Courses for Junior Year in HS for student interested in STEM/Pre-med

My daughter is interested in stem fields, possibly medicine (she seems to like and do well in both biology and chemistry). She is a strong student, but has been struggling with algebra 2 this year (she is holding on to an A-; and has gotten a few Bs on exams/quizzes). All of her other courses are high As. Next year she wants to take both AP physics and AP Bio. However, she is also considering moving from honors pre-calc or regular college prep pre-calc.
What are your thoughts? I think two science AP courses might be a lot, and I think continuing on the honors track for math would be looked on more favorably by colleges and benefit her in the long run.
Honors classes are better for her weighed GPA as well, as an honors class is on a 5 scale and a CP class is on a 4.
Any feedback would be helpful!

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Please read this pinned thread from the Pre-med forum:

There are issues w/r/t AP classes and the pre-med path. She may do better to concentrate her efforts on AP Bio and take an honors or college prep physics class instead of AP Physics.

If she plans to continue on in a STEM field, she will need a strong math background. A chemistry major requires a minimum of 2 semesters of calc. (And often 3 semesters of calc plus differential equations.)

While bio majors typically don’t have the same math requirements as do chem majors, having more math (and some computer programming experience) will be useful for post-college employment options.

What english and history class is she planning on taking?

AP Lang and honors history

So only you and your child know how much she can handle. The average kid here on CC seems to take all AP classes and get all As but in our high performing suburban public school it is the rare exception that a kid will be allowed to take two AP science classes at once. I have learned on this site that an A- is looked at by most colleges as the same as an A since most recalculate the GPA (who knew!) So if she can keep that up then if she can do the same in honors precalculus, that seems the better choice since the honors class does look better to most schools. I believe for premed the only math class needed is a single year of calculus but others know better, and where you go to college is not as important as doing well and having as little debt as possible.

Often calculus and statistics (which may have to be calculus-based in some situations), though medical school requirements vary (see the MSAR). Of course, a pre-med may have to cover the superset of pre-med requirements for all possible medical schools that the pre-med may apply to.

She should consider what the other students say about the teachers for these classes, and choose based upon her interests, and the best teachers. She should also consider other really good AP classes taught by great teachers - history, econ, art history, whatever has a great teacher and might interest her.

Look at high school as a chance to get the most out of what the school offers. School has a great AP Bio teacher? Take it. School has a rotten Physics teacher? Avoid it. Also, since she cannot take Physics C yet, it really doesn’t make much difference in terms of STEM or pre-med in college to take the other AP Physics classes, since both would require a class equivalent to Physics C. The reason to take those is so that when she does take physics in college, it won’t be the first time that she’s seeing it.

She needs to take precalc next year. She should try it at the honors level, and if she’s struggling horribly, she should drop down a level. If the teacher is good, AP Bio. Yes to AP lang. Can she take an AP history, in place of honors history? Is she doing foreign language? I’d say no to also taking AP Physics at the same time as that load. She can always take it in 12th if she wants to.


Does your HS offer shadowing? That would help steer her in the right direction.

If you don’t like math or do well with calculus you might reconsider STEM careers.

What are her other science options for senior year? I’d suggest not doubling AP sciences and just do Bio, and try the honors math track, presuming she can drop down if needed.

Thanks. So it sounds like you would advise:

  1. honors pre-calc, and 2) no to 2 science APs, and 3) find another non science AP? The issue is as follows: she liked chem and bio- and wants to take both of those as AP. She has yet to take Physics. She is less excited about physics, but knows she needs to take it. She thought about taking it over the summer, but it would be on line and therefore there would be no lab. She also says that if she is going to invest the time
    Into an AP, she would rather it be something she is interested in.

My thought is…your daughter needs a strong foundation in math to continue with the higher level courses. At some high schools, the honors track is much quicker paced, with less opportunity to actually build that foundation. You need to check this.

Also a poor grade in an honors class isn’t going to be favorable either.

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She will have to take physics for pre-med or any science major. If she takes physics-for-biology majors filled with pre-meds competing for A grades in the curve, it is best if that were not the first time she saw physics. If she takes physics-for-physics majors, that course often explicitly lists high school physics as a recommended prerequisite, in addition to calculus.

So it is best if she takes at least high school physics while in high school.

My son has the same thoughts about science. He is taking honors physics next year and will take a single ap science as a senior. It is not worth having the stress of the AP science classes as a junior when there really is no benefit. If she is interested in science she will have plenty of time to take them in college. They need to take all three sciences for most colleges and what is the real benefit of the AP classes?

She’s only 16. She could become interested in anything. I would suggest that she take 5 academic classes - AP Bio, an honors or AP history (or AP Psych, which is usually considered to be a history/social science), AP Lang, honors pre-calc, and her usual foreign language, at the honors level or AP if she has reached that. If the math is too much for her, she will drop down a level. That leaves her two specials and a lunch. I’m assuming that she has specials that she enjoys doing to fill up that time.

She should ask around and find out who the really great teachers are for APs at her school. My kid told me that the AP Econ class was reputed to be wonderful, and kid is sorry that they missed out on it. We forced kid to take AP Euro, because the teacher is amazing, and every educated person needs to understand European history. Kid said we were right to have forced it, that everything we said was true, that it was amazing.

You say that she usually has high A’s, and that she’s struggling to keep up an A minus in honors Algebra 2. First of all, that is NOT awful! My kid is premed and psych, often had A minus in honors math, sometimes even a B, and did very well in college admissions. Kid dropped down to regular math prophylactically first semester of 11th, because kid was out of town all weekend, every weekend, on an activity, plus that activity took up another ten hours outside of school during the weekdays. Kid was bored to tears in regular math, plus the teacher was a nasty bully, who bullied vulnerable kids (not mine, but they hated watching it). So kid went back up to honors level second semester 11th, and then did Calc BC in 12th. Not a math whiz, but the teacher was incredible.

And still, with the occasional B in math, kid did very well in admissions. Let her do it all (but not two sciences simultaneously), and if she has to drop down in math, it’s not the end of the world.

Totally agree, my older S had a B in Algebra 2 honors and had a low A in precalc honors and solid A in AP AB calculus, totally teacher related. A B in math is not the end of the world.
Just a warning though, the combination of APUSH and AP Bio is considered one of the most difficult with enormous amount of reading so if your kid is not a history buff and there is an honors history option that is a very reasonable option.

Just an FYI, there is a class of 2024 thread that is fairly active.