Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Honors Chemistry, Is it essential for getting into good schools?

  1. May 24, 2007 #1
    Honors Chemistry, Is it essential for getting into good schools??

    I'm in High School. I'm planning on majoring in engineering or science related fields and I don't know whether I should take the only chemistry offered at our school, Honors Chemistry. The only thing is that there is only one teacher who teaches it and he is horrible. He doesn't teach at all in class but gives very hard tests and quizzes intermittently, therefore making many people fail; few people acheive A's (which is what I'm aiming for if I decide to take it) I'm going to be a junior next year and I'll have the SAT I's to worry about too. Not to metion my other 4 AP classes I'll be taking, AP exams, some science fair research and extracurriculars. Many of my smartest friends get B's in that class and they are taking it this year (sophomore), probably giving them a chance to focus in more and study more since they don't have any AP's or SAT I's in that matter.

    I know colleges like to see you taking risks. Does this situation fit into what I should attempt to overcome. Should I take this class which I'm fairly interested in despite the teacher? Let's say I got a C in the class, will I be able to inform colleges about the rigorous status of the class and tell them how the teacher doesn't teach? I really want to take advantage of my resources (AP's and Honors classes) but I don't really know if Chemistry would be one of them since you basically have to self-study the whole year.

    How hard is it to self-study Honors Chemistry? Are the concepts easy to understand? I have taken AP Physics B already and have gone through Thermodynamics, Kinetic theory, and understand some of the graphs and equations associate with those topics. That should work to my benefit next year right? What do you think I should do in order to get a sense of the class. Should I approach the teacher and ask him to give me samples of his tests, homework, and quizzes? Please help me out here as I wouldn't want an even more stressful upcoming junior year.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2007 #2
    Also, can anyone direct me to links of good chemistry tutorials? Having free online tutorials can somewhat substitute a teacher's lack of teaching in class right? What are the best tutorials for Introduction to Organic Chemistry preferrably following Zumdahl's books.
  4. May 24, 2007 #3
    Is there really only one chemistry class at your high school? It's hard to believe that a place that is big enough to have AP courses isn't big enough to have more than one chemistry class.

    If you wanted to avoid the teacher you could always take chemistry in summer school.

    Take the AP class. Honest. It will be good practice for the courses in university where the professor "doesn't teach at all and gives very hard tests".

    PS - your college application will be better if you don't go through high school doing exactly what you think colleges think you should do.
  5. May 24, 2007 #4
    It's not an AP class, we only have honors chemistry at our school and yes, only one teacher teaches it. Honors chemistry is the highest chem we have currently so I guess a good side would be that I don't need to take the AP exam.
  6. May 24, 2007 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    So if I understand correctly,
    You have no previous background in chemistry and the only chemistry course your school offers is this Honors Chemistry class. It is either this H. Chem. Class (with the difficult, poor, teacher) or no chemistry class.....then I would be inclined to say you should take the class.

    I presume you have already taken a biology course and you said you have already taken AP Physics B, so a chemistry class would round off the big 3 science classes most students would take in high school, and then you could take something like AP Physic C during your senior year.
  7. May 24, 2007 #6
    Well another option for me would be to take a organic chemistry class at a community college but I'm not sure how the teacher is over there and the class over the summer is only 4 weeks long (4 days a week 3 hours per day) so it is going to be really fast paced and I'm not sure if I'll like that either. I also don't know if colleges favor taking a course that is already offered at my high school somewhere else.

    So what you mean is, Chemistry is definitely essential?? Period? Will I be applying knowledge learned from chemistry into many other engineering applications or should I just take it because it is preferred for getting into fairly selective science/engineering colleges? I have fair interest in learning Chemistry and have already learned some Thermodynamics and Kinetic theory in AP Physics B. Should I be okay in chemistry even though the teacher is that horrible? People tell me the tests/quizzes are killer and they are given pretty often. Many people fail the class and most get C's. About 4 people have A's in all of the Honors Chemistry classes. Keep in mind that most of these people are sophomores and I'll be taking the class as a junior (in the midst of all of the SAT testing and whatnot). :frown: Keep the opinion's/advice coming please! I really appreciate your guys' replies!
  8. May 24, 2007 #7
    At my school, the pre reqs for organic chemistry are general chem 1 and 2. I don't know how you could begin to study organic chem without a solid background in solution chemistry. Organic chem is usually a very challenging class; at least it was for everyone I took it with.

    I remember people having a very hard time with general chemistry 2 right out of high school, they didn't feel their high school chem class prepared them well enough to keep up in general chemistry 2.
  9. May 24, 2007 #8


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I'm surprised your school district doesn't require a chemistry course for everyone. Usually, many require it for graduation.

    I would say take the course. It can't hurt and if you don't get an A, it won't keep you out of college. Plus, if you've never had the teach, then you don't know how you might react to him. I have had teachers that others have told me were horrible, couldn't teach, hard graders, etc, and it turned out that they weren't that bad at all and, if people were complaining about them, then they were probably not used to the difficulty level the course was thought at. You may have no problem with the guy. So, take the course and don't worry about it. Things will work out, one way or the other.
  10. May 24, 2007 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Without a background in general chemistry, I am not so sure taking an organic chemistry class would be such a great idea (if they will even let you do this, I would think there would probably be a Gen. Chem. Pre-Req.).

    Is chemistry essential to getting accepted into college? I dont know for sure. But I would expect a student to have taken at least 1 course in chemistry by the time they get out of high school for someone who intends to pursue a science/engineering career. Plus, the skills/knowledge you will learn in chemistry will be useful in other fields, it is not a complete waste of time.

    At my school, just about all (if not all) of the students with any major falling into science/engineering are required to take Gen. Chem. I, II as part of their major preparatory course work, or at least to fulfill the science core curriculum requirement. Having already taken a chemistry class would make these two courses much easier.
  11. May 24, 2007 #10
    if you've already taken Ap physics, then AP chem should be a cakewalk. Some of the hardest concepts that students have in the class are batteries, gases, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics, which are all covered in AP physics
  12. May 24, 2007 #11
    I basically self studied thermodynamics and it took me about a week to do so. I was cramming for the AP Physics B exam. Isn't chemistry more conceptual though? Are the situations very hard to visualize? What is the difference between organic chemistry and regulary chemistry? The book that we use includes chapters like: thermodynamics, acids and bases, stiochemsitry, gases, kinetic theory, etc. Is this organic chemistry?

    Basically, I can't answer any of the concept quesitons without using the equations to see what relationships the variables have with each other. For example, given a PV graph, I would need to write out the equations in order to see if a particular stage releases or gains heat energy.

    Top tier colleges like UC Berekeley and Stanford would rather see me take Chemistry Honors in my junior year as opposed to my senior year right? Would they rather see me take Chemistry Honors at my school or Organic chemistry at a community colleges? It is really hard for me to not think about what colleges are going to think about the courses that I send to colleges when I apply. Thanks for your help guys! :smile:
  13. May 24, 2007 #12
  14. May 24, 2007 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    There is a portion of thermodynamics which you will cover in chemistry which you do not really see in other sciences (like physics, or at least high school level physics). The concepts of enthalpy, entropy, Gibbs free energy. Not that it is all that difficult, but in the thermodynamics you took in physics, you probably concerned yourself more with specific heats and compressing gasses, as opposed to the energy released by a chemical reaction.

    Organics chemistry is chemistry that deals with organics molecules (hydrocarbons, alcohols, plastics, functional groups, …). Depending on how thorough your intro to chemistry class is in high school, you may/may not spend a little time on this subject. In college, there are entire courses devoted specifically to organic chemistry. The "regular" chemistry you take in high school is more of an introduction to the subject for a student with little/no background, similar to the "General Chemistry" classes offered in college. The intro/general chemistry class covers a wide range of topics...from the evolution of atomic theory, compound nomenclature, balancing chemical reactions, solutions, acids and bases, gas laws, ....
    Taking and Organic chemistry class usually comes after you take Gen. Chem.
  15. May 26, 2007 #14
    Thanks a lot for your views and insight on my situation. I'd love to have more opinions and comments about what choice I should make. Community college teachers can be bad too right? If I don't know what they are like, I may end up with one of them myself.. and I don't think they curve anything in the class either..
  16. May 26, 2007 #15


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    "Honors Chemistry" is unlikely to be important by itself to get into a good school. Many schools are good - probably most of them are.

    Community College chemistry teachers may be good or bad or anything between those extremes. Being quick to assume that they are bad is an unfair judgement. You are at least very likely to find good instruction and the course to be interesting (maybe difficult, too, typical for many science courses - but not wholly impossible to learn). Study ahead, if possible, even before the term begins; plan your laboratory work BEFORE you arrive to your lab class meetings.

    Most chemistry teachers did not grade on a strict scale, from my experience as a student; they used class-members performance statistics to determine grading scales. Maybe today that has changed. Anybody know?
  17. May 26, 2007 #16
    How are you suppose to get an A if the teacher doesn't curve anything, doesn't teach, gives hard tests/quizzes that are unpredictable? He doesn't even give you a study guide for the tests.. How do you know what to study?
  18. May 27, 2007 #17
    The most extensive Chemistry course offered at the High School level is by far Chemistry HL for the IB.
  19. May 28, 2007 #18


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    The teacher does not need to use a curve based on the students' performances; he can choose a strict 90-80-70-60 % method, in which 90% is the minimum for 'A', etc. (70% is minimum 'C').

    Tests and quizes could be hard because you are not yet accustomed to the subect or the depth of the topics. Your studying needs to be current, in pace with the instruction which you receive, so even if testing in on unpredictable schedule, you should not be behind in your assignments nor learning.

    How and What to Study: Check your syllabus.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook