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Stuck in AP Muck


As we head into the spring semester, many Juniors begin to anticipate taking AP tests in May. (Remember, they are only offered once a year. Plan to take them at the end of the year you complete the class.) We’re often asked how colleges view AP tests scores and whether or not to send them when applying. As with everything in the college universe, it depends. Here are some issues to consider:

  • Not everyone who takes an AP class is planning to skip that class once they get to college. Some schools, especially state schools, may give you credit whether you want it or not if they see these scores. In the name of budget and graduating on time, minimizing the number of courses a student needs to take can be a positive for the university.

  • If college credit is not an issue for you, one way or the other, and you have 5’s, or 4’s send them. They can only reflect positively on you. To be clear, however, most schools don’t consider AP scores as part of the admission decision.

  • Some scholarship programs will consider AP scores in their process. So read the fine print on these.

  • Even if you don’t send in official scores, you can list them on your college application under “awards” or in the section where you can self-report. By the way, the College Board gives AP Scholar designation to students who do well on the exams. Check out AP Honors Scholars to see the requirements. These honors designations are also good things for the “awards” section of your application. You want the admissions folks to see that you challenged yourself. Which is always a good thing.

  • Be sure you understand the particular college’s policy on AP test scores before sending. If what you want is course credit, verify what score you’d need to get it. Usually between 3-5. If you want to get placed in an upper level course, a good AP score could allow you to skip a required lower level course, regardless of whether or not you get course credit. Sending scores for these purposes can be done after acceptance.

  • Some high schools put AP scores on official transcripts. Be clear on what your school does. However, even if those scores are low, most colleges are still more interested in the fact that you challenged yourself by taking the most advanced courses offered.

Clear as mud, right? Bottom line – if you got 5’s and you’re applying to highly selective schools, send them. If you feel iffy about your scores, don’t send them. If you want college credit or a chance to skip lower level courses, send them after you’re accepted. We think.


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