Calculus. That vaunted gold standard of high school curriculums. But how do colleges look at it? What if my school offers AB and not BC, vice-versa, or none? Many of our students come to us seeking a degree in a STEM field, such as engineering, pre-med, neuroscience, etc. But charting a course towards these majors requires careful planning and consideration. While Calculus is considered a staple of any STEM major, touching numerous fields, it is important to remember some major differences between AB and BC.
Depending on your school, you may take them as a sequence, one or the other, or jump straight into BC. Calculus AB covers the materials from a first semester college calculus course, whereas Calculus BC covers that material, plus content from a second semester course. So, BC tends to move faster than AB, which is an important consideration when trying to jump from Pre-Calculus straight into BC. Success in BC definitely indicates a high level of mastery under tight deadlines, a key feature of all STEM programs. Also, some colleges offer more credit for BC than AB. For example, the University of Michigan offers 8 credits for a 5 in BC as opposed to 4 credits for a 5 in AB. This is indicative of the weight given to each class, and if you know what schools you would like to attend, you can strategically research this and position yourself for success!
But what if my school doesn’t offer it at all? Have no fear! No high school is perfect, and many of our students gain admission to the best schools in the country without every AP course taken. As long as you can show depth of interest in a subject, coupled with the most rigorous course load in your unique situation, a lack of courses won’t necessarily be an issue. Also, tutoring and self-study for an AP exam is always an option, and securing a 5 without a core class at your school will be sure to impress admissions readers. Finally, make sure to think critically about where you are headed. Is Calculus necessary for my major? There is a fundamental difference between applying for college and what you do afterwards. Setting yourself up for success in both will require experts who have been there, so don’t be afraid to reach out to one of our experienced counselors today!