Advance Math Class, Drop or Fail, For VMI and USNA


Sep 12, 2017
My son is applying to AROTC and NROTC scholarships, USNA, VMI and Citadel. He has a 1270 SAT (670 math) and a 3.6 gpa. Leadership classes, Varsity sports, volunteer time, AP classes and so much more. The question I have is what is better to have, a Fail in pre-calculus or not have taken it? Will not having pre-calculus hinder his chances of getting in to these colleges?
Well if those are the only two choices - then in my opinion don't Take it. An F in a major class never looks good - the old adage of " better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" may or may not be true in Love but in college admissions - an F is just a failing grade. But really if you are certain he will fail pre- calculus in HS, then you should be asking yourself "what are his chances of surviving USNA where he'll have to take Calc when you know that he will fail in HS pre- Calc?". If he is interested in VMI - I'm assuming that he is not going to be an Engineer as there are 4 semesters of Calculus awaiting you if that's the case. Otherwise - that's a reasonably competitive GPA and SAT for VMI - he will look ok for admissions I suspect
I can't speak to the other schools but lacking Calc or Pre-Calc for USNA will not look good. And an F in Pre-Calc will also look bad. USNA requires a minimum of 3 semesters of Calc among the other STEM based requirements. An F or not taking Pre Calc more than likely doesn't instill in USNA that this candidate could handle the course load. NROTC I believe even requires 2 semesters of Calc and physics and the large majority of scholarships are awarded to STEM majors. I would say that not taking Pre Calc or an F would definitely hinder his chances for USNA or NROTC. But none of us are admissions at USNA or sit on the NROTC board, so you never know unless you apply.
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Hang on a sec. It's the middle of September. Most schools just started for the year. Unless there is something we are missing here, the best response to the OP's question - whether the better option is to not take pre-calc, or to take it and get an F - is "neither one." The BEST option is, take pre-calc AND earn an A.
this may be an issue of knowing your limitations. It sounds like Calc is a must for USNA. If he wants that, or any STEM major, he has to be able to do Calc. My DS took AP Calc in high school, then took Calc 1 his first year in college. He stated AP calc was a joke compared to college calc 1. Sounds like he needs to take pre-calc with tutor assistance and see, or decide that USNA and/or STEM majors aren't in his future. College is expensive, best to have an idea of what you have a basic aptitude for before you put up big bucks. DS had 30 people in his ECE major his first year, they ended up with 7. According to him, half of them that changed major got hit with either Calc 1 or Calc 2
VMI will require an advanced math (beyond 2 years of algebra and 1 year geometry) for admissions which for most students is pre-calc. If you are in NROTC at VMI calculus classes are required. Better figure out a strategy to survive pre-calc in high school.
Any of the STEM majors are going to require advanced math and so will USNA. Calculus in college is a lot tougher than AP Calculus in high school. My DD is having a tougher time with it in college and math is her best subject. She aced AP Calc in high school. Recommend getting a tutor and doing Pre-Calculus in high school in order to get started if it's not too late and determine his aptitude for it. He may be surprised and do well. Some of the parents on the VTCC parent's Facebook page recommend using the Khan Academy which is free for additional help and practice. DD used it for SAT prep and it significantly increased her score. You definitely want to explore this before college or admission to USNA if he gets an appointment before he gets in over his head. Military school or the academies are tough enough without adding this pressure to it. If math is not his thing, then he needs to explore other majors where it is not required. It does not mean that he can't seek his goal of becoming a naval officer but it may change his path to getting there.