AP Physics C

I am a junior in high school who wants to major in computer science/computer engineering. I took Honors Physics this year but my teacher didn’t recommend me for AP Physics C for next year. I had an 85 average for the semester since the tests/quizzes in this class are hard. I want to apply to engineering programs at schools like Rutgers, Rowan, UMD, Virginia Tech. Will I be at a disadvantage when applying to these schools for not taking AP Physics? I am taking APCSA, AP Calc AB, AP stats, and ap gov next year.

All else being equal, not having Physics C will be a disadvantage compared to a student taking Physics C, yes. But all else is never equal - what are you taking instead? AP Chem or AP Bio would be seen as near the same. A non-AP science, as long as you take a science, isn’t a huge difference.

An admissions decision is made up of many, many data points, each one carrying various weight. One individual course is just one of those many data points.


As an example, UMD (one of the schools you mentioned) lists these 26 factors:


I am thinking about taking AP Bio instead but I feel that AP Physics is more important for engineering.

I tend to agree with you that AP physics is more important, and helpful, in engineering but it was hands down the hardest class my D took in HS. Teachers make recommendations for a reason. My D’s school required a 92 or higher in honors physics to move into AP C.

I would recommend AP chem over AP bio if you haven’t taken it yet.

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For engineering, the importance of sciences is generally physics > chemistry > biology, except possibly for biology related types of engineering (but those also depend significantly on chemistry).


Is there a way you could take the class this summer at a community college or local university?
My son is taking chemistry at a local university to get that class out of the way.

I am not an expert, but if you are looking at programs within engineering schools, I think many programs would like to see a science class on your senior year schedule. AP CSA isn’t quite a science; at our school it’s considered an elective math class.

Have you already taken AP Chemistry? Based on what I have learned from my son going through this process, AP Chem is a very practical class to take for anyone considering engineering, and is viewed favorably by admissions. (Maybe not as highly as Physics C, but Chem is important too.)

If you end up doing computer engineering, many engineering programs include a required Chemistry class that you can pass out of with AP Chem. It seems to be more common to be able to pass out of Chem, compared to Physics. At several of the schools my son is looking at, the AP Physics C exams (even with a score of 5) wouldn’t allow him to pass out of anything, because the engineering Physics classes cover different material.


Ap physC is important for Engineering , but you are not approved, likely because your teacher has assessed you as not ready. Take the AP Chem instead, and apply broadly. Get that Honors Physics grade up second semester, as that class grade is ideally an A for Engineering applications.

I think I will take physics at a community college in the summer. I signed up for AP Chem this year but I couldn’t handle the workload so I dropped it.

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My son did not take either AP Physics of any kind or even honors Physics. He had a non-Math based Physics in 9th grade. He has AP Bio. He got into Rutgers for CS. Now Rutgers CS is inside Arts & Sciences. It may have laxer requirements. He also got into Rutgers Computer Engg. Clearly they didn’t mind the lack of AP Physics C. Now UMD may be a different story – he didn’t get into UMD, and I suspect that may be a GPA situation rather than a course mix situation. Rowan should be easier to get in than Rutgers. Don’t know about Virginia Tech. He is in-state for Rutgers. If you are thinking Rowan, I suspect you are instate for Rutgers as well. For reference – 3.3/1530.

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I think that physics at a community college might be less rigorous than your honors physics class has been in high school, and that admissions committees might see it as such. If you want to take a physics class this summer in order to demonstrate that you can handle, even excel, at college level physics, I’d recommend that you take it at your local 4 yr state college.

Thanks for your suggestion! The thing is that I was also thinking about taking Calc I over the summer so that I can take AP Calc BC next year, instead of AB. I am in honors pre Calc this year. My school only allows 1 summer class. Should I take Calc I or the physics class?

There is no way that I would suggest that you take a calculus based physics class at a community college during the summer.

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Eventually that Calc BC is more important for the CS admission than AP Physics. And if you are comfortable with the honors pre-calc (if you got an A), you don’t need a Calc in the summer in order to take Calc BC next year, unless your school requires you to.

My school requires Calc AB before BC.

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Wait, you do even have Calc. Taking an algebra based physics class is a waste of time. Taking Calc 1 as a summer class is also likely not a good idea. That class will be at 4x the speed of the Calc AB class you are considering.

Ok. Should I just stick with Calc AB for next year?

Taking and getting a good grade in Calc BC is semi necessary for admissions to Engg or CS in many schools at some point in high school

The advice and feedback here (e.g. an A grade this year in physics is very important, the lack of BC calc may be a bigger deal than lacking AP physics, etc) is all sound, though it generally applies to top and mid-tier programs. CS is competitive everywhere (for a given school it’s much harder to get a CS spot, even as the selectiveness of schools goes down). Engineering is a demanding major everywhere but when you drop down to a lower tier of school, there will be successful applicants without BC calc. In the Midwest, for example, schools like U Wisconsin-Platteville accept civil engineering students with AB calc. So for your geographic region, make sure you find all of the 4-year college engineering programs, not just the commonly known ones, so you have some good “likely” options. Good luck!