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Pre-Calc/Calc I or AP Calc BC online?

  1. Aug 12, 2011 #1
    Here's the deal. I basically overloaded/slacked off Sophomore/Junior year of high school because I switched to online (virtual) school with a few humanities-based dual enrollment classes (that I got As in, of course) at my community college in Florida. The summer of my Junior year (this summer), I took a rigorous dual enrollment Chemistry class and did very well (other students did horribly). I now KNOW that I want to be either a scientist (physics/chemistry) or a science educator/journalist/communications person, and this upcoming year is my senior year of high school. I'm trying to decide what to do about math.

    I'm signed up for General Physics (equivalent to AP Physics B, roughly - the Dean of Arts and Sciences wouldn't let me in the class, so I had to go to the VP of Academic of Affairs - and he told me "as long as you're aware of the possible academic implications"), General Chemistry (the chem class I took covered a lot of the material in it, but that'll just make my life easier. The chem professor teaches Organic Chem, and she doesn't lecture from the book, which is awesome/harder.), Precalculus, Ethics (philosophy is interesting/friends are taking it), and two online classes: American Gov (standard, although AP is offered), and Latin II (grad. requirement). The problem is that I took one semester of an online Pre-Calculus class and barely squeaked by with an A. I felt like I wasn't understanding everything and couldn't see any application (I had trouble figuring out problems because there was no explanation for every scenario) or use of the math. Plus I wasn't learning a lot by learning the material online. It was basically Algebra II stuff (asymptotes, synthetic division, etc.) + trig (identities, graphs, etc.) I signed up for the second semester (the second semester covers sequences, series, & induction which look like a lot more fun) but I panicked and enrolled in my college's Precalc class and am about to withdraw under the grace period. This would allow me to take Calc I in the Spring with an actual teacher.

    Unfortunately, I just emailed the Caltech guidance counselor for my area (they're like a high high high high if-not-impossible reach for me because I currently have a 1840 SAT from the Spring, and basically no science extracurriculars, but what the heck, maybe I've improved since then - and I haven't tried the ACT yet) and they told me that applicants HAVE to have a year of Calculus to apply. Now I have absolutely no idea what to do. Do I continue with Pre-Calc > Calc I and just not apply to Caltech and hope other colleges (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, maybe another... and UF/FSU/NCF in-state) don't mind me retaking a class in a topic I want to master? Or do I suck it up, take the 2nd semester of Pre-Calc really quickly, and take AP Calc BC online, knowing that I might not know the material as well (SAT II Math. Gulp.) than if I went the Pre-Calc > Calc I route? Plus, if I don't take Pre-Calc, then I'll have to spend $75 to get my AA degree (I need one more math class after the spring semester). And, I'm going to further irate the college's dual enrollment department (I've already changed my schedule 3 times because they wouldn't let me in classes).

    I would prefer retaking an honors (proof-based) Calculus class and an honors Physics class my freshman year of college (if available) instead of rushing through the Calc sequence. As far as class specs go, I'm not aware of any high school student in my area (neither does my online guidance counselor) that is taking as rigorous a schedule as I am (I tried getting into the Physics with Calculus class, but the Physics teacher said some people taking his class have even had Diff Equations already), but the words "take the most rigorous schedule available" are ringing in my ears. My zoned public high school doesn't even offer AP Biology, so...

    Bleh. The math teachers at the college have told me that it's always better to take a math class in a classroom instead of online. The Pre-calc teacher (he's an amazing professor from what I've heard, he really explains things well) said that either schedule would look rigorous to higher end colleges. My online teacher (knowing how long it took me to complete the 1st semester of Pre-Calc) said that I could do whatever I want, but I might do better in a physical classroom (I tend to learn a lot more).

    The Physics class is supposed to use algebra and trig (it has Pre-Calc as a prerequisite), so maybe I would relearn anything I needed from that. And I guess that I'd pick up algebra/trig skills from learning AP Calculus BC... but I'm just scared that I won't be able to handle it and will go into college not knowing how to... well... I don't really know. Heh.

    I'm a bright student (one B in Intro to Lit) but I just hate online classes and prefer the social interaction of a classroom (especially the college classroom). Oh... and I'm also working 3-4 days a week for about 4 hours (each shift).

    Any advice is appreciated.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2011 #2
    If you even want to think about going to MIT/Harvard/Stanford, your SAT should be at least 2100, usually more around 2300 to stand a chance at getting in. And that's with really good extracurricular activities as well.

    As for your math, AP Calculus AB is required before BC. About 75% of the BC test comes from the AB test, so BC is more just like an extension of AB. If you were at my school, it would be impossible to go from pre-calc to BC because of the massive gap in necessary material, maybe you forgot to mention where/when you plan on learning the AB material. But maybe your school teaches differently or something and it would be possible.

    I'm also confused as to whether or not you actually finished pre-calc? And are you on a semester system, quarter system, or what?

    I'm not sure where you are from, but many people from my school finished AP Calc AB and BC and AP Physics C (calc based physics) by the end of their junior year, so the competition in your college applicant pool might be much stronger than you think.

    Why did you even switch to online school???

    I doubt you would relearn anything from that. Algebra/Trig "based" physics doesn't actually use algebra or trig that much. Basically you might be required to solve a quadratic formula or use sin/cos/tan to find angles in a triangle. Very basic stuff. The in-depth level of an actual math class is not present in introductory physics classes.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2011
  4. Aug 12, 2011 #3
    I'm banking on in-state acceptance. Out-of-state would be sweet, but it's not the end of the world if I can't get in.

    My school district requires AP Calc AB before BC, but because BC goes over all the AB material and then some, the online school will allow me to go straight to BC. I am not allowed to take AB and BC in the same year, though.

    It's semester. The online school lets you work "at your own pace" by submitting assignments and I've heard that some people have finished it in as soon as two weeks (the minimum amount of time to work in the course). I stopped at the first semester because I figured I'd take the college version of the Pre-Calc class and there would be no point. So... as it stands... I'm not actually done with Pre-Calc, but because I can work on Pre-Calc/AP Calc BC at my own pace, I'd still be able to finish by the end of senior year if I rush some things up.

    I'm from Northern Florida. We have one of the worst public education systems in the country, unfortunately. Due to budget cuts, my zoned high school doesn't even offer AP Government, and there's talk about cutting back on dual enrollment.

    Long story. To make it short, life has a funny way of screwing up plans.

    That's kind of what the high school physics classes (algebra/trig) I was looking at were like. I think this one (it's meant for allied health majors/not for physical science majors, which usually = easy) does uses some of the identities (e.g. sum and difference), and when I asked the teacher if I would be prepared with the first semester of high school Pre-Calc (which is equivalent to the college Pre-Calc course I was trying to be exempted from), he replied, "These courses are far beyond anything in the typical allied health
    field. They are not conceptual like most high school physical science
    courses--they are highly mathematical but use only algebra, trig,
    geometry--no calculus. " So I don't know. I get conflicting feedback on the difficulty, but in any case, there's no way they'd let me into his Calculus-based physics class without taking a semester of Calculus beforehand, so it IS the hardest Physics course available to me.

    Just stuck on the Calculus decision. I'm certainly not going to be taking AP Calc AB, because AP Calc AB is equivalent credit-wise to the Calc I class I could take in the Spring (there's no need to spread a one semester class out over a year). My chem. professor was explaining a little bit of Calc to me and it seemed pretty straightforward conceptually, and the math teachers at the college said they were willing to help me out if I needed anything, plus there are free tutors/books/videos available... so if I did take AP Calc BC, I would have plenty of resources available to me.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011
  5. Aug 13, 2011 #4
    I would just finish your pre-calc in person and then take the Calculus I course (it's at your community college right?) in person as well. I wouldn't try to rush into BC, unless you think it's the only way to get accepted to the higher level state schools like University of Florida. But I don't think it's necessary. Plus you wouldn't have the AP scores in time to show on your application anyways, right? Were you even planning on taking the AP test? And if you say you learn better in person, and hate online classes, I wouldn't touch online calculus with a 10 foot pole.
  6. Aug 13, 2011 #5
    your stuck in the social class your born in I'm afraid so be careful... even if you have the credentials to go to a school that costs 40K+ a year you won't be able to go if your parents don't make like 250k a year... from my experience... enjoy high school because if you don't you'll regret overloading yourself and not enjoying it more... you only get to be in high school once... i regretted doing the same thing...i'm going to college with 1 credit away from being a second semester sophomore and i did the full 12 seasons of varsity sports... as a result i had no time for anything... that's the best advice i wish somebody told me when i was in your shoes... no one really cares what you do when your 15 16 years old really... and like i said, not to crush your dreams or anything, but the reality is if your parents don't make 250 k a year your not going to Harvard or MIT, unless you are dirt poor, but considering your on a computer i would say that your not, sure you could go to schools like that and come out over 100k in debt more likely 150k in debt but with unemployment being 10 percent in some areas, in some it's 15, that may not be the best of ideas... if your not happy none of it matters... enjoy high school kid or you'll regret like me... and really consider not killing yourself once you get into college... once you get into college just enjoy it... if your in my shoes and your parents don't make any were near 200k a year and you will be all on your own for grad school you probably won't even go, certianly your grades will still matter and do as well as you can but don't kill yourself, because by the time you can you'll be in your 30s and have some one elses education to save for, assuming your going to have kids... relax and enjoy high school before you know it it will be all over and you will realize that you could have done a lot less work and i mean A LOT LESS WORK and still be going to the same exact school and paying basically the same amount... that's what happened to me and you wish you would of enjoyed it more... but if your parents make 250 k a year or less than 15 and you can get a crap load of financial aid go for it! but if your in my shoes you will realize how little high school actually matters after you graduate...

    lol i read that and saw myself a year ago @_@ and just had to say something and wanted to shout STOP HIGH SCHOOL DOESN'T MATTER... but i don't know if your parents are filthy rich or dirt poor maybe it will actually matter because you could afford to go to schools that cost 40k+ a year but I don't know of your financial situation so who knows... seriously i went crazy and didn't even go to graduation because i was sick of that school... and im at the point were i'm sick of school completely and i really don't want to go to finish college but it's not much of a choice any more to not further your education past a high school diploma... i really wished somebody had told me this when i was in your shoes but i don't think i would of listened anyways lol

    as far as the calculus courses go... i found ab to extremely easy and by that i mean EXTREMELY easy... it's a semester long course stretched out for a year... but you should take ab before bc and not jump right into bc or you won't do great trust me...
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011
  7. Aug 13, 2011 #6
    Well, let's say I hypothetically raised my standardized test scores significantly and stood a shot out of state (for various reasons). Do you think going the Precalc/Calc (CC, yep) route instead of sucking it up and taking the online class (I'd take the test because it's paid for, but the colleges wouldn't get the AP score) would hurt my admissions chances at out of state schools?

    I hear what you're saying, but I like working too much. Whenever I'm not doing something, I get anxious and depressed (I usually hate summers just because of that), sort of like Sherlock Holmes. I slacked off (over-distracted) in the past and want to make up for it senior year (which sounds unrealistic), but I'm still trying to balance a schedule that is both rigorous and leaves room for some socialization outside of work. Financial aid wise, my parents do make less than 15,000, unfortunately, so I'm aiming for pulling out the ol' Horatio Alger myth.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011
  8. Aug 13, 2011 #7
    Oh well than defiantly use that to your advantage you'll get a lot of financial aid for sure... I wasn't in that situation though... everything will be used against you... your race... your parents education... your parents martial status... hell even your gender... if your not a white male or other things and you parents didn't go to college defiantly consider going to schools that cost a lot of money because they will give you a lot of money for sure... i was in a different situation though and as a result i feel like 4 years of my life was stolen from me as while I'm going to a good school i could of gotten into a much better one... i applied to schools like that got like 8 grand in scholarships and was like how am i suppose to come up with the other 40 k? <_< so ya... but ya i basically nearly had a nervous break down almost... i didn't even go to graduation... i was absolutely sick of that high school i felt like it stole 4 years of my life away from me...

    I wasn't in your situation so how don't know how that will play out for ya... you may actually want to nearly have a nervous break down and kill yourself with studies in high school... lets put it this way... there's this one person who got a full ride to the school i'll be heading to that didn't give me a single penny, but because she was a female, had minority status, her parents didn't go to college, her parents were immigrants she got a full ride and she was only like 4 class rankings ahead of me so she wasn't that much of a better student, in fact i was because i took more harder courses...

    but ya defiantly use those things to your advantage because you will be in the situation were high school will actually matter for you unlike me

    >_< Sorry for my rant ^_^ if you can't tell i strongly regret killing myself in high school, and i really do feel as if 4 years of my childhood were literally taken from me that i will never get back, with studies thinking it actually mattered when it didn't mean a thing in actuality, and want'ed to stop somebody from making them same mistake, but I wasn't in your situation so things will be different for ya...

    but for you it actually will defiantly matter so use that to your advantage because with your credentials you could not only get into schools that cost a lot of money but actually go ^_^
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011
  9. Aug 13, 2011 #8
    **** yeah, the whole "rise to the top" thing is extremely overrated. If somebody goes through their life constantly worried about the "gold right around the corner" they will end up old and alone with nothing around them, wondering, "Where did my life go?" I've seen it happen, but I sometimes still have to remind myself to focus on the present. You might have time to turn it around, though, so don't give up.

    As far as the thread/main topic goes... I've decided to forget the Caltech application (they must be the ONLY school that requires AP Calc BC) and go the Pre-Calc/Calc I route. I really enjoyed all of the math classes I took in person, and hated the ones online.

    My fall schedule as it stands is:
    General Chemistry I w/Lab
    General Physics I w/Lab
    Online Government
    Online Latin II

    To make up for the lack in rigor, I think I should:

    a) Add an online high-school level intro Computer Programming class (Python & Java) to my senior schedule. It's a great class: I could take AP Computer Science A, but the AP class is supposed to be a lot more work and I'm on a full enough schedule as it is.
    b) Add an online AP Biology class to my senior schedule, which is probably just stupid. I'm already taking the equivalent AP Chem/AP Physics B. I know I could handle it... but what's the point?
    c) Take the opportunity to learn how to write proofs and/or linear/matrix algebra/geometry.

    Learning (even basic) programming now would definitely help both problem solving skills and probably allow me to get into some research faster. On the other hand, coming out of high school after working on Courant and Johns - What is Mathematics (or something like it, I've got a long list of titles) might make my future proof-based math classes a lot easier. I can get help on proofs if I get stuck on anything (professors available)... plus not having actual deadlines would give me more time to volunteer/intern so... what's the verdict on this?
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