Your AP Scores are Here – Now What?
The College Board released scores from the May 2017 AP Exam cycle starting on July 5th — if you have not yet received your results, head on over to the College Board website, login, and your scores should be available to view!
Now that you have your scores, the question becomes how they will affect the college admissions process and your eligibility to receive college credit. Your AP scores will mean different things to you as you go through your high school career — students who are beginning college this fall can put together a finalized plan for which courses they may be able to skip and how much college credit they have earned before setting foot on campus. Students who still have a year or more of high school can start to see how their scores may affect their college careers and help them choose which AP courses they may want to take in the coming school years. Read on to see how you can use your scores to plan ahead for your academic future!
If You’re a Recent Graduate
Congratulations — you likely know where you are headed to college this fall, and therefore you can start to see how your scores will affect your class options and possibly your graduation year. Most universities have an easy-to-understand guide regarding which classes you can exempt, and now would be a good time to compare these guidelines to your own scores. Here are links to The University of Georgia, Virginia Tech, University of California Los Angeles, and Brown University’s respective catalogues for AP Credit. The courses that you can exempt will be driven primarily by your score and the value that the college assigns to a particular AP score performance. For example, a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP Environmental Science exam will allow you to exempt 4 credit hours of Ecology courses at UGA, but Brown only gives credit for a 5. These exemptions can play a major role in determining how many introductory level courses you need to take in a given subject area. By exempting out introductory courses, you can begin to take classes that may be more interesting to you or start to knock out credit hours towards a given major or minor — increasing your opportunity to take other classes, pursue a double major — the options are endless!
Additionally, AP credit can reduce the number of total credit hours you need to graduate. At Virginia Tech, students are allowed to utilize up to 38 hours of AP credit towards graduation, whereas Vanderbilt University limits students to only 18 available hours of credit. Depending on your school’s AP limit, you may be able to graduate a semester or even over a year early, reducing tuition and possibly giving you a head start on graduate school or entering the workforce.
If You’re a Rising Senior
One more year of high school left — you can do it! If you have narrowed down the list of schools to which you are applying, I would encourage you to check out their AP guide to see what credits you may have earned thus far at each school. Far more relevant, however, is the question of whether your AP scores will help or hurt you in the college admissions process this fall. The answer is it depends!
AP classes are designed to be college-level courses taken during high school. Therefore, colleges are generally most interested in how many APs you have chosen to take relative to the number offered by your high school (course rigor) and how well you did in these college-level classes. Course rigor demonstrates that you have challenged yourself to the extent possible in high school, and your grades reflect the level of success you found in these more difficult classes. These two factors are generally considered by colleges to be the two things they ascribe the greatest weight to during the college admissions process.
Many colleges will give you a place where you can self-report your scores on your application. Many schools do not disclose how they use these scores if you do report them, so it is unclear how they factor into the admission officer’s decisions at any given school. If everything else is equal, a couple of 4s and 5s could give you the edge over another student with lower scores or who did not report scores. A word of caution — be careful not to cherry pick which scores you send. If you send a school your 5s on AP Language and AP US History but don’t report your scores for AP World History and AP Human Geography, the officers could wonder what you are hiding — the appearance of trying to omit unfavorable scores could hurt you more than a 1 or a 2 on an AP exam.
If You’re a Rising Sophomore or Junior
Great job getting through your AP exams! AP coursework is perhaps the first time you have experienced a significant increase in curriculum difficulty, so try not to be too hard on yourself if you didn’t get the scores you want. Learning to study and sit for high-stakes tests is not something that comes naturally for everyone. Use what you learned this year and apply it to next year’s exams, or consider modifying your course schedule to best suit your goals and academic strengths. If you didn’t do as well this year, consider starting studying earlier, working with a subject-matter-expert tutor, or work with your teachers to complete more exam-specific prep work during the school year — they will gladly point you to excellent study materials and provide feedback on sample free response questions that you complete outside of class. If you did well, consider taking other courses that may be similar to the ones you have already excelled in, especially if the subject matter interests you.
Before you know it you will be heading off to college! That being said, keep in mind that one of the most important things you can do in preparation for your applications is create a compelling narrative of your academic performance and extracurricular activities. The classes you choose to take are a reflection on your passions, so be sure to balance your course load with activities that you really enjoy. If you want to be an english major, consider skipping just-another-AP-class in favor of joining the school newspaper for your free period – your experience in the elective could be seen as a stronger addition to your narrative than an AP science course that you may not enjoy as much and are only taking to increase your course rigor. After all, you only get to go through high school once!