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AP Scores Are Back. Should You Report Them to Colleges?

I am really proud of all the high school students who took the Advanced Placement exams under such difficult circumstances this May.

The scores were released yesterday and the flurry of questions about these exams flooded my email account, dominated the discussion board on my Application Nation groups, and swirled in the minds of students all over the world. 

What if I didn't do as well as expected?
Do I need to report these scores?
What do admissions officers really think of these exams?
Will they value the scores as much this year given the fact that they were taken at home, online, and only covered part of the AP curriculum?
It is important to remember that AP scores have never been a required part of the college admissions process. Over the years, though, students have been led to believe that they matter more than even the grade they received in the class. Yet the truth is that nothing is more important in the admissions process than the core academic classes a student takes from 9th grade on and the grades they receive in these classes each year. Admissions officers know all the stories of how the College Board handled these exams this year. If there was ever a year not to worry about AP scores, this is it.

Related reading: The College Board Gets an F for AP Online Exams

If you report AP scores, admissions officers will look at them, though. It is another piece of information in the application. But if they are not required and you didn't do as well on them as you had hoped, why provide them? I only recommend that students self-report these scores if it can help them. If you are applying to highly selective colleges, they like to see 5s on AP exams. Getting a 4 is okay in their eyes, but I have been part of admissions committees where the student gets a 4, especially in a subject matter they plan to pursue, and that's enough of a reason for that student to be denied. 
Speaking of providing these scores, students should never feel the need to send official reports for AP scores to colleges. Not only does it cost extra money to do that, but the student loses control over which scores they want to share. Simply self-report the scores which will help you in the testing section of your application. That's because self-reported AP scores are fine for the admissions process. Remember, AP scores are not a required element. Ever.
While admissions officers are happy to get their hands on AP scores, they know it is up to the student to share them. If a student doesn't share their score on an AP exam, that's their prerogative. Let those admissions officers think what they want. They quickly glance to see if AP scores are provided. If not, they move onto reviewing other information just as quickly.
However, be careful about sharing other information which can reveal your scores in the honors section of the application. The College Board will be eliminating the National AP Scholar Awards starting next year. In the meantime, if you leave off your AP scores yet report that you are an AP Scholar or AP Scholar with Honor, for example, the admissions officers will know that you got some lower scores. So please don't feel the need to list this as an honor. This is a fairly common honor which never is a reason for admission. 
So for all the students who were happy with their AP scores, you can self-report them in your application if you truly believe they will strengthen your candidacy. If you weren't thrilled with your scores, it's not as big of a deal as you might think. Just leave that section blank or only report what you want. Because in the end, students need to put their best foot forward in the application process. And colleges will evaluate them on what is provided, not on what is left off.