AP Scholar Awards – Everything You Need to Know in 2023

April 13, 2023

AP scholar

Boy oh boy, don’t you love AP Scholar Awards season? Forget about the Golden Globes, the Grammys, the Oscars, the Tonys, etc. Everyone tunes in for this award season and this award season alone. Hm? What did you say? This topic is a little bit niche? You learned the term “AP Scholar” only a moment ago? You’ve actually got a lot on your plate right now—you just read about how many AP courses to take, where to take AP courses, the easiest AP courses, the hardest AP courses—and now you have to decide whether to add becoming an AP Scholar to your to-do list? Well, I’ll tell you everything you need to know including the types of AP Scholars Awards (AP Scholar, AP Scholar with Honor, AP Scholar with Distinction) and how to qualify.

Every year, The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program celebrates high school students who performed at a college-level on several AP Exams. These students receive AP Scholar Awards. In this blog, I’ll also cover the following:

  • Planning for an AP Scholar Award.
  • Sending your AP score report.
  • Benefits of AP Scholar Awards.
  • How to set yourself up for success on AP exams.
  • Alternative ways to boost your applications.

Types of AP Scholar Awards and how to qualify

Two pieces of criteria determine whether you receive an award and which type of award you receive:

  • Number of AP exams you’ve earned a score of 3 or higher.
  • Average exam score, which includes all AP exams you’ve taken, during the current year and previous years.

Let’s take a look at each award:

Award Title Award Criteria
AP Scholar has earned a score of 3 or higher on at least three AP exams.


AP Scholar with Honor

has earned a score of 3 or higher on at least four AP exams, with an average exam score of at least 3.25.


AP Scholar with Distinction

has earned a score of at least 3 or higher on at least five AP exams, with an average exam score of at least 3.50.

You might have heard the names State AP Scholar, National AP Scholar, or International AP Scholar, or even DoDEA AP Scholar. But The College Board’s AP Program no longer offers those awards. They discontinued these challenging awards to discourage students from overextending themselves with too many AP exams. Post 2020, the AP Program offers three AP Scholar Awards: AP Scholar, AP Scholar with Honor, and AP Scholar with Distinction.

How to Qualify for an AP Scholar Award

  • You have to meet all of an award’s criteria for eligibility. For example, say you received a 3 or higher on three exams, with an average score of 3.25. You could become an AP Scholar. But you could not become an AP Scholar with Honor because you did not take at least four exams. Similarly, say you received a 3 or higher on four exams with an average exam score of 3.50, but scored lower than a 3 on your fifth exam. You could become an AP Scholar with Honor, but not an AP Scholar with Distinction because you did not receive a 3 or higher on all five exams.
  • Any AP exams you’ve re-taken count once. Award calculations include only your highest score.
  • Award calculations will not include the Calculus AB subscore, Music Theory aural subscore, and Music Theory non-aural subscore.

Planning for an AP Scholar Award

In May, students take their AP exams. Beginning in mid-July, students receive emails notifying them of any awards earned. Students can also find their awards on their AP score report. Plan your timeline with this in mind! For example, say you want to earn an AP Scholar Award to show your prospective colleges. Then you’d need to take at least three AP exams before your senior year.

Additionally, say you earn an AP Scholar Award your junior year. Then say you take more AP exams your senior year. You could potentially raise your AP Scholar Award to an AP Scholar with Honor or AP Scholar with Distinction Award. Prospective colleges would see your AP Scholar Award, but not your higher award.

However, say you want to earn an award but don’t care about showing prospective colleges. Then the timeline won’t really matter. You’d have the flexibility to take your AP courses and exams whenever works best for you.

Sending your AP score report

To show prospective colleges any AP Scholar Awards, you’ll need to send them your AP score report. Score reports include your scores from the current year and any previous years. Each year you take AP exams, you can send one score report at no cost. You can send this free score report to prospective colleges, scholarship organizations, etc. The free score report expires annually on June 20th. This date lands after you’ve taken your exams, and before you’ve received your scores.

Students at the end of their senior year should send their free score report to the school they’ll attend in the fall. This ensures they’ll receive any college credit they’ve earned from their AP exams (more on this below). Juniors should send their free score report to the school or scholarship organization they want to prioritize. Juniors can send more score reports to other schools and scholarship organizations anytime for a fee. Standard delivery (7-14 business days) costs $15 per score report. Rushed delivery (5-9 business days) costs $25 per score report. So if you missed the June 20th deadline, you’ll only miss out on that one freebie.

Benefits of AP Scholar Awards

The path to an AP Scholar Award can give you invaluable experience. The time you spend learning, challenging yourself, and growing can benefit you more than the award itself. But what else can you expect from earning an AP Scholar Award?

First things first, award benefits do NOT include:

  • The awards have zero monetary value.
  • A televised red carpet event (sorry if I got your hopes up earlier).

They DO include:

  • Demonstrated academic rigor and ability to complete college-level courses!
  • Showing off to prospective colleges! Just send them your AP score report. (Remember you can only do this if you receive an award prior to your senior year.)
  • Showing off on your resume! You can include this academic achievement when applying for jobs, internships, etc.
  • College credit! A lot of schools will give course credits for AP exam scores of 3 or higher. This could potentially allow you to save tuition money, focus on other courses, or even graduate a little early. (Remember to check prospective colleges for their specific AP exam score requirements because they vary.) (Also, you can receive college credit for AP exams regardless of whether you become an AP Scholar.)
  • Reason to give yourself a pat on the back!
  • Bragging rights! Never stop reminding your friends and family that you became an AP Scholar, AP Scholar with Honor, or AP Scholar with Distinction.
  • Home decor! Print out your award certificate to frame and hang up. Soon you can create a gallery wall by adding your high school diploma and your undergraduate diploma.

How to set yourself up for success on AP exams

Hoping to become an AP Scholar, AP Scholar with Honor, or AP Scholar with Distinction? Let’s talk AP exam preparation:

  • Participate in class! Engage in discussions, find notetaking strategies that work for you, and take your time with homework assignments.
  • Figure out how you study best! Prefer to concentrate by yourself? Perfect. Prefer someone to bounce ideas off of and keep you motivated? Find a study partner or study group.
  • Study consistently! Keep it manageable by dedicating small bits of time each week to review materials for each subject.
  • Take advantage of The College Board’s free resources designed to prepare students for AP exams! Including: daily practice sessions, daily videos, and daily live review recordings.
  • Ask your AP teacher about the exam format (if they haven’t talked about it already)!
  • Ask your AP teacher about how to practice with AP Classroom!
  • Find your course on the AP Course Index and then find your course’s “Exam” page! Here you can find information specific to that exam, like the exam’s date, the exam’s structure, and other tips. Then scroll down until you see “Exam Preparation” Here you can find scoring guidelines, sample student responses, and questions from the actual exam.
  • The night before an exam, chill out! Try to sleep at least eight hours. Don’t spend all night studying. You’ve done so much to prepare ahead of time, now trust yourself.
  • The morning of the exam, you need brain fuel! Treat yourself to a full, healthy breakfast. Drink plenty of water.

Alternative ways to boost your applications

Like you told me earlier, you’ve got a lot on your plate. You feel stressed and anxious about the future. But AP Scholar Awards cannot make or break you. With or without these awards, you can strengthen your applications in a lot of other ways.

  • Competitive nature? Consider other nationally recognized competitions and contests.
  • Not sure what to do next summer? Consider a top summer program.
  • Eager to hunker down in the lab? Consider research opportunities.
  • Love charity work and giving back to communities? Consider volunteer opportunities.
  • Need money and work experience? Consider a part-time job.
  • Itching for creative expression? Consider art, writing, or drama-based clubs and activities.
  • Athletic? Consider intramural, JV, or varsity sports.
  • Can’t find an opportunity that fits you? Consider starting your own club.
  • Looking to expand your skills while staying home? Consider at-home activities.

Follow your interests. Focus on courses and extracurriculars that make sense for you and your goals. Contrary to what you might fear, you don’t need to win every award and do everything to stand out.  Colleges won’t expect you to have an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, Nobel, Pulitzer, People’s Choice, Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice, and an AP Scholar with Distinction Award. They’ll simply expect you to have the EGOT, Pulitzer Prize, and Nobel Peace Prize, with straight A’s, perfect test scores, and 25 extracurriculars.

Just kidding! Colleges want to see you. Whoever you are, you will find the right school for you and the right school will recognize your unique accomplishments.