AP Scholar Awards: What You Should Know

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An AP Scholar Award is an acknowledgement that a student has studied several AP subjects and done well on the AP exams. Because the most important piece of any college application is a strong academic record, an AP Scholar Award is one way to demonstrate that record. Colleges want to see that you have challenged yourself academically by taking AP, IB, Honors, and/or dual enrollment classes. An AP Scholar Award is evidence that you have done this.

Types of Awards

The College Board currently awards four types of AP Scholar Awards. Three are available to students in the U.S., and one is for international students.

AP Scholar Awards
 Award Selection Criteria 
 AP Scholar  A student must receive a score of 3 or higher on at least three AP Exams.
AP Scholar with Honor   A student must earn an average score of 3.25 on all AP Exams taken and get a 3 or higher on at least four exams.
 AP Scholar with Distinction  A student must earn an average score of 3.5 on all AP Exams taken and get a 3 or higher on at least five exams.
 AP International Diploma  A student attending school outside the U.S. must earn a 3 or higher on at least five AP Exams in designated content areas.
Source: The College Board website

Clearly the AP Scholar with Distinction award is the most competitive of the options for U.S. students, and it is the one that will carry the most weight during the college admissions process.

Notification Dates

AP exams are typically administered in May and scored in June, and the scores are released in early July. The AP Scholar Awards will appear on your score report sometime in the second half of July. If you are planning to go straight from high school to college, this timing means that any AP Exam scores from your senior year will not be available to colleges when they are making admissions decisions.

If you are hoping to have an AP Scholar Award listed on your college applications, realize that you will need to have earned those awards by the end of your junior year.

Benefits

The benefits of receiving an AP Scholar Award are, in fact, modest. Much more important than the award is the fact that you have taken several Advanced Placement classes. Nevertheless, it is certainly a positive piece of information on your college application if you received an award, and you shouldn't hesitate to list it in the academic honors section of the Common Application.

That said, these awards should be put in perspective, especially for highly selective colleges and universities. For example, if you're applying to one of the prestigious Ivy League schools, nearly all competitive applicants will have taken numerous AP classes (or IB, Honors, or dual enrollment classes), and the score cut-offs for the awards are actually lower than what successful applicants typically earn. 4s and 5s, not 3s, on AP exams are the norm for highly selective schools.

An AP Scholar Award does represent a meaningful accomplishment—it shows that you have taken numerous AP classes and done well enough on the exams to potentially earn college credit. But you don't need the award to demonstrate this—your academic record and AP score report already have the information that colleges will care about most.

Again, you certainly should list an AP Scholar Award on your college and scholarship applications if you have space to do so. If you have limited space, realize that the information the award conveys is already part of your application, and you might be better off listing other awards that will provide new information to colleges.

Discontinued Awards

Beginning in 2020, the College Board stopped offering several of their awards: State AP Scholar, DoDEA AP Scholar, International AP Scholar, National AP Scholar, National AP Scholar (Canada), and National AP Scholar (Bermuda).

While many of these discontinued awards represent far greater achievements than the existing awards, they also contributed to a sometimes unhealthy culture in which students felt pressure to take as many AP classes as possible. The National AP Scholar Award required high scores on eight AP exams, and the State, International, and Department of Defense Education Activity awards were given to a single male and single female who had the highest average score on the greatest number of exams. The pressure on students to overload their schedules with AP classes could create stress and burnout. The College Board's decision to drop many of these awards was an effort to remove a little of the pressure that accompanies the college application process.

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Grove, Allen. "AP Scholar Awards: What You Should Know." ThoughtCo, Feb. 10, 2021, thoughtco.com/ap-scholar-award-what-you-should-know-5101249. Grove, Allen. (2021, February 10). AP Scholar Awards: What You Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ap-scholar-award-what-you-should-know-5101249 Grove, Allen. "AP Scholar Awards: What You Should Know." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ap-scholar-award-what-you-should-know-5101249 (accessed June 25, 2021).