Senior DS Courseload

My DS is a Junior who has actually done well from a GPA perspective (3.93 UW, 4.6+W GPA), but COVID has definitely had an impact and I’m not confident he’s as good a student as his GPA or schedule seems. He’s one of those kids who is super bright, doesn’t have to work hard, and is pretty accelerated across the board (he’ll have completed 10 AP classes by the end of Junior year, took AP Calc BC as a Sophomore). His current (Junior) year schedule is:

1 - AP Stats (he loves this class)
2 - AP Euro
3 - AP French
4 - AP Lang
5 - AP Chem
6 - 2 Choirs
7 - Senate/Student Government (has been Class Pres or VP every year)

If I had to guess, I think he could end up with straight As this semester, but he could also end up with a B or two if he doesn’t finish strong. He’s starting to look at his Senior Year schedule and I’m a little worried about what to encourage him to take. He’s most interested in studying something in the social sciences in college - Intl Studies, PoliSci, Philosophy - and really has no idea what he wants to do except that he might want to do something international (e.g. UN). He also has studied Japanese since 7th grade and has applied to NSLI-Y for Korean (his sister did NSLI-Y for Arabic). As he’s looking at Senior Year, there’s not an obvious option for him for Math. There’s a chance his AP Stats teacher would do an advanced probability and combinatorics class (but not sure they can get enough kids to take it) or he could (re)take Calc 2 through an extension program (based on a low AP score last Spring, I don’t think he really learned Calc 2 in BC - his only Bs so far in HS were in AP Calc BC). At this point, the thing that worries me the most is that he’s considering not taking science in favor of more social studies electives. His potential senior year schedule right now looks like this:

1 - AP Gov/AP Econ (1 semester each)
2 - AP Lang
3 - Independent Study French (Beyond AP)
4 - 2 Choirs
5 - Senate
6 - Eastern Religions/AP Econ (1 semester of each); he wants this to replace Science
7 - Math (he’s also pushing back on this)

For science, he will have taken Honors Bio (9), AP Physics (10), and AP Chem (11). His options, if he did want to do another science in 12, would be AP Environmental or Advanced Bio (school offers this instead of AP Bio because they don’t love the AP curriculum). The school used to offer AP Physics C, but they don’t have a teacher for it anymore.

I think he’s really going to love Econ and I could see that being a potential major choice for him that he just doesn’t know much about yet, so while I know taking Calc 2 through our virtual school might not look great, I want him to have a better Calc foundation going into college and I just don’t think he learned what he needed to in Honors PreCalc (9th) and Calc BC (10th).

He’s one of those kids who will probably score well on SAT/ACT, so even in the test-optional world, he’ll probably do some prep, and assuming they come back strong, he’ll submit them. He hasn’t been super motivated so far on college, but we’re starting the process and he’s expressed interest in a few elite small LACs. He’s lucky that we can afford to send him to any school that makes sense, but it will be interesting to see how he matures over the next year because we’ve told him we won’t pay $70+ per year for a school if he’s not ready to work when he’s there. His HS is not very rigorous and while his schedule looks great, he won’t be overly prepared for college. At this point, we’re trying to help him keep his options open and I don’t want him making choices about his Senior year schedule that might limit those options.

Any thoughts on whether we should encourage him to take Science his senior year (or thoughts on Math)?

Meant to say Senior year English would be AP Lit (not AP Lang)

BC covers Calc I and Calc II. If you’re worried that he didn’t absorb it, there’s an easy way to test the theory. Go to a couple of schools he’s interested in, maybe a safety and a reach, and download the syllabi and tests for I and II. If he flounders on a timed test, he could repeat. If he breezes through, no need. If he’s a little rusty, he can brush up. No matter what he does, he’ll be way ahead of the bulk of his college peers. If he wants a math intensive field, a strong math foundation will be important, as you know. Best of luck to him!

I think top schools will want to see four years of science. My kid doesn’t love science but AP Environmental was painless, so I recommend that one.

Math is a tough one. I suspect no matter what he does, he will probably face at least one or two college math classes so the stronger foundation he gets in high school, the better. I guess I lean toward your idea of having him effectively retake Calc II or do some kind of calculus independent study supervised by his teacher, if his high school will do that and assign a class period for it. Good luck.

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That’s a lot of AP classes. I do hope the AP scores look respectable—4 and up—which would say he’s doing well for a not competitive high school.

I came from a state that let kids take AP exams at no cost. A lot of kids took them just for the GPA boost, but I saw some classes where the highest exam score was a 2. So it was just not very effective at raising standards.

I kind of feel that your kid is focused on class rank and the GPA boost TBH. He should, unless it’s really easy, focus on extra academic studies and research.

What was the AP score?

The following quizzes may help him self-assess how well he knows the material from calculus 2:

However, social science majors other than economics typically do not require math more advanced than calculus 2, although a good knowledge of calculus can be helpful for calculus-based statistics courses that are more in-depth than AP statistics. Of course, if he wants to add a major or minor in statistics or data science (which are useful in the social sciences), then additional math beyond calculus 2 will be needed.

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