Midterms came and midterms left. Now that I am halfway through my second semester of introductory classes, I will take some time to evaluate how my coursework in high school prepared me for the rigor of college. I will fully admit that I did not take any of the Advanced Placement classes that correspond to physics and math. But I have looked through their outlines and believe that I can make a fair assessment.
Math 104 corresponds to AP Calculus BC or calculus II. This appears to cover approximately the same material as the AP class. It begins with u substitution for integrals and advances through the usual applications of integration to polar functions. Fortunately, for some students, it spends little time on solid revolutions. I remember studying them in a lot of detail in high school. Yet there is one significant difference with this class in respect to the AP version. As I have previously noted, Princeton math is very abstract. They frequently throw in problems that are beyond our knowledge as students just to challenge us. Sometimes this is fun. Other times it is a real pain.
Funny Story: Last semester, the professor gave my class a very difficult problem to solve. One student asked, “Why did you give this to us? It’s not practical.” The professor responded by saying, “You’re a Princeton student. Figure it out.”
AP Calculus AB adequately prepared me for this class. It allowed me to smoothly transition from one level to the next. The math teacher at CR taught me well.
I am currently in the middle of learning sequences and infinite series. Pray for me.
Physics 104 corresponds to AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. This covers more material than the AP class. I believe that it is more equivalent to AP Physics 2 but includes calculus. In all, it includes electricity, magnetism, waves, and electromagnetic radiation whereas the AP version only covers the first two. I was surprised by this class. It flooded over me like a tidal wave at the beginning of the semester. While the workload for it is not greater than that of Physics 103, the topic is much more difficult to study because I have less physical experience with it. Anyone can visualize the projectile motion of a cannon ball and predict its motion. Determining the magnetic field induced by an electrical charge-carrying wire is harder to imagine and calculate. After much study, though, I think that I am catching up. Do not let physics II fool you; it will be difficult.
AP Physics 1 and C: Mechanics gave me enough knowledge of Newtonian mechanics to understand a few underlying concepts, but E&M is an almost entirely independent subject. Be prepared to study hard and learn new stuff.
All freshman at Princeton are required to take a mandatory writing class. This roughly correlates to AP English Language & Composition. Ideally, students are supposed to acquire the basic skills of academic writing and learn about the research materials that are available to them. In practice, this does not always happen. Generally, I was very well prepared for this class. The rhetorical skills that high schoolers learn in the AP equivalent are rather useful in this setting. Additionally, the class teaches students how to write about anything. I am not a huge fan of my writing seminar’s topic; however, AP English has allowed me to endure it with few problems.
At the time that I took AP English, I did not enjoy the class because of its workload. Although it was tough, I am glad that I took it along with a dual enrollment class two years later. It has prepared me very well — perhaps the best of all the AP classes that I took — for college.
Once again, there is no AP counterpart for this class. Still, its primary focus is science and computer programming. We are supposed to learn the programming language Matlab within six weeks. That did not go too well for me. The class also uses the application Latex frequently for writing technical documents.
I would definitely recommend that anyone in high school take AP Computer Science. It will definitely help you to integrate into a collegiate science curriculum more quickly. I have to play catch-up and learn programming next semester.
Once again, I can confidently say that my high school education prepared me for academics at Princeton. While there are a few gaps, I have been able to fill them in. Nothing is perfect, but public schooling works.