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Did I take the wrong courses in High School? (STEM)

  1. Sep 9, 2015 #1
    I'm a bit confused about some of the international criteria. I'll be applying to colleges this year and I want a career in STEM. I'm thinking BSc in Physics and Mathematics. But I've only taken two years of Maths, Physics, Chem and Bio in my first two years of High School. Then I took Principles of Accounting, commerce, economics, business maths, business statistics, commercial geography and banking in my junior and senior year. I'm in Pakistan and I've always wanted to study abroad. Can you tell me what the criteria is in your respective countries?
    Please, if possible, mention your country's name! Thanks :')

    I asked because when a checked CALTECH's website, they recommend 4 years of Maths and some other websites advise you to take Maths, Physics, Bio and Chem all four years.
    Do all colleges have these requirements? If they're 'recommended' even, does that mean I have a long shot at getting in? Do you know anyone who has been in a similar situation?
    Finally, Can I apply for a major and then change it next year?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    You have to remember that Caltech has extremely competitive admissions. It is not at all typical of universities in the US.

    I think at most universities in the US, the first-year physics course that physics majors take, does not assume that you have studied physics in high school (although it certainly helps if you have). It also often does not assume that you have finished a calculus course, but rather, that you are at least taking calculus concurrently with it.

    At the high school level, you should have studied math at least through algebra and trigonometry.

    (Again, this applies to typical universities, not extremely competitive ones like Caltech and MIT.)
  4. Sep 9, 2015 #3
    CalTech is the sort of college you go to when you've already completed college-level courses before you've technically finished high school and been doing research every summer since you were old enough to legally work. They're not really representative of a "typical" US college, even for very intensive programs like physics or engineering. They may say they "recommend" 4 years of high school math and science on paper, realistically they'd be recommending at least a year of college-level math and science at a community college. At least. They're also staggeringly expensive.

    So really, don't worry too much about getting in there.

    A more typical hard requirement is that you've completed math up to precalculus or statistics. You have a few technical math classes, it looks like, so that should do the trick.

    But what might get in your way is that engineering and science programs tend to want you to have completed some elementary physics or chemistry, though it likely won't keep you from being accepted. What will probably happen is that they will advise you to declare an undecided major and then spend a semester to take the elementary chemistry and physics courses. As for math, there will most likely be a math placement test where your score will place you anywhere between pre-calculus and calculus II. I would suggest studying or working with a tutor (there are plenty of high school pre-calc resources on the internet) to prepare you to attempt to place into calculus I, though pre-calc wouldn't be the end of the world but it would add a lot of work to that catch-up semester.
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