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What Are AP Scholar Awards?

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There are quite a few  benefits to taking AP (Advanced Placement) courses: You are showing colleges that you’re capable of handling college-level material, you are in a more stimulating environment learning challenging material, and you may have opportunity to earn college credit. If you perform exceptionally well on your exams, you may also earn the distinction of AP Scholar. So just what exactly does that mean?


The AP Program

AP courses are offered in high schools across the country. Currently, College Board, which sponsors AP, offers 37 courses covering subjects such as math, literature, history, social sciences, world languages, sciences, the arts, and many others courses. These courses give you the opportunity to learn college-level material in high school. At the end of the courses, students take standardized AP exams.


In some cases, you may be able to learn the material on your own (or with a tutor) and take the exam without actually taking the course. (Check out our guide to self-studying AP exams for more information.) If you earn a high enough score (usually a 4 or 5), you may be able to earn college credit or higher placement in subjects in college, depending on the subject and school.


If you are having trouble deciding which courses to take, check out our guide How to Choose Which AP Courses and Exams to Take to help you figure out which AP subjects and exams are right for you.


AP Scholars

There are a few different types of AP Scholars:


AP Scholar: Granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams
AP Scholar with Honor: Granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams
AP Scholar with Distinction: Granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these exams
State AP Scholar: Granted to the one male and one female student in each U.S. state and the District of Columbia with scores of 3 or higher on the greatest number of AP Exams and then the highest average score (at least 3.5) on all AP Exams taken
National AP Scholar: Granted to students in the United States who receive an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams


There are also separate AP Scholar designations for students outside the United States. Visit the College Board website for more information on international and other types of AP Scholars.


You don’t need to fill out any type of application or provide any other information aside from taking the exams to become an AP Scholar. You will automatically receive the distinction if you meet the above criteria and will be notified on your report, which you may choose to have sent to colleges on your behalf. Your high school and district will be notified as well. Educators receive notifications in mid-July (except for State AP Scholar awards, which are announced in mid-August), and students are notified in mid-August.


Since the awards are based on all AP exams taken in the current year as well as previous years, you may receive one distinction one year and another the next year (e.g., AP Scholar after your junior year and then AP Scholar with Distinction after your senior year).


Keep in mind that the rankings of the awards are not necessarily intuitive. For instance, since there are only two State AP Scholars per state, while anyone who receives qualifying scores may be a National AP Scholar, the state distinction is actually more selective than the national distinction, and therefore considered a higher honor.


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AP Scholar Awards and College Applications

So what do AP awards mean for your college applications? Being an AP Scholar at any level is an honor and will demonstrate a strong performance on your exams. However, these awards are not particularly unique; unless you are named a State AP Scholar, thousands of other college applicants will have the same awards on their applications.


If you haven’t filled up the allotted space in the honors/awards section of your college application, you should add your AP Scholar award. However, as we discuss in An Updated Guide to the 2016-17 Common App Honors Section, your most competitive or prestigious awards should be listed first on your application. Therefore, you should list more selective awards (such as national honors) before your AP award.


Also, keep in mind that colleges will be able to see the award on your AP report provided by College Board if you choose to send it, so you don’t necessarily need to repeat it here, unless you have space available. Ultimately, it is a good idea to fill as many slots as possible.


Visit the College Board website for more information on AP Scholar Awards.


Looking for more advice on taking AP courses and exams? CollegeVine has plenty of tips in the blog posts below:


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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.