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Articles / Applying to College / No Physics for Ivy Engineering Aspirant?

No Physics for Ivy Engineering Aspirant?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 11, 2013
Question: We live in a rural community without a lot of AP courses. My son is taking all of the AP classes he can, but we found out that AP physics is no longer being offered, nor is a physics class. My son wants to go into Engineering at an Ivy League University, but I feel that he is at a disadvantage in both the lack of physics courses, and the lack of AP courses. Will he be as competitive as other students that have many AP choices? Should we steer him away from applying to these top tier schools, or will he be able to compete at that level with the little he is able to take in school, he has over a 4.0 gpa, and does all of the extracurricular activities, etc., etc., but not a lot of variety in course offerings..

Thank you!

Colleges evaluate students based on what is available to them at their high schools and don't penalize them for what is not …. well, at least in theory. If your son is applying to Ivy engineering programs and has not been able to take physics in high school, he would be wise to seek out a physics course online or via a summer enrichment program. (The latter can be pricey although some do offer financial aid for those who qualify. Perhaps there is also a community college within a commutable distance where your son can take physics over the summer or in the evenings in the fall.)

Since your son is a strong student in a rural school that probably doesn't often send candidates to the most selective colleges, his background could be a “hook" for him, and I don't think you should steer him away. But many aspiring engineers who apply to the highly competitive colleges seem to manage to find a way to take physics, even if it's not offered at their high schools (which is pretty rare). If your son applies to engineering programs without physics on his record, it won't be an automatic deal-breaker, but it will definitely work in his favor to seek out a physics class and take it on his own time.

Here are a couple (of many) threads on College Confidential that discuss online physics classes.



You can also ask the school guidance counselor–if you haven't done so already—to find out if there are online or summer courses that other top students have successfully taken in the past.

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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