Second-guessing AP Calc – will AP Stats help me build a stronger foundation in math?

I’m second-guessing whether I should take AP Calculus AB, regular calculus, or AP Statistics next year (my senior year).

Some background: I took an accelerated math course in 8th grade so that I ended up in Geometry as a 9th grader, Alg2/Trig in 10th grade, and Advanced Precalculus (my school’s second most rigorous precalculus course, after the Honors version) this year. Math is my worst subject, though, and not coincidentally it’s also the one I’m least interested in. A combination of COVID-related setbacks and my own lack of engagement have made me feel like I don’t have enough confidence with some of the algebra and trig fundamentals to keep up.

My school offers AP Calc AB and BC along with a regular Differential Calc course, and my college counselor convinced me to take AB next year, but now I’m wondering whether it might be a better idea to take AP Stats. I’m planning a rigorous course load in the other core subjects, the Stats course at my school has a good reputation, and I’m not planning to apply to any STEM-focused schools or majors. I’m also much more interested in statistics than calculus – so would taking AP Stats be a logical way to build up my math skills for college, or would I be sabotaging myself by not taking AP Calculus?

Edited to add: reading this report prompted some of these thoughts, but let’s not discuss the report here – there’s a thread for that.

If your college counselor recommended AB Calc, then go with that. They likely know the schools you are aiming for as well as what is expected asfar as rigor from your school.

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According to the attached article, Calculus is a better option for highly competitive universities, but if you don’t do well in that subject, it may backfire. Short answer: do AP calculus if you can do well in it.

The statistics versus calculus question comes down to whether you are likely to take more advanced math or statistics in college. If your college major will require more advanced math or (calculus-based) statistics*, choose calculus. Otherwise, choose based on interest (statistics may be more applicable for common situations than calculus). Some students choose both.

*This means any math, science, or engineering major, as well as economics and business at many colleges. Other social science majors usually do not require calculus or calculus-based statistics, but stronger understanding of (calculus-based) statistics may be helpful in data analysis for social sciences at the advanced level.

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