong candidate for each) and if you’ve taken a lab science every year so far, then follow your heart and opt for the double history. Also, if your senior course line-up includes another heavy-hitter quantitative course (I have AP Calc in mind), then you might dump the physics (again, depending on the other sciences on your transcript). What you want to avoid is a course roster that’s entirely skewed toward humanities with no challenging math or science on it at all, even if it does include an extra AP.


It pains me to repeatedly tell students to forgo their passions in order to elect the classes that “look best” on applications. But I’m commonly asked to view a transcript through an admission-officer’s lens and not through my own. So, in this case, unless your favorite colleges are “Realistic” or “Safe,” I’d have to cast my vote for the physics, at least based on the information that I have here.

Good luck, whatever you decide.

 

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

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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