AP Physics vs. AP Chemistry

dervogel

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Jan 15, 2017
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I'm in the process of selecting my courses for my senior year, but I can't decide whether to take AP Chemistry or AP Physics. I know chemistry and physics are both emphasized and taken at USAFA, but is one looked at more favorably than the other?

A little background on my school. I go to a small private school that is extremely rigorous academically. All of my classes are honors classes and because of this, we are only allowed to take 3 AP's in a single year. So far, I will be taking AP Calculus BC, AP Mandarin 5, and either AP Chemistry or AP Physics. At my school, AP Physics has the reputation of being the hardest science class; one that requires a lot of commitment outside of regular school hours. AP Chemistry will still be challenging, but won't require as much commitment. So far, I'm leaning towards chemistry because I like it more, but I'm willing to take AP Physics if that would be better for my USAFA application. And before someone suggests it, I have already asked my counselor if I can take both classes (4 AP's in a year), but he said no because it goes against school policy. :/

A little insight would be much appreciated. Thanks.
 

Capri120

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Feb 10, 2016
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I'm in the process of selecting my courses for my senior year, but I can't decide whether to take AP Chemistry or AP Physics. I know chemistry and physics are both emphasized and taken at USAFA, but is one looked at more favorably than the other?

A little background on my school. I go to a small private school that is extremely rigorous academically. All of my classes are honors classes and because of this, we are only allowed to take 3 AP's in a single year. So far, I will be taking AP Calculus BC, AP Mandarin 5, and either AP Chemistry or AP Physics. At my school, AP Physics has the reputation of being the hardest science class; one that requires a lot of commitment outside of regular school hours. AP Chemistry will still be challenging, but won't require as much commitment. So far, I'm leaning towards chemistry because I like it more, but I'm willing to take AP Physics if that would be better for my USAFA application. And before someone suggests it, I have already asked my counselor if I can take both classes (4 AP's in a year), but he said no because it goes against school policy. :/

A little insight would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Policies can be waived. DD's school policy was no more than 3 dual credit courses in a semester...she took 4 - 5 for her last six semesters on top of 3 - 4 regular high school classes. It was a matter of talking to the counselor, principal and superintendent. They made an exception because they knew she could handle the load and she did.

However, you need to ask yourself first if you can manage both courses; although, at the Academy, you won't have a choice, you will most likely be taking Physics and Chemistry in the same semester.

What science courses have you already taken in your Freshman - Junior year? This could play into the equation as well for your application. Will you have four years of science when you graduate, hopefully courses with labs?

The Academy will look at what is available, school profile, "restrictions" such as you mentioned on how many AP courses you can take, what you have taken to challenge yourself with what is available, and go from there.
 

MidwestDad

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Feb 15, 2017
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To be clear can you take 'regular' Phys/chem in addition to the one AP? Good prep for the future regardless of which AP you choose.
I would vote Physics but cant say; I doubt it influences your app that much apart from which one gives you best chance for GPA.
If you are thinking of an engineering major Physics is a broader foundation for future course content [don't think SAs offer Chem Eng ??]
 

Capri120

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USAFA doesn't offer a Chemical Engineering major, but they do offer three paths for Chemistry - General Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, and Biochemistry (DD's major)...she loves Chemistry, not so much Physics.

As MidwestDad said, take one of the AP Science courses, then take the other as a regular course, if available.
 

dervogel

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What science courses have you already taken in your Freshman - Junior year? This could play into the equation as well for your application. Will you have four years of science when you graduate, hopefully courses with labs?
To be clear can you take 'regular' Phys/chem in addition to the one AP? Good prep for the future regardless of which AP you choose.

Yes, I took Biology as a freshman, Physics as a sophomore, and I am currently taking Chemistry. I also forgot to note that regular Chemistry/Physics is a prerequisite for the respective AP courses at my school (I'm not sure how it is at other schools), so I cannot take AP Chemistry or AP Physics without taking regular Chemistry or Physics. That's why I didn't take the AP courses this year.

The Academy will look at what is available, school profile, "restrictions" such as you mentioned on how many AP courses you can take, what you have taken to challenge yourself with what is available, and go from there.

So although I can take 3 AP's a year starting junior year, I didn't take any this year. I have good reasons though. Part of the reason is the prerequisite problem: I would've taken one of the AP sciences this year, but I needed to take the regular course first. If you're wondering why I didn't take AP Physics this year on top of regular Chemistry, it's because I'm in an extremely competitive auditioned select choir at my school that performs all over the country. That takes up a class slot and makes it where I cannot take another science class. I'm not willing to give up choir either, I think it complements my application and I enjoy it. Same goes for AP Mandarin 5: I considered dropping Mandarin to take an extra science class, but I think having the skills in Mandarin is extremely beneficial in the military and I don't want to give that up. Are these valid reasons for not taking the maximum AP's allowed during my junior year? I don't want the Academy to think that I didn't take every opportunity to challenge myself; I just think that having choir and Mandarin, although not advanced math or science classes, is more beneficial to my application.
 
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Daretodream

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Sep 17, 2014
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I can only speak from the experience and information from my DS. He went to a much larger school than you, but pressed himself to take the most rigorous schedule offered at the school. This included AP Cal and AP Cal BC and two AP Physics classes. He also took AP Chemistry. He made 4 and 5s on all of those AP Exams. He is in his second semester at USAFA and the hardest class for him so far has been Chemistry. He said Cal was manageable and Physics has been easy.
Based on other C4Cs I would say Chemistry, Calculus and Computer Science are the classes that cause the most trouble. You can make your decisions with that knowledge in hand.
 

5Day

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Nov 18, 2015
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Admissions will not have a preference. Take either. Take chemistry because you like it. Take physics because it will challenge you and make college physics easier. Take the one that fits your schedule better. Flip a coin. Your choice.
 

USAFA10s

USAFA Class of 2012 Kirtland, AFB
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Nov 18, 2007
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For admissions, it doesn't really matter however, is recommend taking whichever one you are worse at (likely physics if you prefer chemistry)

This is because as others have mentioned, USAFA freshman Physics is tough, as is chemistry (although I found the chemistry pretty easy after just taking regular high school chemistry).

By taking the one you are less gifted at, you will be better prepared for USAFA
 
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