Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.

Calc Advice for Potential Engineering Student

taliecharleytaliecharley Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
On deck is my sophomore engineering hopeful and I know nothing about requirements. He asked me to "find out" whether he needs BC Calc to apply to a "reputable" engineering program (and/or as lab science major)- not Harvey Mudd but maybe UC's, Ivy's or strong LAC with engineering. Though he is a sophomore, he is scheduling junior year classes, and is deciding between "advanced pre-calc" and "honors pre-calc"-- advanced lands seniors in AB and honors (usually) lands kids in BC. More than 1/2 of the kids drop out of honors pre-calc at our public high school, it's a brutal class. For reference, son is in all honors classes, including a 4 year engineering curriculum. He currently has about a 3.9 UW and a 4.6 W. One B in HS was just earned in Trig H. He likes math, but it does not come as easily as other classes.

IF AB is enough (even at a school that offers BC) that would be awesome to know. He will also have 4 years of honors classes, including math, science (including APs) and engineering.


Replies to: Calc Advice for Potential Engineering Student

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 71,513 Senior Member
    BC covers material at the same pace as a college calculus course, while AB covers less material at a slower pace.

    Except for a very few colleges, calculus in high school is not strictly required, although prospective engineering majors should take it if it is available to them. Among AB versus BC, even those few schools that do require calculus do not require BC, but it is likely that admissions readings for prospective engineering majors will look favorably on those who choose the highest level math offered to them. Also, for those colleges that use counselor recommendations, consider also whether the choice of math tracks will affect whether the counselor will indicate that he chose the "most demanding" schedule.

    Since your son is on track to take calculus in 12th grade (one grade level ahead of normal in math), it is best to take calculus (obviously). BC is preferred over AB, but may not make as much difference as calculus versus not taking calculus at all.
  • jmek15jmek15 Registered User Posts: 770 Member
    Can he start in Honors Pre-calc and switch into Advanced if he is having difficulty? It's about finding the best fit for him (challenged by not overwhelmed). IMO he won't "need" BC to apply to a strong engineering program, but if he can get decent grades it could be an advantage. At a top 10 or even top 20 engineering program many of the other applicants will have taken BC or higher. If he has difficulty handling the coursework with high grades then first change the level and second, perhaps widen your search to other schools that would be a better fit. There are plenty of terrific engineering programs out there.

    S17 was only able to take up to Honors Pre-Calc in his senior year due to the structure of the math department in his school. He is applying for MechE has been accepted to a number of schools so far. In his interviews, AOs have said it's not unusual for freshmen to come in at that level, and it's most rigorous class available to him even though he's an A student in math (grrr, that structure). Schools also look at more than just one class when they make their decisions. That said, S is not applying to ivies or tippy-top tier schools so I can't offer you any perspective there!

  • taliecharleytaliecharley Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    Thanks so much to both of you!

    He will have "most demanding" checked because either way he will have something like 18 or 19 honors and AP classes, and the cutoff at our school for the highest category is 14. And yes, he can probably drop if it is too much, but then he'll stress about that!

    To be honest, I don't even know which engineering programs are tippy top and which are just great! I guess I have a lot to learn. Any insight or help on that front would also be appreciated, so we can poke around those websites. My daughter is attending Lehigh in the fall, but she is NOT an engineer. While I know they have a great engineering program, I don't know a thing about it. Whoops!

    This is so hard, because our kids just can't do everything. There just isn't room in the day for the AP Physics and the honors Engineering and the AP Calc along with English and gym and history requirements, especially when the kid also wants to keep up with his foreign language even though he has more than filled the requirement-- can't fault him there! I just want him to take ceramics or something else that's a bit fun...it's senior year for goodness sake. Ugh.
  • nw2thisnw2this Registered User Posts: 2,554 Senior Member
    Tippy top engineering programs:

    But any ABET accredited program is good.
  • jmek15jmek15 Registered User Posts: 770 Member
    Congratulations to your D!! My S would love to attend Lehigh! Excellent engineering program. He applied RD so we won't know for a couple more months.

    Sounds like your S is motivated and a hard worker. I'm sure he will have many options. I think the tippy top engineering schools are generally considered to be MIT, Cal Tech, Stanford, Berkley, & Georgia Tech, but after that it probably depends on his specialty. Many are very large state schools (UI-UC, Michigan, Purdue) but there are smaller private schools like Johns Hopkins, CMU, & Northwestern that are highly ranked as well. I'm partial to USC (southern California not South Carolina) where D15 is a sophomore ChemE and having a great experience.
  • colorado_momcolorado_mom Registered User Posts: 8,629 Senior Member
    "thing. There just isn't room in the day for the AP Physics and the honors Engineering and the AP Calc along with English and gym and history " - I highly recommend AP Physics and AP Calc (either flavor).

    Not sure what honors Engineering entails (our high school did not have it, and I've not heard of it over the past years reading these Forums). . It may help him decide if he likes engineering, but it is certainly not needed as college prep.
  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 4,761 Senior Member
    The thing is...there is no tippy top. There are lots of good schools and they all have some shortcomings. Look at the list @nw2this posted and you'll see some glaring absences. Where's Olin? Cal Poly? Harvey Mudd? Any of the military academies? Nowhere on that list, because it's only schools that offer doctoral degrees. Want to know the methodology? It's 100% based on reputation and you can be assured it's he reputation of their graduate programs. Undergraduate experience at some of the "top" programs can be very sub par.

    So, what does one do? Your son needs to decide what he wants his college experienced to be like. Giant school? Tiny school? Each has it's trade offs. Big time sports? Weather? Does he surf, ski, hike, mountain bike, love city culture? Does he want to be directly admitted into his major or will he be ok at a more traditional program that starts with pre-engineering? How much money can you spend? In the final analysis, each student should have a ranking system that they derived and justify to no one but themselves.

    Now, to your point. He'll be better off having taken BC simply because if he's able to test out he'll be ahead and the value of that can't be overstated. If he repeats the material in college, he'll already have seen it. Now is it a deal breaker? No. It's a marginal advantage. Olin was the only school my son visited that expected incoming students to have taken BC.

    Testing into Calc III, Physics II and completely out of Chemistry did give my son a massive advantage over his classmates having to complete the entire curriculum.

    Good luck.
  • NerdMom88NerdMom88 Registered User Posts: 812 Member
    I just answered a similar question on another board this evening, but I'll gladly leave my two cents here.

    My concern had been that his classes would be seen as less than rigorous if he chose the "easier" advanced pre-calc / AP Calc AB route. However, you've said that won't be the case.

    My D17 bumped herself from AP Calc BC to AP Calc AB to be able to take an introductory engineering course. Her GC explained on the transcript that Calc AB was chosen because of a conflict, and it didn't hurt her at all. She's been accepted to all schools to which she applied, as a direct admit to aerospace engineering, as well as the honors program. One of these schools is UMD, which has an aerospace curriculum listed in the top ten nationwide.

    On a different note, until 4 years ago we lived in a tiny town and the high school she would have attended has no honors / AP / IB programs at all, although there is Dual Enrollment with a local branch of a CC. There are thousands of schools like that across the country, and students from those schools get into top programs and do just fine.
  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 4,761 Senior Member
    I don't think anyone is suggesting that a student can't get admitted and thrive without BC, but rather there are potential advantages of being ahead if they test into a later section of the maths. Engineering is very sequential, and as you know, difficult. Being ahead does two things, it allows a student to either deepen or broaden their degree and it affords them the opportunity to cut back hours in a term when they hit a particularly hard class. Again, except for a handful of schools where the admission will have a randomness anyway because of the number of qualified applicants they get, it's really about missing potential advantages rather than creating a disadvantage.
  • StPaulDadStPaulDad Registered User Posts: 249 Junior Member
    One more point that I don't want to belabor but is worth mentioning is that if your DS is not able to handle a heavy honors load in high school then he may find the "tippy top" schools a bit uncomfortable. The pace at some of these schools can be blistering, and the material is not going to get any easier. The kids he'll be with did handle it somehow, either because they're wicked smart or they were not interested in having a well-rounded experience or whatever. The point is if he manages to get into an elite school there will be more where that came from, and he might have a better college experience if he has an honest talk with himself some morning while brushing his teeth: what kind of experience do I want, how elite am I, how valuable is that elite label, etc. A good way to tell if you're in the right school is to make sure you're not the smartest or the dumbest person in the room. You want peers.
  • sevmomsevmom Registered User Posts: 7,934 Senior Member
    "Look at the list @nw2this posted and you'll see some glaring absences. Where's Olin? Cal Poly? Harvey Mudd?"

    @eyemgh , There are absences of schools like Olin, Cal Poly, service academies, because they are all on US News' other undergraduate list "Best Undergraduate Programs Where Doctorate Not Offered." They are all on that list. MIT, Purdue, etc. are absent from THAT list because they offer doctorate degrees and , as you say, are on the separate list that @nw2this posted.
  • taliecharleytaliecharley Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    totally agree @StPaulDad. I just think they should have some room to be kids (and some time to figure out how to be adults, and to figure out what they want to do) before they get to college! But, point taken. My kid actually wants to take all of it, I'm trying to convince him he doesn't have to. Maybe I am wrong.
  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 4,761 Senior Member
    @sevmom, yes, I'm fully aware. So how does Harvey Mudd compare to Harvard for engineering? Most engineers on this forum would have an opinion, but there's no way to know based on the USNWR rankings to know. LOTS has been written about the flaws of rankings.

    My point is, students need to dig much deeper than a very unscientific list to figure out what will fit them best. My son for instance had NO interest in the top PhD granting schools and he had the stats to be competitive. He didn't want giant lectures, to be taught by TAs with little or no teaching experience, wanted to start the ME curriculum right out of the gate, plus a whole host of other non-academic related things that were important to him. The USNWR rankings told him absolutely nothing about the issues that were important to him beyond a gestalt.
  • sevmomsevmom Registered User Posts: 7,934 Senior Member
    The list of schools that don't offer doctorates should be a good starting point for any kid interested in a smaller, more undergraduate focused program. The usual suspects all seem to be on it -Rose Hulman, Olin, Harvey Mudd,etc. No ranking is going to be perfect.
  • taliecharleytaliecharley Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    i'd love if folks could throw out a list of topish/nice schools for a smart kid with good grades in AP classes and likely nice scores (reaches ok) to start investigating? Assume no FA needed.

    As everyone says, it is hard to rely on rankings. I don't even know where to start looking-- I know only of the following offering engineering, can someone tell me what I'm missing? (literally, until Google, I didn't even know Northwestern offered engineering and I live nearby)-- what can I say, I was an English major at a LAC! Thanks in advance

    Big state schools
    "the tech's" GA, CA, MIT
    Harvey Mudd
    Rose Hulman

    what else?

This discussion has been closed.