The Tech PA Unofficial Guide to Major Selection
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The below guide is based on the collective wisdom and experience of a cross section of Tech parents. The guide contains opinions and subjective statements from parents and is not produced by the school. Some material may also be out of date. If you think information is incorrect, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
What are Majors?
Majors are a unique feature of Tech. As of spring 2020, there are 18 Majors at Tech. Each Major is a focus on a specific area of study, similar in concept to a major in college.
Every 10th grade student chooses a single Major for the courses he or she will take in 11th and 12th grade. Each Major comprises 1 to 4 classes per year that the student will take, in addition to Regents required classes. Some classes are double period. Depending on the Major, students may still have room in their schedules for electives (freely chosen classes) in addition to Major classes and Regents required classes.
Whereas other high schools might allow their students to choose electives every year, at Tech the Major is sort of like choosing most of your electives in a single block for 11th and 12th grades.
Once a student is placed in a Major, it cannot be changed.
Where can I see what the Majors are?
The Majors are summarized on the 2-page Major Selection Summary Sheet on the Tech website.
Classes marked with an J are taken in 11th grade (Junior), while S means 12th grade (Senior).
Classes highlighted in blue are changes from last year.
The "Co-Requisite" notation means "meets the requirement for this major and meets the Regents/Tech requirements for earning a diploma." (more on the Regents/Tech requirements below)
Ex: AP American History is a Law & Society major requirement and satisfies the Regents/Tech diploma requirement of taking a year of US History.
"Co-Requisite" does not mean "class that must be taken simultaneously with another class."
Classes in bold are weighted extra when calculating a student's weighted average. Such weightings are typically applied to AP (Advanced Placement), PLTW, and other college-level classes. (Not all of the PLTW classes on the sheet are bolded, as some are weighted and some are not.)
The orange "CTE" star stands for "Career and Technical Education." CTE is a certification in engineering. We are told CTE is known by schools and industry and can help prove proficiency in technical applications when applying for internships and jobs.
How can I find out more about the classes in each Major?
1. Most classes are summarized on the Tech Majors webpage. Click on the major on the left, then select "Course Descriptions."
2. Students and parents are encouraged to attend Major open houses, where teachers and students from each Major are on hand to answer questions. In 2020, an open house was held on:
Thu, Feb 27, 3:45-6:30pm
3. Parents can ask other parents or contact a teacher or AP (Assistant Principal) in the Major. Students can ask friends in upper grades.
When do students choose a Major?
For 2020, students will rank their Major choices online from February 27-March 9. Announcement of Major assignments will begin on March 16.
How does Tech assign Majors?
Big picture, Major preference is done by grades: the higher a student's grades, the more preference she is given in the selection process.
More specifically, each major has a "Power Index" (PI) which is a weighted calculation of grades from all of 9th grade and the first semester of 10th grade that are relevant to the Major. Priority for the available seats in a Major is determined by each student's PI for the Major.
However, there's generally no need to stress over PIs too much; the school staff works hard to make sure that 95% or more of students get their first choice major. Generally, almost everyone else will get their second choice major.
Here is a more detailed description of the selection process.
The PI calculation for each Major is stated on the 2-page Major Selection Summary Sheet.
Which Major should my student choose? Which is the best?
So of course there is no best and it depends on the student. A student should choose what she's interested in, maybe what she's good at, or maybe what she is thinking of majoring in in college to try it out. Remember, even in college most majors only take 2-3 years to complete, so there's time in college to try different things, too. (Engineering is an exception, as usually it takes a full 4 or even 5 years to complete an engineering degree. So an engineering Major at Tech might be a good way for a student to see what engineering is like before committing to engineering in college.)
To get a sense of difficulty of each Major, attend the Major open houses. Also, see how many AP, PLTW, and college-credit courses are required, as these are typically more challenging.
Many departments have 20 or more teachers, so choosing a Major based on teachers your student hopes to have (or not have), might not be a good strategy.
How does a Major fit into a student's schedule of required classes?
Big picture, each day has 10 periods. Students have 1 period of lunch and 1 period of physical education (PE), leaving up to a maximum of 8 periods/day for academic classes. In general, though, students take 6-7 periods/day of academic classes.
Students don't have to fill every period, but they do need to meet their Major and Regents/Tech diploma requirements.
First, let's review the required courses at Tech. 2 semesters = 1 year.
2 semesters (1 year, 9th grade) of DDP
2 semesters (1 year, 10th grade) of AP Principles of Computer Science
8 semesters (4 years) of English Language Arts
8 semesters (4 years) of Social Studies (4 Global History, 2 US History, 1 US Government, 1 Economics)
6 semesters (3 years) of Mathematics (Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry)
6 semesters (3 years) of Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics)
6 semesters (3 years) of World Languages (Chinese, French, Italian or Spanish)
8 semesters (4 years) of Physical Education & 1 semester of Health Education
Major requirements are in addition to the above Regents/Tech diploma requirements, though some Major classes also fulfill Regents/Tech requirements.
Other things to consider:
Does your student want to continue with music courses, such as Orchestra?
Although Tech only requires math through Trigonometry (most often taken in 10th grade), just about everybody also takes Pre-Calculus, most often in 11th grade. Students who might major in a STEM subject in college should definitely consider taking AP Calculus AB (equivalent to 1 semester of college calculus) or AP Calculus BC (equivalent to 2 semesters of college calculus) at Tech, schedule permitting.
The Finance and Applied Math majors both require an AP Calculus class in 12th grade. Pre-Calculus is a required pre-requisite that is most often taken in 11th grade, after taking Algebra 2 (Trigonometry) in 10th grade. However, some 10th graders are currently in Geometry. Any 10th grader who is currently enrolled in Geometry and is placed in the Finance or Applied Math major MUST attend summer school between 11th and 12th grade to satisfy the Pre-Calculus requirement.
Tech only requires 3 years of foreign language (LOTE), but does your student want to continue with an AP language class in 12th grade?
If your student didn't take Physics in 9th grade (some took Biology instead), he or she will have to take Physics in 11th or 12th grade.
Students will choose electives later in the spring. However, preference for classes is given to students who require those classes for their Major. So if there are upper level classes that your student really wants to take, consider choosing a Major that includes those upper level classes. For example, if your student really wants to take AP Chemistry, then she should probably choose a Major that includes AP Chemistry rather than trying to get AP Chemistry as an elective.