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Articles / Applying to College / What Qualifies as a "Science?"

What Qualifies as a "Science?"

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 7, 2010

Question: About the science requirement at colleges, when they say 3 or 4 years of sciences, do they imply including a life science and a physical science or is it open to any science? At my daughter's high school, all advanced sciences are college level courses for engineers and scientists. Each science course is two years long. What would be the best way to satisfy science requirement? Unfortunately, their biology is the weakest of the three sciences. Thank you.

"Science," especially at the most selective colleges, refers to a year of any laboratory science. Typically this means biology, chemistry, and/or physics, and might rule out other options such as Earth Science or ecology ... but this depends on the high school. Classes like geology and astronomy could go either way, but they aren't offered at most high schools to begin with. (And the less selective the college, the less picky they tend to be about whether the "science" on the transcript is a lab science or not.)

If your daughter's science classes last two years, then they would be counted as exactly that ... two years of science. If your daughter is aiming for highly competitive colleges but doesn't have any biology on her transcript because it's not a strong offering at her school and she wants to skip it, that's okay, as long as it's replaced by other rigorous lab sciences (and it sounds like it is). If, however, your daughter indicates on her application that she is interested in pursuing a career in medicine or a related field, then missing out on biology entirely might work against her. In that case, if she really can't bear the thought of taking it at school, she might want to look into summer or online options.

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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