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Articles / Preparing for College / What Are AP Awards ... and Do Colleges Care?

July 14, 2020

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

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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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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