AP physics and AP calculus are classes that a lot of students seek to avoid. This is a big mistake. Typically, the only students who take these classes are those who plan to be science or engineering majors. The reality is, though, that these classes are very good classes to have on your high school transcript because more and more public universities are having their funding cut, and they are very limited in the number of students that they can accept it to the University. While their funding has been cut, the demand has risen. Consequently, universities have been able to be far pickier about the students that they accept. One of the ways in which they differentiate between students is to evaluate the quality and quantity of classes that the students have taken. Two of those classes that universities really like to see on high school transcripts are AP calculus and AP physics.
How AP Calculus and AP Physics Save you Money
A lot of students will say, “I’m going to be a business major and I don’t need that,” or, “I’m planning on majoring in history or English, or some other non-science, non-technical major,” and they would not normally need AP Calculus and AP physics. All students, though, regardless of major, have to take a core set of general education requirements and all students have to fulfill a science requirement and all students have to fulfill a math requirement. So if you’re looking at attending a university which, let’s take the University of California system, for example in the past few years has had about a 30% tuition increase. From a web site, UC’s tuition and fees for the 2011-2012 school year are estimated to be $13,200 per year. Say you take roughly 12 to 15 credit hours per quarter times three quarters per year, we’ll say that’s 45 credit hours per year divided into $13,200 in tuition and fees. You can see that the cost per credit hour equals $293, or approximately $1173 for one four credit hour University level class, not including the textbooks, which often run in the range $200 each for a university level math or physics course. This compares with taking AP physics at a public high school where the education is free and the textbooks are included. The only caveat to this is that the student must achieve either a level of four or five on the AP physics or AP calculus exam in order to receive college credit for the class. Furthermore, if the student is going to major in science, engineering or math, and pursue a bachelor of science in math, it is probable that the University will not grant credit for AP physics. The University will require the student to take calculus-based physics for scientists and engineers. I am unaware of that level of physics being available in any high school. Typically, high school physics is more of a trigonometry based physics class and while it is good, very good preparation for a college-level, calculus-based physics curricula for science and engineering majors, it is not sufficient to obtain credit at the University level for the physics class. The AP calculus class though probably is and would still save parents substantial amounts of tuition.
AP Class Availability
Unfortunately, many public high schools do not offer AP physics. Part of the problem is the availability of qualified teachers for the subject. Alternatively, some schools may permit students to take physics classes at a local community college, which will grant them both high school and college credit. Again, they will not get college credit for the class if they are slated to become a science or engineering major, or acquire a bachelor of science in math but it is still excellent preparation for those university level classes.
The best thing to do is to approach the principal of your high school and/or school board and, if enough parents can demonstrate need and interest for AP physics classes, oftentimes someone can be found from the local technical employers who could at least teach the class on a part-time basis. Alternatively, be very insistent that your student be afforded the opportunity to take an equivalent class in physics at a community college or online if available, and receive both high school and college credit for this.
Good luck in your efforts and let me know if you have any questions. Please contact me via the Contact Link on my home page.