Should I drop AP Calculus AB for a free period?

Hi, I’m currently a junior in high school. My main concern right now is AP Calculus AB. My school is known for having an extremely difficult AP Calculus course: a majority of the students who take the class end up with a B or C, but they also mostly score 5’s on the AP test. It’s demanding and even though I’ve managed to receive A’s from all my previous Honors Math classes, I’m worried that I’ll end up with a B. The test curves and class projects (which would boost my grade) are affected because of Covid-19 and distance learning.

I don’t plan on going into STEM or intensely math-related majors in college as I have an interest in criminal justice and/or art, and I mainly took AP Calculus AB for a challenge. However, I have four more AP classes in my junior year schedule, I plan on taking AP Statistics my senior year, and I have volunteering, competitions, extracurriculars, sports, SAT studying, etc.

I would drop AP Calculus AB, except that there are no classes available for me to switch into as of right now. I would have a free period. Additionally, due to personal reasons, I took two free periods sophomore year and I feel like having one more free period in junior year won’t look very good on my application. (My school works on a quarter system, so I took one free period for each semester, leaving me with 6 out of 8 possible classes that year.)

I wanted to ask if taking this free period would be detrimental to my application, and if spending this much time and effort in AP Calculus AB (and possibly even getting a B after all the time spent) would be worth it. Should I use that time to pursue other things instead? I would really appreciate some input on this.

Would you be taking a different math like Honors Calculus? Most schools want you to have a math all 4 years of high school I’m pretty sure.

I’d stick with calculus. As noted above a number of colleges look for applicants to take four years of math.

Another vote for having four years of math.

Are you able to work with a tutor or resource center at your high school?

@Livvyxoxo Our school, sadly, doesn’t offer honors calculus. I’m fairly sure that they offer precalculus, but I know our Honors Math classes have already covered all the things in precalc, and it’s a class for students who have taken regular three years of math. The prerequisite for AP Calculus AB is taking Honors Math 1-3. However, I will be taking AP Statistics the first term of senior year.

Since you are two grade levels ahead in math, should you really be worried? Students two grade levels ahead in math are typically those who find any high school math up to AP calculus BC to be easy A courses.

That is too bad. Could you do AP Statistics this year and AB next year when hopefully school looks a bit more normal? However, it might be hard to do Calculus if you haven’t done precalculus in a year. What does your GC say?

@happy1 I’m planning on taking AP Statistics fall term of junior year (to fill up the 4 years of math quota). I was just concerned on whether the free period would look bad or if not having a math in junior year would affect my admissions.

@Livvyxoxo I’ve asked for that switch, but my school doesn’t allow AP-to-AP course changes after the term has started :,( They only allow AP to non-AP or the reverse. My counselor gave me a list of classes I could transfer to, but it was extremely limited and didn’t include any math classes.

@ucbalumnus I thought that too when I chose my classes last year, but I’ve found out that the tests are on a completely different level than the practice questions or homework. I’ve also had a large number of extremely capable friends who’ve gotten A’s in math for their entire life that have ended up with B’s in our school’s calculus course.

I would probably try to stick it out in AP Calc then. I think it would be better to get a B in a hard math course than not have any math. Try to get extra help and tutoring though if you can! Good luck!

@Livvyxoxo Thank you so much for your input! I really appreciate it.

Some students have difficulty in calculus because of deficiencies in precalculus knowledge.

You may want to try to see if there are any precalculus topics you need to review.

@ucbalumnus Thank you so much! I think I’m going to keep calculus and that’ll be really useful for me.