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Your high schooler and science

Science for life: Students in high school traverse the college track

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By GreatSchools Staff

Science isn’t just a body of knowledge — it's a way of acquiring scientific concepts and principles, and the best high school programs get students interested in investigating the world around them. As teens learn facts and vocabulary, they develop the ability to ask scientific questions, plan experiments to answer these questions, and develop reasonable explanations based on their observations.

Science standards vary widely from state to state and school to school, but the thinking skills taught by science are universal. The topics below are examples taken from several states and therefore merely guidelines. To see how your child's schoolwork compares, check out your state's science standards.

Is your teen studying the right stuff?

It’s not all test tubes: Science teaches analytical thinking, creative problem-solving, and logic. Whatever their plans, graduating high school seniors should have a solid grasp of science and its relevance in their lives.

The makers of the nation's two college admissions tests have specific recommendations for the science courses needed to prepare students for college. The College Board recommends the following coursework:

  • Two semesters in biology
  • Two semesters in chemistry and/or physics
  • Two semesters in earth/space sciences, advanced chemistry, or physics

ACT recommends three or more years of laboratory science, as do most competitive universities

Because science also requires math skills, students’ course load should also include four years of mathematics, including advanced algebra and two- and three-dimensional geometry.

Comments from readers

"Actually, NY standards are some of the highest in the US. The sad part is that, despite all the rhetoric, the standards that you see quoted here haven't really changed since I was in high school over 30 years ago. I teach in the sciences at the university level and find even the better students poorly prepared. If we want to be competitive, we need to go beyond the current standards. "
"This is good as far as it goes, but it should go much further. The Project 2061 is very much last century thinking. The national standards coming out in 2014 will go further into scientific literacy, and be concerned more with conceptual understanding and less with gender politics. "
"I would like to improve the science instruction in all grade levels, primary, middle and high school. How can you assist me? New York seems to lag behind. "
"i wanna come to one of the best high school of Vancouver in canada,what can i do?please help me. thanks "
"i think this is reallt great"
"Lab sciences if done right makes science soooo much more interesting and fun. "
"Lab classes are very use-less."
"I live in St. Louis, Missouri. My son will be attending high school for the 2009-2010 year. I am having trouble finding him a school that cover science classes dealing with earth and space in addition to African American History and Mathe classes. Do you have any information on schools that offer some or all of these classes in my city? I lucked up on this website and so far it is very helpful. "
"Yes I agree with everything. There is an organization I am active with that wishes to reach out to high school science by offering scholarships and teaching aids in the New England area. The organization is LRIG or Laboratory Robotics Interest Group and focuses on physical & life sciences. Send me an email if you want details on this scholarship or further details on how they can help. "