AP Credits: How do I use my AP test scores for college credit to graduate early?

Taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses to earn AP credits might just help you save money and graduate college early. According to U.S. News and the College Board, more than 2.6 million high school students in 2016 alone took 4.7 million AP exams. That’s double the number of students and tests taken 10 years ago!

By transforming your AP test scores into college credit, you could get a head start on college and even graduate early (in other words: pay less tuition). The question with AP credits is: how does it work, and where do you start?

How do I earn AP credits in high school?

By taking AP classes of course–and then taking the corresponding AP test. Many high schools offer AP courses ranging in subjects from math to science, music to art, English to history, and more. Here’s a list of the 38 AP exams, with English Language and Composition being the most popular course to take an exam for. 

Exams are scored from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest score and 5 being the highest. Most AP exams report a 65% or higher passing rate, which is good news for you. Most colleges that accept AP scores will give you credit for 4s and 5s, though some colleges might honor 3s too. Public institutions tend to be more flexible in accepting AP credits versus private institutions.

What’s the difference between dual enrollment and AP courses?

Both dual enrollment and AP courses provide students with an opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school.

Dual enrollment (DE) can replace a high school class for college credit. A student can take DE classes at their high school, at a local community college, or online classes as part of a dual enrollment program.

Most dual enrollment classes include intro college courses in subjects such as Math, English, Science, and Social Studies. Dual enrollment may cost anywhere from 0 – $400. AP courses are free, and AP exams cost $94 per exam.

Keep in mind, DE credit won’t replace prerequisites for AP classes. However, the DE program helps students earn both high school and college credits at the same time, and gives high school students a taste of college.

How do I view my AP scores?

To view your AP scores, log in to your College Board account. The College Board is a non-profit organization where students like you can register for the SAT, apply for the CSS Profile financial aid, as well as register for and view AP course scores.

If you don’t have a College Board account, you can easily create an account using the same information you entered on your AP answer sheet. Once you’re logged in, you’ll also need your AP number, or your student ID number if you entered it on your AP answer sheet. You can then sign in to the College Board system to view your AP exam scores.

Student researching AP credits

Which colleges accept AP credits?

The College Board provides a handy AP Credit Policy Search to help you find colleges that accept AP scores for college credit or placement. You can search by college or AP course. Searching by college allows you to find the college(s) you’re interested in applying to, and viewing a list of the AP courses they accept for college credit. Searching by AP course allows you to choose the course(s) you’re interested in studying and provides a list of colleges that accept scores for that AP course to be counted toward college credits. 

Depending on where you are in your journey, you might have already taken AP courses or you might be in the beginning stages of your AP courses. You can use the AP Credit Policy Search to your advantage according to your goals.

Additional resources to see if colleges accept AP credits

Another way to find out if the colleges you’re interested in accept AP credits is to call each college’s financial aid office. Their staff might be able to answer your questions right on the spot so you can determine if they’ll accept AP credits.

Keep in mind, you can also discuss AP courses and college credits with your high school guidance counselor. Have an open conversation: this is your future, so it’s up to you to find out what AP credits are accepted, what’s not, and what additional steps you might need to take to make to transfer credits. Remember to add your schools to your college application list to get an idea of where you want to apply. 

Students studying AP courses

What do top College Board AP scores get you? Earn college credit, or skip introductory courses.

Colleges that accept your AP scores will generally allow you to skip introductory classes. This could help you fulfill general requirements, or simply place you into higher-level classes as a freshman.

On top of that, some colleges will also give you college credits (toward your graduation requirement). This might mean you can graduate in 3 or 3.5 years instead, maximizing your time and minimizing your tuition bill. 

For those that don’t offer college credits, skipping beginner classes can still be an advantage. For instance, at Dartmouth, if you take AP Spanish Language and Culture and earn a 5 on your exam, you can skip the Spanish Intro classes. This way, you can begin learning right away, instead of snoozing in a class where you already know the basics!

Studying AP courses

How do I send my AP scores to my college?

Be sure to send in your AP scores before your college’s deadline. Check with your college to confirm that date! You’ll send the college your AP scores electronically by logging in to your College Board account and selecting the “Send Scores to Colleges Now” option.

You’ll be able to send one free AP score report by designating your college as an AP score recipient in your College Board account. You can send additional scores by standard delivery (7-14 days, $15 fee per report) or by rush delivery (5-9 days, $25 per report), online, by mail, or fax. Make sure you and your parent(s) have agreed on a payment method as you’ll need a credit card to pay to send additional report(s).

Happy AP student

Why should I try to graduate early?

Not only does graduating early help you jump into your education and your work early, but it could also save you money. Graduating a year or even a semester early means less courses, less tuition, and less payments during your time studying in college.

Once you’ve decided that’s your goal, how do you accomplish it? 

  • Apply to transfer your AP scores for college credit
  • Decide on a major at the beginning
  • Make sure all your courses fulfill a requirement 
  • Take more difficult classes early on
  • Contact your guidance counselor, even as early as the beginning of sophomore year. They’ll be able to support you with information and resources.

Also make sure that you’re preparing yourself for post-graduation:

  • Build relationships with professors, colleagues, classmates, and department heads. You have less time to cement your network, that can help you even beyond college.
  • Contact your career center. You’ll want to get an early start on mock interviews, career fairs, looking for jobs, and making the transition from college into the “real world.
Students graduating with AP credits

What else should I be thinking of?

When you make the transition from high school to college, we understand there are a lot of moving parts–including making sure you’re taking advantage of Advanced Placement credits.

But remember that’s not the only way to save money on college. When you’re ready to kick off the financial aid process, sign up for a free profile with Going Merry to search for scholarships according to your location, your college, and other factors. 

Going Merry is your one-stop shop for all things scholarship and financial aid! We’re here to help you save money on college tuition. Create an account today.

Kelly Lamano

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