Course Rigor-Engineering

Thanks again all.

1–While the students have 8 classes, only 6 meet per day on a rotating 4 day schedule. (It is so confusing as to what she has each day). There is a designated lunch where the whole school has lunch at the same time. The second half of lunch the teachers (and counselors I think) are required to be available to meet with students. That is also when science labs meet (on the day your science class is right after lunch) and when most clubs meet.

2–The schedule is pretty regimented on what classes you can take. For example, all sophomores must take, English II, Chemistry, US History I, the second year of your world language and PE II. The only choices she has is either to Pre-Calc or drop math (she has met the state requirement so if she wanted could drop math, though of course she is not doing that), the elective spot (AP Econ) and PLTW (AP Comp. Sci. Princ.) which she committed to the program. Things open up a bit junior year with various science classes, but English, History and PE are still required classes and the only difference is the level.

3–I would have to take the blame for the AP Econ, it is the only AP that meets the business/finance requirement to graduate. She wanted to take it as a senior. I thought 5 APs were too many senior year and said she should think about taking it as a sophomore. Maybe that was bad advice??

4–We strongly encouraged her against Latin, but she was insistent and we let her make the pick. (We both took French). And so far, it is her favorite class, so I guess she knew better than us.

5–Agree on counselor, we are encouraging her to reach out early in the new year, if she hasn’t heard from her yet. You can get to 7 APs junior and 6 senior year if you worked at it (would have to drop world language to do it), but IMO the benefit of Psychology/World/Euro to an engineering major isn’t worth it–so that would leave Bio, Chem, Enviro and Stats. Doubling up on science (with the labs and losing time for clubs) seems like a lot. Which is what the discussion with he is about. Additionally, she is Fall/Spring athlete so she is not getting home until dinner time at the earliest as it is.

6–There is no Honors Latin IV and PE is required all 4 years.

Thanks again! The insight is awesome.

Remember, an AP is just another class. All of them, AP or not, take time. The ones with long problem sets and lots of reading take more time. The short story is, just because it’s an AP doesn’t mean it will be challenging or take a lot of time and just because it isn’t, doesn’t mean it wont.

My son took AP Lit, AP Art History, AP Calc BC, AP Mandarin 5, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry, along with his required gym and religion classes. He did fine. It’s really a function of the student and their affinity for the classes.


The value of AP credit to an engineering major for each of these:

  • Psychology or history: social studies / humanities general education, if that is allowed by the college or engineering division.
  • Biology: not specifically useful, except for biology-related types of engineering (biomedical, biological / agricultural, chemical with biomolecular focus), or if it can fulfill a lower level science elective requirement if there is one.
  • Chemistry: may be useful if accepted for general chemistry, which is a common requirement for many engineering majors, or which may fulfill a lower level science elective requirement if there is one.
  • Environmental science: unlikely to give useful subject credit for an engineering major.
  • Statistics: generally not useful, since engineering majors who need to take a statistics course need to take a calculus-based statistics course.

I.e. out of the above APs, chemistry is the one most likely to give useful subject credit for an engineering major, and statistics and environmental science are the ones least likely to give useful subject credit for an engineering major – but the others are in the category of “nice if your college gives useful subject credit, but do not have much expectation of that”.

You may want to check the engineering curricula and AP subject credit listings of some sample realistic colleges (e.g. state flagship and other state universities with the desired major) to see which ones may be useful at those specific colleges.


Along the same lines as ucbalumnus shared - the AP sciences and math courses help prepared my D for her subject matter in college. AP English and history courses helped her meet gen ed requirements and opened up her schedule for her to take the courses she was more interested in.


The short answer to your original question is: the schedule above is fine, she doesn’t need to cut her favorite classes from it. :slight_smile:

Colleges with engineering programs are well aware of the curriculum for PLTW and know that they are beyond a regular elective. They are weighted the same as AP classes in most high schools and they can apply for college credit for them.

Students are getting into T10 schools in the country with a healthy mix of AP and PLTW courses. The state flagship schools all know the expected rigor of the courses. Clemson and Virginia Tech both see value in students taking these courses based on acceptances I have seen for kids with just a few AP classes.

Interesting—that’s my point—it is different everywhere. Colleges seem to want students to take the most rigorous schedule(within reason) offered at the HS. At our HS , Engineering is not weighted/ not viewed as rigorous and kids who do not do the 6 core for whatever reason tend to be at a disadvantage for a select group of colleges.
Hopefully the counselor will help give the perspective needed for the OP’s D!

Yes, I’m sorry, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of PLTW are classified as Honors at her school as well. I forgot to place that in the initial post.

Apologies for the ignorance, but what are the “6 core”?

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I assume it’s 5 core classes and 6 scheduled academic classes - what very selective universities want to see: 4 years each of English, Math, History/social science, foreign language, science (specifically bio/chem/physics+1 of those AP). Those are the 5 core classes.
Adcoms also scan for AP courses in those subjects (but students don’t need APs in all of them) plus electives representing the applicant’s purported area of interest.
Remember that Stanford statement: it’s not a game of who has the most APs, wins. :slight_smile:

I should have been more specific: I meant taking six “core” courses where core means math, science, F.Lang, English, History, so taking two of one of those in 10th-12th to make 6 each year. I realize many many schools do not have a large group of kids who do that–ours just does, so it is “expected” for the top kids to not only take 6 but have all or almost all at the honors/AP level. There are 7 courses total, 5 minimum core, a 6th core is common at the top, and the 7th is an elective(non-core: art, band, yearbook). Sounds like some schools would count Engineering as a core–science–whereas others like ours it’s an elective. For example, mine took two AP sciences in 10th, and two in 11th, 12th she hasn’t decided . My D21 took 2 AP/Hon sciences in 10th, 2 AP histories in 11th.


Thanks for clarifying the high school norms where your kids are, too. That is helpful.

The colleges receive a profile on the HS and the school counselor will state if they took the most rigorous courses available in a possible schedule. So if the expectation at one school is to pile on as many AP classes as possible it will be clear to the AO reviewing and when they look at the next application from another school offering only a few each year they can put it in context. It is not held against the student.

There are plenty of examples of kids taking a variety of courses and getting into top schools. Doing well in a few APs and/or dual credit course can prove they can do college level work and their other experiences and drive can be shared in their essays and LORs.

For engineering, the rigor in college is relentless. Admissions officers and faculty are looking for strong math skills and refined analytical skills, but they are also looking for individuals who can be excellent team members, who can persevere through challenges, and who bring intellectual curiosity along with creativity. Those are things that the number of AP tests taken does not speak to.

Many high schools are now limiting the number of APs they can take each year since it has proven too much for some and they are not gaining anything except ulcers. From the OPs list of courses there seems to be a reasonably healthy balance and room to explore and shift gears as needed.

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