Your 4-Point Checklist to Becoming an AP Scholar
Your AP courses and tests bring you a number of advantages: you can gain experience taking college-level courses, possibly earn credit or placement in college, and demonstrate to colleges that you’re able to handle a challenging curriculum. Another often-overlooked bonus is that you may receive special awards called AP Scholar awards.
What is an AP scholar?
An AP scholar award is an honor granted by the College Board. In order to receive one, you must receive high scores on multiple AP exams.
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
To learn more about these awards, read What Are AP Scholar Awards?.
Benefits of Becoming an AP Scholar
While there is no monetary award for becoming an AP Scholar, it’s an honor that will impress colleges, demonstrating that you can handle a rigorous, college-level curriculum. (Keep in mind that colleges will see your scores anyway if you choose to send them.)
The award means that you’ve earned high scores on multiple AP exams, which can earn you college credit or placement.
Checklist for Becoming an AP Scholar
Hoping to become an AP Scholar? Here are the steps you need to take:
1. Sign up for AP courses that interest you or correlate to your interests.
Don’t just take an AP exam for the sake of taking it. Choose the exams that align with your strengths and personal goals. For instance, if you’re strong in the humanities, you might take AP English and History, but you can skip AP Calculus if it’s not your strong suit.
Remember that some AP Scholar awards depend on an average or certain minimum on your exams across the board, so you can’t afford to have any weak scores.
Read How to Choose Which AP Courses and Exams to Take for more advice.
2. If your school doesn’t offer the course, self-study certain exams.
You don’t necessarily need to take the AP course in order to take the exam. Find out how to prepare for test day on your own in Which AP Exams Should You Self-Study?.
3. Create a study plan for each individual exam.
You’ll need to use different skill sets for each exam. For instance, for U.S. History, you’ll need to understand and analyze certain texts, as well as memorize facts and dates. Use resources, such as tutors, books, study sessions, and peers to prepare. You’ll also want to take plenty of practice tests.
Check out our Guides for Acing Your AP Exams for suggestions for preparing for individual exams.
4. Stay healthy.
Don’t let studying consume you. Pay attention to your mental and physical health, and make time for yourself in addition to studying and doing your schoolwork. Otherwise, you’ll risk becoming overwhelmed and not being able to handle all your commitments, not to mention endure the physical and psychological side effects of burnout.
Read Being Well: How to Manage Stress and Cultivate Mental Health in High School for suggestions on how to prevent yourself from overdoing it.
The Bottom Line: AP Awards
While AP Awards are an honor and will help you impress colleges, remember that in the grand scheme of things, they’re not everything. You’ll likely have a number of accomplishments to show for yourself, so earning an AP Award doesn’t need to be your top priority. However, you should make an effort to do as well as possible on your AP exams. Preparing for AP exams as you would normally will likely earn you the honor without having to do anything differently.
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