Written By: Anna Lucas
Getting into an elite college for engineering such as MIT, Stanford, CalTech, etc. is a dream for tons of aspiring engineers across the world. And while extracurriculars and volunteering are important to be accepted into these schools, the classes you choose to challenge yourself with during your high school career are just as important. Taking challenging classes in high school shows colleges that you have the ability to succeed in difficult curriculums, which is an important skill to have when enrolled in these elite schools as the work can be grueling and not everyone can handle it. Taking hard classes is also important because it shows colleges that not only can you handle difficult subjects, but in fact choose to do them of your own volition because you enjoy the challenge.
While these classes are important to take, it can be hard to choose what classes exactly you should choose, as there are 38 AP classes in total offered by College Board, and you can take an honors version of almost every class at your school. So, in this article I will be detailing the best classes to take that relate to engineering to challenge yourself and show colleges that you are capable and eager to succeed in demanding subjects.
1. AP Calculus AB/BC
Invented by Isaac Newton in the 17th century, Calculus is a branch of mathematics that deals with the finding and properties of derivatives and integrals of functions, by methods originally based on the summation of infinitesimal differences. AP Calculus is usually separated into two classes, AB and BC. In some schools AB and BC will both be separate year long classes, and in other schools AB and BC are each a semester long, and you take both in one year. Regardless of how your school offers these classes, taking them is important. By taking these challenging calculus classes, you not only show colleges that you have the capability of succeeding in a rigorous math class, which is vital in an engineering major as much of engineering is simply math, but also that math is something you like, or at least don’t dread, which is again important as so much of engineering is math.
2. AP Physics
Physics is the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. The subject matter of physics includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms. AP Physics is a great class to take in high school, because it is challenging and vital to engineering. Of course, colleges love to see students who challenge themselves, so by taking an AP Physics class rather than a regular physics class, you show colleges that you are choosing to take harder classes. In addition, physics is vital to all aspects and fields of engineering and because most colleges forgo the teaching of basic physics as its assumed that students will already know it, taking an AP Physics class shows that you already have a good foundation in physics, and are thus capable of moving onto the harder, more complicated aspects of engineering.
3. AP Computer Science
Unless you are going into computer science or data engineering, taking a computer science class might not seem important as it isn’t “relevant” to your field. However, this idea is actually incorrect and could in fact damage your chances of being accepted into an elite college. Even if you aren’t studying a computer science related field in college, schools still want their students to have a well rounded education of all fields of engineering, while of course having a much more in-depth expertise in one specific field than the rest. And if you forgo this said well-rounded education in exchange for focusing exclusively on your field, colleges are less likely to accept you as you could damage their ideal. However, if you are going into a computer science related field, then you will, obviously, want to display to colleges your passion for computer science by taking classes such as AP Computer Science Principles and/or AP Computer Science A.
4. AP Chemistry
Chemistry is the branch of science that deals with the identification of the substances of which matter is composed, and the use of these processes to form new substances. Similar to the reasons why AP Physics is a good class to take for engineering, AP Chemistry is too. This is because chemistry is deeply rooted in most fields of engineering so even if it is less important in your specific field, it is important to have a solid background in. Additionally, taking a class like this also displays your willingness to challenge yourself in your education, which is always something colleges are eager to see. And it again solidifies your background in a well rounded engineering education.
5. The Hardest English, and History classes You Can Afford
Although most STEM oriented students dread their English and history classes, and many can’t think of anything more useless to their education than learning the humanities, it is actually still important to challenge yourself with these classes. As I’ve mentioned multiple times before, colleges are looking for a well rounded education in all aspects of your high school career, and yes, this includes English and history. It is still important to challenge yourself in these classes as well, as colleges want to see students taking the most challenging classes (in every subject) that they can, and so taking AP or Honors classes for STEM subjects, and then taking regular English and history is a very odd look on a transcript. And, at the very least, if you get a 3 or higher on the AP tests for these classes, some colleges will allow you to skip them once you reach the college level.