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Do you HAVE to take biology/chemistry/physics for college prep science?


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Hi all!

I'm doing big-picture planning for my rising 9th grader. (I'm using my state flagship's admissions requirements (OSU) as my main guide, for general purposes, as I make a very rough outline of her high school plan.) The site says it expects 3 natural sciences "with significant lab." Does this mean we have to take biology/chemistry/physics in 9th/10th/11th grades? Are any other sciences acceptable here? (For instance, when I was in college as an English/Education double-degree student, I was required to take one science with a lab, but it could be any science I wanted. I chose botany and I loved it.) 

My daughter is an extremely dedicated artist and will almost certainly be a painting or illustration major in college. She's on board for taking biology in high school, but she is much more interested in taking anatomy and botany as her subsequent sciences, as these would both strongly benefit her drawing and painting skills. (For instance, she's interested in studying anatomy because knowing the specific bones and muscles of the face and body would improve her portraits. Same goes for botany; knowing the structures of plants and studying them in detail would only enhance and reinforce her botanical illustrations.) But it seems like colleges expect the biology/chemistry/physics series? Would love any advice or insight from others. (I'm having a tough time "following my child" at this stage! We've always followed our interests academically--and I'd love to continue doing so at the high school level--but I also want her to be able to get into our state university, know what I mean? Granted, she's most likely going to go to attend an art school or small LAC--and few of the art schools have specific course requirements--but for us, college will likely come down to money/affordability, so I want to keep her options open.) Thank you for any help or suggestions!

Edited by EKT
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I think Botany can have a lab. Anatomy can, too. At least, Dd#2's Human Anatomy class next semester has a lab component. No idea what it will be, but it has one listed.

I try to cover two typical lab sciences out of the generic three. With my eldest, that was Chem & Physics.

Dd #2 is an author/artist and very anti-math, so she did conceptual physics & more of a kitchen chemistry (Guest Hollow's high school course). She finished with a college Meteorology course (which wasn't easy and included math!). I thought that would be it for her science in high school. Turns out she's interested in majoring in kinesiology. So she's taking zoology this semester as that is a prereq for next semester's Anatomy class. Who knew my anti-STEM kid would end up with more science credits in high school than her STEM-major older sister?!

Anyway, I'd just keep her options open. Things change through high school. Play it by ear! Keep an eye on the requirements of the colleges she's looking at.

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From the page you linked, OSU Science requirements for admission are: "Natural science (with significant lab experience)".

So no, you do not have to go with the traditional big 3 of biology/chemistry/physics.

If she ends up going somewhere other than OSU, most colleges, especially if you're NOT going into a STEM field, are pretty flexible about which Natural Sciences you take, so long as you have labs. So your combo of Biology, Anatomy, Botany sounds great to me. 

I will just note that often Anatomy and Botany are just 0.5 credit courses, so I would recommend planning a 4th science to have in your back pocket. For ideas of other sciences, you might look at PAGE 5 of the big pinned thread "High School Motherlode #2" at the top of the High School Board.

There are past threads linked there with ideas for doing Anatomy and Botany for high school.

And there are some past threads linked there on a variety of sciences OTHER than the traditional 3, including:  Equine (Horse) Science; Earth Science/Geology; Marine Biology; Meteorology (Weather); and Zoology (Animals), which all might fit in and support art in some way.

And, there are these 2 threads looking for non-big 3 sciences for high school, as well:

Options for high school science besides Bio/Chem/Phys 
Alternative/creative science ideas for 9th graders? 

BEST of luck! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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40 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

From the page you linked, OSU Science requirements for admission are: "Natural science (with significant lab experience)".

So no, you do not have to go with the traditional big 3 of biology/chemistry/physics.

If she ends up going somewhere other than OSU, most colleges, especially if you're NOT going into a STEM field, are pretty flexible about which Natural Sciences you take, so long as you have labs. So your combo of Biology, Anatomy, Botany sounds great to me. 

I will just note that often Anatomy and Botany are just 0.5 credit courses, so I would recommend planning a 4th science to have in your back pocket. For ideas of other sciences, you might look at PAGE 5 of the big pinned thread "High School Motherlode #2" at the top of the High School Board.

There are past threads linked there with ideas for doing Anatomy and Botany for high school.

And there are some past threads linked there on a variety of sciences OTHER than the traditional 3, including:  Equine (Horse) Science; Earth Science/Geology; Marine Biology; Meteorology (Weather); and Zoology (Animals), which all might fit in and support art in some way.

And, there are these 2 threads looking for non-big 3 sciences for high school, as well:

Options for high school science besides Bio/Chem/Phys 
Alternative/creative science ideas for 9th graders? 

BEST of luck! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Thank you; this is helpful! I am reading through TWTM and it points out that Earth Science is typically not considered high school level science. That made me a little nervous. (I'd love to consider these other sciences, but I was scared they wouldn't be considered high school level.) I will definitely read through these other posts; thanks so much!

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33 minutes ago, EKT said:

Thank you; this is helpful! I am reading through TWTM and it points out that Earth Science is typically not considered high school level science. That made me a little nervous. (I'd love to consider these other sciences, but I was scared they wouldn't be considered high school level.) I will definitely read through these other posts; thanks so much!

That is not what I have seen. A number of public high schools offer Earth Science for full high school credit, and I have seen homeschoolers on these boards do Earth Science for full credit at high school+ level. They usually using a college intro-level textbook, Teaching Company videos, Edx/Coursera or other adult learner MOOC, etc. All of those types of resources would be CLEARLY high school level to intro college level. So I would have to disagree with WTM on that point. 😉

Edited by Lori D.
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There are a few states that require earth science or an environmental science, or have it as an option (regents exam in the case of NY). I know of a school that offers (only) four years of integrated science classes in HS. Alternatively you could study a particular branch (or some combination of)—  geology, astronomy, or oceanography. Cornell’s ornithology class might be interesting combined with bird illustrations. I have seen classes in Field Biology too. Bring back Natural History!

ETA Really anything can be done at a high level of study. You just need to actually do it — just like you wouldn’t make a baking soda and vinegar volcano and call it AP Chem. Holt has a HS level Earth Sci book.

Edited by stripe
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Our public school district just changed the requirements for the incoming Freshman class (class of 2025 I guess that would be?) to add Environmental Science as a requirement.  The previous requirement was biology-chemistry-physics but the new one will be Biology, Environmental Science, and either Chem OR Physics. 

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I don't know about at the high school level (because we didn't have fancy classes like anatomy at my high school), but biology was a pre-req for anatomy at most of the community colleges in my area (I had to take anatomy for nursing school). You might check the requirements to take anatomy in your area.

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6 hours ago, EKT said:

but I also want her to be able to get into our state university, know what I mean? Granted, she's most likely going to go to attend an art school or small LAC--and few of the art schools have specific course requirements--but for us, college will likely come down to money/affordability, so I want to keep her options open.) Thank you for any help or suggestions!

I am from Ohio, too!!!  As you know, Ohio State is very competitive to get into.  For us, it was a financial safety, so I wanted to make sure our children had the best possible chance of getting in.  Both of our two older kids did get in (but did not attend because they received great scholarships at other schools that were a better fit).  Our dd originally wanted to do fashion design, but then changed her mind to wanting to major in Spanish and ESL her senior year.  So we went from looking at fashion schools to traditional schools.  I think it is wise that you want to keep her options open.

On OSU's web site it states that 88% of those admitted have more than the minimum requirements in the natural sciences.  So I would keep that in mind.  Our dd is not a science person. She ended up taking biology and physics DE because they were easier than AP and she could get college credit for them (and she is SO HAPPY she does not have to take science or math in college thanks to her DE classes).  DE classes are only one semester, so this would leave more time for botany and anatomy.  Just a thought!  

I think she CAN take sciences other than chemistry and physics, but I am not sure how OSU would look at those classes IF she does not have chemistry and physics as well.  I think I would call OSU and ask.  The folks in admissions would probably be more than happy to give you some guidance.  

A final thought is that a basic knowledge of chemistry and physics is part of a good education.  This does not mean they need to be studied at the same level as someone who is looking at studying engineering.  But I think it is worth finding a course that would give her basic knowledge.   

 

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16 hours ago, EKT said:

Thank you; this is helpful! I am reading through TWTM and it points out that Earth Science is typically not considered high school level science. That made me a little nervous. (I'd love to consider these other sciences, but I was scared they wouldn't be considered high school level.) I will definitely read through these other posts; thanks so much!

Third edition TWTM says in the footnote of the first high school science page that "In high school, earth science gives way to a more intensive study of astronomy." I think this is to do with a fairly specific vision of neoclassical education, at least partly driven by a tendency for the most common high school science study materials to each be a year long.

It is not at all a prohibition of earth science as a scientific study.

The fact that you are asking whether the traditional trio of "big three" sciences is compulsory itself indicates that strict adherence to TWTM science recommendations may not be for you or your homeschool - which is perfectly acceptable.

(Yes. You can have whichever sciences you like in high school, as long as they're done to the same theoretical and practical level as would be expected from high school - which is itself a somewhat flexible concept).

"Natural sciences" means, "Any science that is not a social science and uses scientific method". So trying to use US History pre- and post-1877, human geography and sociology to get out of doing sciences wouldn't work, even though some subject-appropriate elements of the scientific method may be used in all of those courses (because the admissions office has a separate criterion for social sciences like those). Earth science is also known as physical geography, has its roots in physics (with involvement from both biology and chemistry), and as such is a valid high school natural science.

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I called a State U campus (known for its excellent science programs) to ask about their science entrance requirements, and they were very flexible.  They specifically mentioned earth science as a typical 9th grade course, as well as physical science, which also often gets a "middle school" label around here.  

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Do you "need" to take "the big 3"?  No.  Should you?  Maybe.  It depends upon your goals for a well rounded education.  There are college prep science courses and there are "lighter" sciences.  Also it depends upon college requirements.  And it depends upon changing future plans.  Oldest dd changed her degree path the spring semester sophomore  year to a totally different major/career path which also required a change in 4 year college which had different science and math requirements.   She was prepared though because of her high school transcript and the classes she had already taken.  Oldest was not science/math oriented.  She took Biology, Chemistry, Conceptual Physics, and Equine Science in high school.  In college she took Geology and Meteorology.  

Youngest on the other hand wanted math and science.  In high school she used the same biology text as her sister, but used Zumdahl for Chemistry and Geller and Young for Physics. and took a Genetics class.  She is majoring in math and computer science at college.  

You can pretty much count on the "big 3" sciences being accepted by colleges/universities.  But, not all might accept other sciences.

Edited by HollyDay
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19 hours ago, stripe said:

There are a few states that require earth science or an environmental science, or have it as an option (regents exam in the case of NY). I know of a school that offers (only) four years of integrated science classes in HS. Alternatively you could study a particular branch (or some combination of)—  geology, astronomy, or oceanography. Cornell’s ornithology class might be interesting combined with bird illustrations. I have seen classes in Field Biology too. Bring back Natural History!

ETA Really anything can be done at a high level of study. You just need to actually do it — just like you wouldn’t make a baking soda and vinegar volcano and call it AP Chem. Holt has a HS level Earth Sci book.

It's interesting that you report this! I grew up in NY state, and we all took Earth Science in 9th, followed by bio and chem in 10th and 11th. Then, people who were super into science took physics in 12th grade. So, it's interesting to see the different requirements state to state....

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17 hours ago, mjbucks1 said:

I am from Ohio, too!!!  As you know, Ohio State is very competitive to get into.  For us, it was a financial safety, so I wanted to make sure our children had the best possible chance of getting in.  Both of our two older kids did get in (but did not attend because they received great scholarships at other schools that were a better fit).  Our dd originally wanted to do fashion design, but then changed her mind to wanting to major in Spanish and ESL her senior year.  So we went from looking at fashion schools to traditional schools.  I think it is wise that you want to keep her options open.

On OSU's web site it states that 88% of those admitted have more than the minimum requirements in the natural sciences.  So I would keep that in mind.  Our dd is not a science person. She ended up taking biology and physics DE because they were easier than AP and she could get college credit for them (and she is SO HAPPY she does not have to take science or math in college thanks to her DE classes).  DE classes are only one semester, so this would leave more time for botany and anatomy.  Just a thought!  

I think she CAN take sciences other than chemistry and physics, but I am not sure how OSU would look at those classes IF she does not have chemistry and physics as well.  I think I would call OSU and ask.  The folks in admissions would probably be more than happy to give you some guidance.  

A final thought is that a basic knowledge of chemistry and physics is part of a good education.  This does not mean they need to be studied at the same level as someone who is looking at studying engineering.  But I think it is worth finding a course that would give her basic knowledge.   

 

Yay, Ohio! lol. This information is very helpful, especially about your experience with OSU. 

I definitely agree that chem and physics are part of a good education. My aim is not to dumb down the sciences for her (she's an excellent student all around), but I am struggling with what will be the most relevant and helpful to her. Maybe it would be wise to bio/chem/physics and then in her senior year anatomy or botany (or both, as I might be able to do them DE). Or maybe do several of them DE.... Like you suggest, doing at least 4 sciences would put her in the 88% for OSU.... 

So much to think about. I'm in the struggle space of not wanting to educate solely for the purpose of college admissions, but....also concerned about college admissions, lol. Anyway, thank you for your feedback!!

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Recopying an old post:

My daughter did the following sciences while in high school.

9th: Physical Science
10th: Chemistry (Lab)
11th: G 101: Earth's Dynamic Interior (Lab)
11th: G 102 Earth's Dynamic Surface (Lab)
11th: G 146: Rocks and Minerals (Lab)
12th: ENVS 181: Terrestrial Science (Lab)

We allowed her to study the sciences that interested her at the community college in 11th and 12th grades (namely Geology and Environmental Science) rather than mandating that she study the more traditional Biology in which she had no interest.

Note that she took neither Biology nor Physics.

My daughter applied to ten colleges and was accepted by eight and wait listed by a ninth.  She ended up attending a fairly selective liberal arts college.  None of those ten colleges specifically required Biology, Chemistry, and Physics though all required at least two or three years of science.  Bear in mind that she went on to major in Latin rather than the hard sciences. (She did minor in Geology.)


Regards,
Kareni

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In most cases, I think the subjects you & others have mentioned are considered subtopics beyond the “big 3” umbrella.

So she might take a standard Biology 1 her freshman year, followed by Anatomy & Physiology as a Biology 2-level course (as opposed to Cellular Biology, which is a more typical focus for Bio 2). The same goes, I would think, for a semester of Botany or Equine Science. If you want more than a half credit for Botany, she might need Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry as a prerequisite. Equine Science might involve a number of dissections (lab component) & shadowing a large-animal veterinarian. 

Earth Science can be approached this way, as well - through Geology, Meteorology, Astronomy. Following Physics & Astronomy prerequisites, Astrophysics or Theoretical Physics. 

Most of these are considered university-level sciences because they require a vast amount of background knowledge. I would look at descriptions at the university level for whichever of these courses most interests her & work backwards from there. 

Edited by Shoes+Ships+SealingWax
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