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What should I do in high school to prepare for taking a physics major?

HTahHTah Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
edited December 2017 in High School Student Topics
What would be all the courses that are best to take from freshman to senior year if I'm planning on majoring in physics. My school only offers AP Physics 1 and C: mechanics, but if any other variation is necessary, I can try request it in the future.

I am planning on hopefully going to a rather selective university in the future. What math and science courses should I take, year by year? The available math courses are: Algebra 2, precalculus, precalculus honors, Calculus, AP statistics, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC and multivariable Calculus. Currently in freshmen year, I'm taking algebra 2 and physics 101. They don't allow us to take higher levels of physics yet. Seperately at home though, I'm taking an 8 month AP Physics 1 course.

What should my plan be, regarding courses I take in school, and seperate work at home?

Thanks in advance.

Replies to: What should I do in high school to prepare for taking a physics major?

  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 9,709 Senior Member

    D1 was a physics major in undergrad. DH holds a physics PhD from a top 5 program and had a very successful career as a basic research physicist at a National Lab. My SIL is a physics professor at a major international university, LOL! You might say physics is the "family business."

    As a physics major you need as much math as you can get. Plan on taking Calc BC your senior year, if not multi-variable calc. Talk to guidance counselor to see how your high school structures the math course sequence.

    (It's usually one of these 2 sequences -->

    alg 2 & trig
    honors pre-calc OR AP calc AB
    calc BC
    multivariable calc)

    Physics majors are also required to know chemistry & take at least a year of general chemistry in college. Make sure you take an honors chem class (or AP chem, if your school offers it) your before you take your AP physics.

    Do not attempt AP physics C until you've completed either AP Calc AB or the first semester of Calc BC. Phys C requires you to know how to use differentiation. You can take differential calc at the same time as Phys C, but why make your life harder than it needs to be?

    If you take the Phys C sequence, you really don't need to take AP Phys 1 (which covers the same basic content, just taught thru an algebraic approach instead of a calculus-based approach). Instead plan on taking AP Phys C--mechanics and AP Phys C--E&M, if it's offered at your school. Usually each AP Phys C course is a full year. (But only covers a 1 semester of material as taught in college.)

    RE: college choice. Physics as taught at the undergrad level is fairly standardized. The same basic courses are taught at all colleges. You will take the same coursework no matter the level of competitiveness of the college you attend, whether it's Harvard, your local state U or a small LAC. Physics grad admission is about your GPA, upper level elective grades, research (which can be in related fields like chemistry, engineering, material science, even biology instead in physics) and LORs from your professors.

    The world of academic physics is pretty small. No matter what college you attend, your professors will know someone (or know someone who knows someone) at every grad program at every level of competitiveness. FWIW, my SIL graduated from his state U; so did D1. DH went to a small, mid ranked LAC for undergrad.

  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 35,300 Senior Member
    ^Good recommendations. Strive for very good grades in those classes, too.
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