Test Prep

What Are AP Awards ... and Do Colleges Care?

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We just learned about AP awards. Our neighbor said he had a Capstone award last year and asked if my son got one. I don't have my son's score report yet for this year but I have no idea what these awards are. What is an AP award, what can I do with it, and do colleges care?

"The Dean" will answer the last part of your question first because it's the easiest: Colleges don't care AT ALL about AP awards.

These awards, which you can read about here, simply indicate that a student has earned a certain exam score on a certain number of tests. For instance, an "AP Scholar" has received "scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams." An "AP Scholar with Honors" has earned "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" and so on. And here are the requirements for the Capstone Award.

Just to clarify ... although AP exam scores are rarely mandatory components of an application, they can serve as tiebreakers among similarly qualified candidates. So students who have done well on AP tests are wise to submit their results. BUT ... the college folks can see for themselves that an applicant earned five 5's or three 5's and two 4's, etc. There's absolutely no need to attach an "award" designation to the scores. Moreover, I bet if you took a random survey of admission honchos across the country, the vast majority would not be able to explain the differences among the categories without a sneak peek at Google!

When your son receives his AP scores reports, his "awards" — if any — will be listed there. Click here for more information. And, although many recipients do include these in the "Honors" section of their applications (often when there's nothing better to add), this won't wow the admission committees or provide any info that they don't already know. So, while high scores on AP tests may make a difference at admission-decision time, the extra accolades that come with them really won't.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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