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The A through Z for Understanding the AP

The College Board just released millions of AP score reports over the past week. Students who opted to take AP exams in May now have their scores in hand. The grading scale of 1 to 5 leaves little room for interpretation leading many students to wonder how their scores will impact their admissions process.

I have received hundreds of emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls from families over the last several days asking questions. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Some colleges may give students college credit for high AP scores (usually a 4 or a 5). This can allow a student to graduate early and save money in the process. Check college websites to learn what credit will be granted.
  2. Most highly selective colleges aren't as generous with giving credit for high AP scores. A student might be able to take a higher-level course because of a high AP score, but that won't necessarily allow them to graduate early. Colleges want students taking their own courses for intellectual reasons, and financial reasons as well.
  3. AP scores are NOT required for admission.
  4. However, colleges almost expect to see AP scores if the student took AP courses during the school year.
  5. When a student takes an AP course during the school year and doesn't report the AP exam score, colleges will wonder why.
  6. Students can self-report AP scores on their applications, but a formal score report needs to be sent by the College Board to the colleges if the student wants their scores to be used in the evaluation process.
  7. AP scores of a 5 or a 4 put students in a competitive range from an AP-perspective, especially if they are in a subject area that the student plans to pursue in college.
  8. AP scores are viewed in a holistic way more than a quantifiable way among highly selective colleges. In other words, the colleges may not factor the AP scores into an admissions calculation (like they might do for GPAs, ACT, SAT, Subject Tests, etc.), but they take note of scores and they can impact the admissions decision.
  9. AP scores are a way to standardize what students learn as high schools, teachers, and teaching styles vary across the country.
  10. Be aware that some high schools put AP scores (along with other standardized test scores) on students' transcripts automatically. If a student doesn't want the colleges to see their scores, they should work with their counselor to get them removed from the transcript.

"AP scores are viewed in a holistic way more than a quantifiable way among highly selective colleges." TWEET THIS

AP scores are technically not required for college admissions. But if an admissions committee has the scores in front of them, they will use them as a way to determine a student's overall competitiveness. If a student did not do as well as they had wanted, they can withhold these scores. While colleges may be deeply curious, they cannot factor withheld scores into their final decision.