AP Scholar Awards Explained

Earning a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam is definitely an achievement to be proud of. While doing so doesn’t automatically secure you a scholarship, it can be a first step in securing funding for college. However, there are many different types of awards that you can receive from earning your Advanced Placement exam score. This article will touch briefly on each one, along with some tips and advice on how to get the most money possible for college.

Why Take AP Exams?

There are many reasons for students to tackle AP classes and exams, not the least of which is the college admissions process. Competitive colleges do not simply look at a student’s GPA; they examine the rigor of his or her courses. If you are a student aspiring for a the Ivy League or other highly competitive universities, it’s important to make sure your academic record lists multiple challenging APs.

The Advanced Placement Program was introduced in the United States in 1955 by the College Board, a nonprofit corporation that offers standardized tests and educational services. AP classes are intended for high school students who want to challenge themselves with college-level classes before they enter college. According to the College Board website, “The AP Program offers students a wide range of courses and exams in over 30 subject areas,” including English literature, history, science and math.

In addition to improving a student’s high school transcript, AP classes offer another perk: the opportunity to earn college credit. Many universities give course credit for qualifying AP scores, meaning that a score of “5” in Literature and Composition, for example, might provide a pre-existing English credit for a student entering his or her freshman year. These extra course credits can be very useful for earning minor degrees, as prerequisites for higher level courses, or for earning exemptions from “101” classes freshman year. Though each university sets its own criteria about awarding credit, and the minimum score requirements can vary based on the university, AP exams often allow students to save money and get a head start on their degrees while still in high school.

The AP Scholar Awards

An additional benefit to the AP exams comes in the form of the AP Scholar Awards. An AP Scholar is someone who receives an award from the College Board for outstanding performance on several AP exams. There are different award levels, depending on how many exams the student takes — and how many exams he or she scores highly on. There are many advantages to becoming an AP Scholar; for starters, students can list AP Scholar Awards on their college applications and resumes, which makes those AP courses look even better. 

AP Scholar Awards are given to AP students who perform at the highest level on an AP Exam. The awards are based on your performance on all AP Exams you have taken and all of the other work you’ve completed in high school.

AP Scholar Awards are presented to students who earn scores of 3 or higher on at least three AP Exams, and receive grades of C or higher in college-level courses while in high school.

To receive an award, you must take three or more AP Exams during your senior year and be enrolled in a minimum of 12 semester hours of college credit by the end of your junior year.

Types of AP Scholar Awards

Below is a list of all of the different types of AP Scholar Awards. We’ll also breakdown each award further.

  • Scholar – This is awarded to students who score 3 or more on at least three AP exams.
  • Scholar with Honor – This is awarded to students who have averaged a minimum of 3.25 on the AP exams they take and score 3 or more on at least four of those exams.
  • Scholar with Distinction – This is awarded to students who average a minimum of 3.5 on all their AP exams and score 3 or more on at least five of these exams.
  • State Scholar – This is awarded to one male and female student in each state. The student must have a score of 3 or more on the highest number of AP exams, as well as the highest average score on all the exams they take.
  • National Scholar – This is awarded to students who average at least a score of 4 in all the AP exams they take and score 4 or more in at least 8 of these exams.  
  • DoDEA Scholar – This is awarded to one male and female student attending one of the Department of Defense Education Activity schools. Whoever has the greatest average score on the highest number of AP exams among all the students in the school receives this award. A minimum score of 3 is mandatory.
  • International Scholar – This is awarded to one male and female student attending a school outside the United States or Canada with the greatest average score on the highest number of AP exams. A minimum score of 3 is mandatory.
  • Seminar and Research Certificate – This is awarded to students who score 3 or more in both AP Research and AP Seminar.
  • Capstone Diploma – This is awarded to students who get a score of 3 or more in AP Research and AP Seminar and any four additional AP exams of their choice.

AP Scholar

The basic AP Scholar award is a certificate given to students who score 3 or higher on three or more AP exams. The certificate can be signed by any high school administrator, including a counselor or vice principal.

Any high school student who takes and scores 3 or higher on three or more AP exams may receive this award. There is no limit to how many times a student may earn this designation.

AP Scholar With Honors

The AP Scholar with Honors award is the highest honor that can be given to an AP student. It’s given to students who’ve earned a grade of 3 or higher on all AP exams and an average score of at least 3.25 on all other college-level courses during their last two years of high school.

The AP Scholar with Honors award is not a GPA-based award, but it does require the same rigor and dedication as the valedictorian award. Students must have taken at least 15 AP exams and completed all of them with grades of 3 or higher. They also must have completed a full course load in each semester of their senior year, including at least one AP class or honors class in each semester. This means that they must have taken and passed at least 30 credits toward graduation by the end of their junior year — 15 credits more than what is required for the valedictorian award (15 credits per semester).

AP Scholar With Distinction

If you’re an AP Scholar with Distinction, you’ve achieved the highest level of achievement in your AP course. You earned an average grade of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams you took and scores of 3 or higher on at least four of those exams. You also completed a culminating project that demonstrates your ability to apply knowledge gained in the coursework to real-world situations.

AP State Scholar

The AP State Scholar award is a special recognition for students who earn scores of 3 or better on at least 12 AP exams. These awards are based on the results of the entire graduating class and not just on individual students.

The AP State Scholar award can be earned by students at all levels of achievement, including those who earn no exams with scores of 3 or higher. Students who do not receive a score of 3 or higher on an exam but have been approved to use AP course credit to meet graduation requirements are still eligible for this award.

AP National Scholar

The AP National Scholar award is the highest honor given to students who have earned an average grade of at least 4 on all AP exams taken, and grades of 5 on eight or more of these exams. Students must also have taken at least one exam in every subject area.

The AP National Scholars Program is an expansion of the AP Scholars Program, which recognizes high school seniors who have demonstrated college-level achievement through AP courses and exams. The program was expanded in 2002 to recognize outstanding freshmen and sophomores, as well as seniors.

Students may receive the AP National Scholar award if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Have an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken, and grades of 5 on eight or more (of any type) in one or more subjects;
  • Have taken at least one exam in each of three areas: 1) Language and Composition, 2) Literature and Composition, 3) Science;
  • Are in their second year or later of high school enrollment.

AP DoDEA Award 

The AP DoDEA Scholar award is a national recognition for students who have earned an AP score of 3 or higher on at least two exams. The DoDEA Administrator awards this prestigious honor to eligible students as part of the National AP Scholar Program.

To be eligible for this award, you must be a current DoDEA student, have earned 13 or more credits and have taken at least one exam during the 2018-19 school year.

Students who qualify for this award will receive a certificate signed by the Secretary of Defense and the DoDEA Administrator, as well as an engraved medallion that can be worn around your neck or displayed on a wall. The AP DoDEA Scholar Award is one of the most prestigious honors a junior can receive at the end of their high school career. It recognizes their hard work and commitment to learning over the course of their educational careers.

AP International Scholar

The AP International Scholar Award is a special honor that recognizes students who have demonstrated exemplary performance on the AP Program Exams. To qualify for this award, students must earn a score of 3 or higher on three or more AP exams (excluding examination fees). The exam scores must be submitted to the College Board by the deadline of December 31 in order to be considered for this award. The student will receive an official certificate of achievement and an invitation letter from their school’s guidance office. Students must attend an international college or university during their first year of college in order to receive this award.

Some colleges and universities may require that you submit proof of your AP International Scholar Award in order to qualify for automatic admission. Other institutions may not require such proof, but may request it as part of the application process.

AP Seminar and Research Certificate

The AP Seminar and Research Certificate is designed for students who want to go beyond the standard AP course. The program provides an opportunity for students to explore their academic interests, develop into effective writers and thinkers, and gain valuable research skills. The certificate is earned by completing any two approved AP Seminar Topic courses with a grade of 3 or higher on the corresponding AP exam, along with an approved Research Course with a grade of 3 or higher on the corresponding AP exam.

Students who have a passion for learning should consider taking an AP Seminar class because it will challenge them to think critically about a specific topic in depth, allowing them to apply what they learn in the classroom to real life situations outside of school. Students who enjoy reading current events and have an interest in political science, history or other social sciences will particularly benefit from taking an AP Seminar class.

AP Capstone Diploma:

The AP Capstone Diploma is a new program that provides students with the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an AP score on an Advanced Placement exam.

The AP Capstone Diploma is an important component of the Advanced Placement Program. It was created to help students develop skills and knowledge that are essential for success in college and beyond.

Students who successfully complete all five AP courses in one or more subjects will receive an official certificate and recognition from The College Board.

The AP Capstone Diploma is designed to be a valuable credential for students who have demonstrated mastery of college-level work by earning scores of three or higher on five different AP exams, regardless of whether they took them during high school or later in life. Students must take at least one but no more than two exams per year.

AP Award Deadlines:

If you want to qualify for any of these awards before you apply for college, you need to take the requisite exams by the end of your junior year so that you can get the award by fall of senior year.  

Receiving An AP Award:

Students who receive AP awards are notified by email. The award is then added the student’s online score report. Students can log in to the college board website to view their AP scores and awards. If the student is a State AP Scholar, the printed award certificate is sent to the state’s superintendent of education for distribution.

Frequently Asked Questions About AP Classes & Awards:

Are AP classes really that difficult?

The courses are meant to be challenging, but if you’re taking the right classes and working hard, it’s definitely possible to earn good grades in AP.

That said, most students who take an AP class find them challenging at first. Because they cover material at a faster pace than regular courses, it can take time to get used to the new pace and learn all of the material. However, with the right strategies and determination, you can succeed in these classes.

What is the highest AP Scholar Award?

The highest AP scholar award is the National AP Scholar Award, which is given to students who score a 5 on three or more AP exams, have an average score of 4 or higher on all other AP exams taken, and have a weighted GPA of at least 4.25.

The next highest AP scholar award is the AP Scholar with Distinction award, which is given to students who score a 3 or higher on four or more AP exams, have an average score of at least 3.5 on all other AP exams taken and have a weighted GPA of at least 3.75

What percent of AP students get an AP Scholar Award?

The percent of students who receive an AP Scholar Award varies year to year, but it’s typically around 10%.

The College Board only hands out a small percentage of the AP Scholar Awards each year. And it varies by state and subject.

In 2017, for example, more than half of all AP students in the U.S. earned some kind of award for their efforts. That’s up from just 23% in 2000 when the program began tracking these numbers.

However, only 5% of AP students receive either an AP Scholar Award or an AP Scholar with Honor Award — the two highest awards available from the College Board. This means that less than 1% of all AP students are awarded one of these top honors each year.

Do colleges care about AP Scholar Awards?

The short answer is yes — colleges do care about your AP Scholar Award. In fact, there’s a reason why you receive an award for having high scores on four or more tests: it’s because these awards reflect well on you as an applicant.

If you have scored high enough to earn an AP Scholar Award, then you’ve proven that you’re capable of doing college-level work. And that’s exactly what colleges want to see in their applicants.

Colleges want to know that their applicants can handle the academic rigor of college life and succeed at it without issue. That’s why they look for students with high GPAs and those who have taken challenging classes — both of which indicate that the student has the potential to perform well academically in college.

Related College Admissions Resources:

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