Should I Submit My AP Scores to Colleges? Factors to Consider

Padya Paramita

Should I Submit My AP Scores to Colleges? Factors to Consider

If you’re a rising senior, you’ve been thinking about the way you present academically to colleges. One of the questions that might be on your mind could be “should I submit my AP scores to colleges?” And if this question is on your mind, it’s probably because you have one or more scores below a 5 that you’re not sure would help your case in front of admissions officers.

There are several factors that could go into making the decision behind whether or not you say yes to the question of “should I submit my AP scores to colleges?” How competitive are the colleges you’re looking at? Exactly what kind of scores are you debating sending or not sending? Do you have other academic metrics that can showcase your prowess in the classroom to admissions officers? We have gone over everything you need to consider in order to answer the question.

How “Bad” Are Your Scores?

Sometimes—and probably very often—high school students are quite hard on themselves. This might lead them to thinking that a 3 and even a 4 is a bad score on the AP and therefore not worth sending. But this may not be the case! First of all, a 4 is a great score, and you should definitely send in any AP score that is a 4 and a 5 without too much second guessing. When it comes to 3s, you have to put it in perspective and take a look at the subject that you got a 3 in. Is this a subject where the exam was particularly difficult for all students this year? You can take a look at the average scores and the score distributions for all AP test takers on the College Board’s website to find out the answer. If it turns out that very few students received 4s and 5s, a 3 in that case is not a bad score at all and you should submit it! 

Are You Going to Submit Your SAT Score?

Because of the continued impact of COVID-19 on students’ school conditions, health and safety, and lack of open test centers, almost all top colleges have remained test optional for the upcoming admissions cycle. So, whether or not you say yes to “should I submit my AP scores to colleges” might depend on whether you’re sending in your SAT/ACT score as well. There are a few situations to consider here. If your SAT/ACT score is high then you should definitely send it to colleges. And in this case, it might be enough to skip sending your AP score. At the same time, if you’ve done well in, say, the SAT or ACT math section, and your AP Calc score is a 3, you might send in both to show how you aren’t a bad math student and that AP Calc is simply a difficult subject. On the other hand, if you aren’t a great test taker, and you’re not submitting your SAT/ACT score, then we do recommend that you submit your AP score. This way, admissions officers can consider your academic skills in ways beyond your SAT/ACT score.

Which Colleges Are You Applying to?

Whether or not you say yes to the question of “should I submit my AP scores to colleges” also depends on the competitiveness of the colleges you’re applying to. Here’s the thing: a 3 at a reach school won’t be looked at the same way as a 3 at a safety school. When you apply to an Ivy League school, for example, you’re up against a far higher number of students who may have received 5s in the same subjects. However, at a large public university with a high acceptance rate or a lower-ranked liberal arts college, the chances that you’re right in the median with an AP score below 4 is far higher. So use your discretion and include your AP score where you think it might not hinder your chances at admission.

Is Your Grade Higher In the Class On Your Transcript?

Sometimes, students perform better in an AP-level course at school than they do in the exam itself. If you’ve done well in the class and you have an A, you should use that to your advantage and submit both, so schools can see you’ve done well in the actual course. According to our Former Admissions Officers, with test optional policies in place, schools are looking even more strongly for evidence that the student can do the work, especially at highly competitive schools. So grades and APs take on a bigger weight since readers will likely be mentally projecting what it looks like an SAT/ACT score would be. At the same time, if you have an A in the course at school but a 2 in the exam itself, we advise that you don’t submit the test score and let the A speak for itself.

Did You Self-Study?

Since AP scores are self-reported, if you self-studied for an AP class and you didn’t do as well as you had hoped, it’s totally fine to not report that score. Colleges are likelier to notice that a certain AP score is missing if the class is included in your transcript from school. Therefore, in such cases, don’t worry about sending it in. The “should I submit my AP scores to colleges” is a no-brainer if you have a 2 or 1 in a self-studied exam.

Is the Class Related to Your Major?

Finally, an AP score might be a good way to let colleges know that you’re equipped to take on the subject you hope to major in at college. For example, admissions officers will be looking for AP Physics and AP Calc scores from students who want to be engineers, AP Lit or AP Lang scores from prospective English majors, AP Psych scores from future psychologists, and so on. If you’ve taken the AP class and you have the AP score, unless it’s absolutely horrible, you should submit it!

The question of “should I submit my AP scores to colleges” isn’t one that can immediately be resolved with a yes or no. Carefully weigh your options and take a look at which subject it is for, where you’re applying, and whether you can replace it with other scores. And most importantly, is your score even bad in the first place? Good luck!

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