AP Classes vs AP Scores

A debrief on how AP Classes can affect your college application more significantly than the AP score, and distinguishing the difference between

By: Camryn Corbin, Senior Educational Studies Major at Rhodes College

Advanced placement classes are a great way to show colleges that you can handle taking a more challenging course load and may aid in proving that you are college-ready. However, the score you make on the final AP exam will not make or break you when it comes to admissions. 

AP Scores don’t show up on your transcript due to them not counting towards your GPA and they won’t show up anywhere else on your application unless you opt into self-reporting. There is typically a place on the application where you can self-report scores from several tests like standardized tests (SAT/ACT) and AP Tests. You also have the option to send your scores to specific colleges before you take the test. On test day when filling out the answer sheet, you have the option to send your scores to one school of choice if you happen to know the school code; however, it’s advised to wait until after you get your results to decide whether or not you will submit your scores. 

If you do decide to self-report your scores it’s best to do so only if you’ve received mostly 4s or 5s. For a majority of top colleges, several 5s on multiple AP Tests is impressive and will only benefit to making that student a more standout option. 4s are great scores too and will also aid to enhance your application, yet anything less than that honestly isn’t worth reporting. Also, it’s important to note that it's worse to report one great score than none at all because that one score will draw attention to the other scores that are missing. 

Overall though, the AP Score is not as nearly as important as the act of taking the AP class. As mentioned earlier, colleges are examining the academic rigor of your high school career and trying to determine if you are prepared and able to perform well in their setting. Schools are more interested in seeing that you took the hard classes and completed them with outstanding grades. The final test score is less important. 

And not every high school offers AP classes, this is okay and you will never be penalized for that. Colleges are aware of this when reviewing applications and consider that, but they still are analyzing the course load your school has to offer compared to what classes you are taking.

When thinking about how rigorous your course load is and deciding to add AP classes to that or not, it’s important to know that colleges aren’t just looking at academic rigor when applying. They also consider extracurriculars and recommendations and if you’re a top AP student but involved with nothing else and have no relationships built that will hurt you more in the long run than not taking any AP classes. So if you choose to opt-out of the AP class route keep in mind that who you are outside of the classroom will matter a lot as well when it comes to your application. Overall, as long as you can find a healthy balance between academic rigor, whether that be APs or no APs, and your personal life and perform to the best of your ability in both, colleges will notice this and consider these things when examining applications. 


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