Do Colleges Look at AP Exam Scores for Admissions Decisions?

You’ve worked hard, taking advanced placement classes. These courses are incredibly challenging throughout the year: the reading, the homework, the insight needed for class participation. Then, of course, there are the culminating AP exams themselves. The amount of time studying for them is significant, and the tests themselves are difficult. Now it’s time to submit your college applications and you wonder if the colleges will look at your AP exam scores as they make their admissions decisions. You are likely asking this question whether you did well on the exams or not. The answer affects you either way. In general, whether college admissions counselors look at your scores is really up to you. Let us explain why.

To Submit or Not to Submit Your AP Scores with Your College Applications

I am asked by my students all of the time if colleges will consider their AP exam scores when determining admission. My answer is it depends. Some schools require you to report your scores. The number of such schools are very few, but there are schools that do, such as Princeton, which requires a student to self report all test scores. So in those cases they will see and consider your scores. Whether the schools that don’t have such a requirement look at your scores really comes down to you deciding whether they do or not. There is a self-reporting section on the Common App, and typically in other applications that you complete. It is in this section that you can share your scores with the school at the time you are applying. I advise my students to very carefully consider if they want to share those scores at the time of application.

If the student has scored a 4 or 5 on ALL of their AP exams, I say sure, self report the scores. But if they have scored below a 4 on any of the exams, I recommend that they think carefully before self-reporting the scores with their application, even the high scores. Why? Well, you don’t want to highlight your low scores. I know, you are probably saying to yourself, “But why shouldn’t I highlight my high scores?” Well, the college admissions officers are looking at your transcript. They will see what AP classes you have taken. If you only report the good scores, they are left to wonder what happened with the other AP exams. So I always recommend an all or nothing approach when it comes to AP exam scores. If you received a 4 or 5 on all exams, by all means self-report your scores so the college admissions officers can see them.

If You Don’t Submit AP Exam Scores with Your Application, When Do You Submit Them?

Of course you want credit for your hard work. So If you did not submit your AP exam scores with your application, you should submit them to the college you will be attending after you have accepted their admissions offer. This will allow the school to assess whether they are going to provide you college credit for any of the AP courses that you have taken. Typically, most of the time schools want to see a 4 or 5 in order to give you credit for the class. Every so often they will give credit for a score of 3 depending upon the exam.

To Sum It Up

Most of the time, it is up to you whether a college will look at your AP exam scores during the admissions process. The vast majority of colleges do not require that you submit your scores at the time of application. If you scored a 4 or 5 on all of your AP exams then by all means self-report. If you did not, you may want to hold off on reporting so that the schools don’t see the low scores or wonder what happened with the other exams if you only submit your high scores.

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