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If I wanted to pursue astrophysics in the future, what classes would be best to prioritize in highschool?

I am a freshman in highschool and I have an interest in astrophysics and wish to take it in college, and maybe take it further if I end up really liking it. But I'm wondering what classes I should look into during my next four highschool years, and if there are any outside courses I should try applying for. I understand that getting good grades in all classes are a good thing, but which classes would be best to prioritize and go all out in. (And if possible, is there any advice that you might have that will be able to help me well-balance my school work, outside activities, and time to relax? This way my highschool years may give me the minimum amount of stress:))
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F’s Answer

Hi Izabell,

If you are interested in the beta sciences, it never hurts to have good command of basic mathematics and physics. Mathematics is the language used by all the models that describe the natural phenomena you want to study in Astro Physics! (Myself - being trained as a Physical Chemist - did follow the standard curriculum that was consisting of 40% mathematical topics in the 1st year).
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Lynette’s Answer

First of all, YAY for your interest in science!


Although you might not guess it by where I ended up (marketing), back when I was in high school, I wanted to be an astronaut, or an aerospace engineer. I survived one year in Engineering school, before I decided it was not for me! But, I still have a passion for all things space-related.


Based on my “year one” experience, your first year in college will most likely be focused on foundation (101) courses, like chemistry, calculus, physics, and basic astronomy. So, I highly recommend you focus your high school studies on taking as many of those classes as you can. Not all schools offer advanced placement (AP) classes, but if they do, try to get into as many AP science and math classes as you can, especially if they offer AP Chemistry and AP Calculus. I would also try to get at least one class in computer science, if your school offers it.


I took AP Calculus, Chemistry and Physics in high school, and I was extremely grateful that I did. I might not have passed my first year in engineering school, had I not had that foundation in high school. Compared to my classmates in college, I struggled far less than they did in Calculus, for example, because I had already studied some of that in high school, and it wasn't new to me. It was still challenging, especially when taken along with so many other college-level science courses. But, I did a lot better than I would have, if it was all brand new. I was also shocked by the sheer size of my 101 Chemistry course, first year in college. It was a huge auditorium full of students, and I struggled with that lecture hall format. So, I was really glad I had taken some chemistry in high school, where the classes were smaller, and it was easier to pay attention and ask questions in class.


Outside of school, I would also look for ways to get involved in science & astronomy programs, where you can meet and mingle with other people who enjoy studying space & astronomy, too. Ask the researchers and scientists you meet about their experiences, and how they got to where they are, today. Look online for programs in your area. You may be able to volunteer at a planetarium, space museum, or observatory, if you have one nearby. If you can find a summer camp or day program, that is a great way to make new friends who share your interests, and to have fun while you learn.


Best of luck to you! Reach for the stars!

Lynette recommends the following next steps:

List of observatories in the Bay Area: https://www.ucolick.org/public/bayarealinks.html
Check out this list of colleges offering astronomy-related degrees: https://aas.org/learn/college-departments-offering-astronomy-related-degrees
This is a fantastic resource for finding college programs, where the jobs are, etc. https://aas.org/learn/careers-astronomy
This looks super-cool. You can participate in actual science research projects for NASA! https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscientists
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