2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Will taking ab calculus negatively affect my chances to be a STEM major at a pretty nice college?

The title

@ThatOnePolyglot2 years ago

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be trying to answer...? @keeks is your question what you think the school will do about your math course placement or how it will affect your chances of getting into a selective college?

@CameronBameron2 years ago

@ThatOnePolyglot the poster removed most of the question which gives context to her inquiry. It's more confusing when posters change their mind about their questions and delete most of it.

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3 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago[edited]

Hi @keeks,

This is tough question to answer. If some of the girls in your school passed the placement test with 80 or above, then I would think that at least the school and teachers had done their job preparing students in 9th grade to do well on the placement test. But to me it seems like a failure of the school to properly teach you and your peers to be on a path for higher math courses. And from their lens, they probably are worried that if they made the standard lower like 70, then too many girls would struggle in Honors Algebra 2 and have to settle for lower grades. By denying the entire 9th grade class the ability to take Honors Algebra 2, they don't take an risk for teaching material beyond anyone's ability. And unfortunately the fall out effect is that fewer girls will get into top STEM college programs. But they are not going to take an personal responsibility for that, so you and your mom should decide how to deal with this dilemma. On one hand if you stay the course, you and your peers will be out flanked by other better prepared students applying to the same colleges from high schools in your city. And you may find yourself in a similar situation with other placement tests you need prior to enrolling in the most rigorous courses at your school.

One major thing that happened across America during the past 2.5 years of COVID was that all students are behind in reading/writing/math assessment tests. The scientific term is called "Learning Loss" and it varies from school to school, from district to district, from state to state. In the article I'm attaching it says that some students were 22 weeks behind in math learning which is more than 50% of the normal 36-40 week school year. In low poverty schools, there was still learning loss but less at 13 weeks, which is still 1/3 or the school year behind.


The bottom line is that students learned much less during COVID 19 than pre-COVID 19 and that means that course rigor across all American high schools is actually lower now as well as AP test scores and SAT and ACT composite scores. This is why 90% of college still are keeping test-optional policies in place. They know if they required SAT and ACT test scores, that their admissions stats would look much worse. Perhaps the real SAT range at a school like NYU is 1350-1530, and not a median score of 1550 which I find ridiculously inflated.


I personally do not think you need AP Calc B/C to get into a STEM major at a top college. However if your sights are on trying to get into MIT, Caltech, UC Berkeley and Stanford as a STEM major, then there are certainly more admits that have taken B/C and perhaps even Calc 3 or beyond. If you are just hoping to get into a Top 25 college like an Ivy, Elite or Top Liberal arts college, then I think you are okay with taking regular Algebra 2, regular Pre-Calculus and AP Calc A/B.

I understand you and your mom might be frustrated but "learning loss" is a real problem. And also, getting "in front of your skis" is also a real problem. If your school allowed 1/2 girls who didn't pass to take Honors Algebra 2, then perhaps a couple students would do okay but the majority would struggle to get a C or B in the class. And that would only hurt everyone's GPA. Is it really worth risking your GPA because you think you were reading for a harder version of a course, when you weren't. And regardless of whether, the preparatory material prepared you and your peers to take the placement test is sort of immaterial because, in hindsight, the right course of action would have been to cram and study what's covered in Honors Algebra 2 by networking with upper-class girls who already took the course and downloading the concepts from the source. And no one seemed to think that was even an option because no one passed the placement exam. I understand that you might think you were tricked, fooled, misled by your teachers. But who knows, perhaps they didn't want anyone to be set up for failure and selected a placement test that they knew would be impassable.

If I were you, I'd have a serious conversation with my mom and decide whether continuing for 3 more years at this girls HS is in your best interests or not. Only you two can make that decision for yourselves.

Good luck.

2 years ago

Taking AB Calculus will help your odds of acceptance so long as you earn a grade above a C. This blog post explains more about how colleges evaluate AP classes. Feel free to schedule a consultation with me if you would like to have a more detailed discussion about your particular circumstances. Hope this helps!

2 years ago

I don't think your math course placement affects your chances in getting into a good college. Taking AP classes isn't the whole application, and while it's better to take an AP to prepare - it's not the end of the world if you don't take one.

I can't say if your school will be convinced by your reasons, but SAT prep courses and online tutoring are probably different than what your school wants for their course. But I would try anyway, you lose nothing but the opportunity to get into the math placement you wish for. :)

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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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