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Calculus at Community College or AP Calc at High School?

Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone Posts: 2,475CC Admissions Expert Senior Member
edited November 2012 in Ask The Dean Topics
Question: My son is a high school sophomore and had been planning to take AP Calculus at his high school in the fall. However, he learned from a college advisor/family friend that taking the course at a community college might be more challenging and interesting for him. He is excited about doing this and we [...]

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Post edited by Sally_Rubenstone on
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Replies to: Calculus at Community College or AP Calc at High School?

  • PaperChaserPopPaperChaserPop Posts: 1,291Registered User Senior Member
    My son took Calc 1 at UMass in the summer (because he can take it for free and he wants to free up time to do research in the next spring semester) and he is currently taking Calc 2 at Harvard Extension this fall semester. The combination of Calc 1 & 2 should be equivalent to AP Calc BC. Would he be at a disadvantage for HYPSM apps? He has a year-long research internship that requires 20+ hours a week.
  • Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone Posts: 2,475CC Admissions Expert Senior Member
    Would he be at a disadvantage for HYPSM apps? He has a year-long research internship that requires 20+ hours a week.

    No, not at all. Admission officials will be impressed that he went out of his way to take calculus outside of school in order to accommodate his research interests.

    However, two suggestions:

    1) He might want to use the "Additional Information" section of his applications (or a supplemental note) to briefly explain to admission committees why he took calculus outside of school

    2) If he is a junior this year and not a senior (which I can't tell from your question), he should strongly consider taking the AP Calc exam, which he can set up through his high school, even if he's not matriculated in a high school AP class. (Of course, he can also take it if he's a senior. He won't get the benefit of proving the worth of his out-of-school classes to admission folks, since the tests won't take place until May. But he can still earn college credit in math, if he does well.)
  • Lauraj100Lauraj100 Posts: 218Registered User Junior Member
    The Calc class at the college will give him a head start in the college experience. :)
  • PaperChaserPopPaperChaserPop Posts: 1,291Registered User Senior Member
    Thanks Sally! I feel a lot better now. Son is a senior and has said he'll take the AP Calc BC test in May.
    He won't get the benefit of proving the worth of his out-of-school classes to admission folks, since the tests won't take place until May.

    If he gets an 'A' from Harvard Ext, wouldn't that be enough to prove the worth?
  • Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone Posts: 2,475CC Admissions Expert Senior Member
    Sure, the Harvard extension "A" will work in his favor, but it's always an added plus when a student can translate the work done in an out-of-school class into a high score on an AP exam.
  • hudsonvalley51hudsonvalley51 Posts: 2,396Registered User Senior Member
    Our high school offered calculus through the local community college for many years, but began offering AP Calc after my daughter graduated in 2008. Our experience has been:

    1) AP Calculus has proved significantly more challenging than the community college course that had previously been offered;

    2) Students discovered after paying for the community college course that not only private colleges and universities denied transfer of credits, but so did some of the more selective SUNYs;

    3) My daughter was one of those who did not receive college credit and had to retake calculus at her 4-year school. She said that her college class had gone well beyond where her year-long HS/community college class had left off within 6 or 7 weeks.
  • ArachnotronArachnotron Posts: 1,761Registered User Senior Member
    AP problems are harder than standard calc 1/2 problems, since they're designed to be tricky and nonroutine. Take the AP.
  • nemomnemom Posts: 1,607Registered User Senior Member
    Speaking of AP Calc - does anyone know if there is a good reason to bother with the test for a kid who will have 2 full years of math past that taken at a university? Mine has done calc through multivariant, will do honors diff. eq and linear algebra this year, probably number theory and discrete math as a senior. It seems silly to tie up time with AP Calc.
  • An0malyAn0maly Posts: 2,680Super Moderator Senior Member
    ^ Have him take the exam for credit anyways. If he's done mvc he should be set, but the ap exam is standardized so the colleges will know very well where he stands. Basically, as long as he gets a 5, it adds to the credibility of his other courses.

    If he took those classes at a "good" university though, there's probably no need.
  • Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone Posts: 2,475CC Admissions Expert Senior Member
    If he took those classes at a "good" university though, there's probably no need.

    In terms of garnering kudos from admission officials, this may be true, but many colleges and universities do not grant credit to freshmen for any college classes completed before matriculation ... even one taken at a more selective school than their own. So if a high school student is after college credit, taking the AP exam may be advisable.
  • ZFanaticZFanatic Posts: 1,591Registered User Senior Member
    From what I gathered, they won't accept it if it was used on your high school transcript for a graduation requirement. Don't know the specifics but that's what I read for many schools.
  • Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone Posts: 2,475CC Admissions Expert Senior Member
    That's usually true, but many colleges will also not accept college classes that were not included on the high school transcript.
  • nemomnemom Posts: 1,607Registered User Senior Member
    He doesn't care about credit, just placement. I imagine placement will be a whole different issue, and will be very college-dependent. (I'm assuming he'll have to take some sort of placement exam since once you get into the 200/300/400 level of math, courses do vary from school to school.) The classes are at a good university and additionally, are honors sections.
  • marlenemarlene Posts: 154Registered User Junior Member
    I have a similar question. What if high school only offers AP Calculus AB? In this case would it be preferable to take calculus at the local community college? D plans to major in engineering in college.
  • mommusicmommusic Posts: 8,301Registered User Senior Member
    That's usually true, but many colleges will also not accept college classes that were not included on the high school transcript.

    I had wondered about that. Sometimes summer programs (not college courses, but "gifted & talented" humanities type programs) will give you a few credit hours through a CC (after paying tuition, of course) and I wondered if they would be accepted anywhere.

    I was sceptical.
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