AP Physics vs. Honors Anatomy

My daughter is going into her senior year, and had her schedule planned, but they announced official schedules yesterday (only a few days before school starts) and they threw us some curves.

She had been expecting to take AP Physics. It would be a difficult class for her, but as she plans to apply to WPI, RPI, and a few other schools for digital animation / video game design (with schools like Carnegie Mellon being larger reach schools and schools like RIT being safety), we felt that was the right class for her to take.

Whoever is in charge of class assignment, assigned her instead to Honors Anatomy & Physiology. It is an honors class, but she has no plans to go into anything health or medicine related. There were several other classes she wanted (like honors Mythology) and they stuck her into Honors Journalism instead that we were “bait and switched” on, but the one that concerns me primarily is the science.

She reached out to the guidance counselor about this yesterday, and was told she could try to switch into AP Physics, but then would be at risk of getting anything decent for her English and History classes. This is all a bit strange to me as DD1 never had any schedule issues at the same school. Might be related to COVID. She told my daughter not to worry about physics and that she could always “write a letter” saying Physics was full and not an option for her.

Is this anything to be concerned with? Is H Anatomy essentially fine since its an honors class? Or will colleges, as I fear, see physics missing from her transcript and mark it as a potential red flag? I would think the letter from guidance counselor mentioning that physics was “full” would not even likely be read or could be missed.

At this point, do I make a stink? She’s ok with rolling with the punches, but she isn’t a strong advocate for herself. Normally I would chalk this up a life lesson, but I am concerned this one could impact her entire college selection process.


Is any level of physics available?

Having physics in high school is typically helpful if she will take physics in college, which is likely if she wants to go into video game design (physics matters for the kinds of games where objects move around in a “realistic” way).

Ideally she has a year each of biology, chemistry, and physics on her transcript. For Carnegie Mellon or a STEM major in general, I would prioritize physics, ideally AP Physics.

You may have success looking into more creative options. Will her high school allow her to take it online? Or take a college physics class?

Now might be the time for you to advocate for her.

I would certainly ask the GC to present schedule options that would allow your dd to take AP physics. It may be that the GC is correct and moving her into AP physics will severely limit her other options, but your dd should have a chance to consider the options. OTOH, the GC may not have tried hard enough to come up with a schedule that would be acceptable with the AP physics. It can be tough, however, to get all students into their preferred electives.

Has she taken regular physics? Was she recommended for AP Physics?

On your last question, she has been in the honors science track (H bio, H chem, etc) and having done well in those, she has the option to take AP physics if she wants to. She has not taken normal physics (although that would seem odd to take a year of physics and then another year of AP physics?).

It depends upon **which ** AP Physics we’re talking about. I really wish people would specify.

AP Physics.1 after intl physics is pointless IMO. Intro physics, though is a common prerequisite for AP Physics C.

If the options are AP Physics 1 with lower level English and history courses vs regular or honors physics with higher level English and history, I would opt for the latter. While it may be useful to speak with the GC, schedule conflicts frequently happen - perhaps more so this year.

@skieurope I believe it’s the lower level of AP physics, but will confirm. It sounds like the choices are between AP Physics with non-honors English and history, or H Anatomy & Physiology with honors English and history classes. Sort of pick your poison.

Whichever she chooses your D should ask the guidance counselor to note the scheduling conflicts in his/her LOR to colleges.

@happy1 The counselor mentioned she would do this for my daughter, but I was wondering, does that matter? Seems risky, as in, if she is ruled out based on class rigor before they even get to the LOR.

Is regular or Honors Physics available?

The question on rigor is one for the GC as they are the ones rating

Mentioning the schedule conflict in a LoR is normal

Not sure I understand the question.

–If your D can’t take a class because she wasn’t approved to take that level of rigor course by the HS then I would not mention it. (I don’t think this is the case)
–If your D was approved to take a class and could not take it due to a scheduling conflict I’d ask that it be noted in the LOR.

–I’d hope the guidance counselor would take scheduling conflicts into account when determining the overall level of course rigor box that gets checked on his/her LOR.

Is there the option of some other physics with honors English and history?

I ended up asked my D’s guidance counselor for a list of what periods each day her scheduled classes were offered, plus those we wanted to switch to.

I did the Sudoku/origami to fInd a schedule that included what we wanted and provided it back to her counselor, who made the switch. It was a lot faster than one question at a time about each class, to a counselor who is probably busy with dozens of kids trying to do the same.

@RichInPitt - love the “sodoku/oragami”. Totally nailed it!

I still do a little of this for my DS in college. As you get to upper level classes, the number of sections dwindles. Also, they start offering them only in Spring or Fall, but not both. This requires some strategizing and long term planning. I put together a couple of scenarios for my son to start with when he build his schedule. I’m not telling him “here is your schedule”, just here are some options.

@HankCT - we ran into the same issue with AP classes and band. My twins skipped AP Chem because it was only offered during the band class slot. It seemed like a poor choice by the school. Band tends to have a strong cohort of AP students, so why force them to make that choice? Good luck. I agree with the sentiment above, get some physics, even if not AP over the AP anatomy.

Looks like physics wasn’t an option. If she took it, she would have lost AP Govt and Honors English, and had to take remedial for some of those courses. She’s going to add AP Human Geography … in addition to Honors Anatomy. It’s sort of a mess, and I blame the guidance counselor entirely. She claims my daughter submitted both AP Physics and Honors Anatomy as science options, and the “computer must have picked”. Meanwhile, I saw what she submitted (I actually have a screenshot, and until the other day my daughter didn’t even know there was an anatomy class, nor would she ever list it). I didn’t feel like arguing much because at this point, her only options include harming herself in other ways in order to help. It’s lose/lose, so we will make the best of it, and chalk it up to a mistake/negligence or whatever by her GC.

Sounds like you and your D are making the best of imperfect choices.

I would ask her GC to mention in her college LOR that your D planned to take physics senior year of HS but was unable to due to scheduling conflicts.