Have to Take Chemistry?

Dear Ivey Coach:

It’s “choose classes for next year” time for my daughter, who is in 10th grade now, and we’re not sure what to do when it comes to the best science class for her.

She took Physical Science in 9th grade and Biology this year. At her school, most students take Chemistry in 11th grade to fulfill their three years of science, but they have the option to take a science elective instead. She’s not a science type and everyone tells her that the Chemistry teacher is awful, so she’s serious considering taking one of these science electives: Environmental Science or Advanced Topics in Biology. Both of the electives are taught by her current Biology teacher who she loves.

Will it hurt her chances of admission to take a science elective instead of Chemistry?


Dear Mom:

It would be so reassuring (not to mention helpful!) if there were a magic number of AP classes required for admission to selective colleges! But, alas, there are few absolutes in the world of college admissions. What is set in stone is that the most selective colleges in the United States will expect to see 3-4 years of science in high school. Biology, Physics, and Chemistry are imperatives (though not necessarily in that order). Since we know that admissions officers will look carefully at the rigor of your daughter’s curriculum, her curricular choices for the next two years should serve her college ambitions and she should align her choices with the courses that will give her the most options. That said, not taking Chemistry could have a negative impact on your daughter’s chances of admission at a selective college. If she is seriously considering those schools, she should take Chemistry and she should take it at a higher level (e.g. Honors, AP, IB, Dual Enrollment). If you get pushback, remind your daughter that junior year is the “peak” year for college admissions, and that the best thing she can do for herself is to put her academics first and push for her absolute best performance ever. In this case, by playing the long game she will maximize her choices come application season.