Does self studying and passing on AP exams bring greater consideration for my West Point application

I’m a junior in high school and I’m planning on getting into West Point. I’m wondering how much of an impact taking an AP test would have on my application. Would West Point admissions take into greater consideration someone who self studies for AP exams, assuming they get a good score on it?

The service academies don’t look at APs per se, they don’t give credit for them, and they don’t penalize any applicant whose high school does not offer them. Instead, they look to see that you have taken and done well in the most rigorous curriculum available to you, especially in calculus, chemistry, and physics. We don’t know your high school or its curriculum. Most high schools offer courses in calculus, chemistry, and physics. If the AP versions of these are the most rigorous offered by your HS, then take them and do well on the corresponding exams whether you self-study for them or not. If your HS offers a more rigorous curriculum than the AP curriculum, take that instead and don’t worry about AP exams. All of the academies are looking for strength in these three subject areas and will conduct their own assessment exams prior to the start of Plebe year to test your mastery (regardless of whether you took APs or not) to determine where you start in their curriculum streams.

OTOH, appointments to service academies are not a given, so you need to have strong backup plans and those backup plans and some scholarships may offer benefits for high AP scores, so you need to decide which ones would be beneficial to the other colleges to which you apply and plan accordingly. No college or scholarship program cares whether you self-studied or not; they only look at the results/scores.

Thanks for responding. The most rigorous classes in my high school are APs, but the semester has already started so it is too late to take any additional classes. I wasn’t able to take some of the APs I would’ve liked to, so I’m trying to see if I can take AP exams to fill in. I’m interested in joining the military when I graduate, whether it’s by going through a military academy or enlisting. Would a 5 on an AP exam that was self studied for be considered a good demonstration of knowledge of that particular subject in the corresponding course?

The self-studying part doesn’t matter, just the score. AP scores may be considered in mathematics, physics, chemistry, history, social sciences, and foreign languages by USMA but, per the website, the final determination regarding course validation or placement is based on a combination of factors including in-house testing. Any APs outside the subjects listed are not of interest to the academy though they may be to any civilian colleges you apply to.

Many students self-study for APs for any number of reasons. Our son did not take any AP courses (his HS does not offer them as their regular curriculum is considered most rigorous), but he took the exams for calculus, chemistry, and physics as they were beneficial to his civilian college applications. Again, no points for self-study, just the resulting scores.

Thanks again for the response, but I want to clarify that I was asking about the demonstration of knowledge in terms of the application rather than the course credit. I’m genuinely interested in USMA, and while I would also like to have a backup plan, I’d rather focus more effort on getting into West Point than a backup plan for not getting into West Point. I know AP exams are serious work, so I’d like to know if they’d increase the chances of acceptance or if there are other more worthwhile things to do to boost my application.

You’re missing the point, @btal2323. APs in and of themselves do not increase anyone’s chances of acceptance and there is no chancing for service academies anyway due to the complicated nomination process and the rubric the SAs use to determine appointments (see any of my replies to any “chance me” post). Earning an A in a course or a 5 on a related AP exam indicates that you understand the material and do well on exams and you should always shoot for the best grades and scores you can; that should go without saying. You will be competing with hundreds of other applicants who also have those As and 5s. One of the reasons that the service academies administer their own placement tests prior to Plebe year (whether you’ve taken APs or not) is because they have found that GPAs and AP scores do not always indicate sufficient mastery of subject matter for performing well academically at the academy which is why they don’t place much weight on APs. Their own tests are much better indicators of where Plebes should be placed in the academy curriculum stream for best outcomes.

I know you’re looking for reassurance that self-studying for an AP and earning a 5 on the exam will somehow set you apart, but it won’t. What it WILL do is indicate that you have done well in a rigorous course and have checked that (expected) box. So, get the best grades and scores that you can, up your physical fitness game (varsity athlete in at least one sport), demonstrate leadership (team captain, Eagle Scout, etc.), and apply for a nomination from all of the nomination sources available to you (and secure at least one). That’s all you or any candidate can do.

Good luck to you!

Start by reading my general advice to all academy applicants. Here’s one example:

Also note that USMA selects only about one third of any incoming class for academic chops; the other 2/3rds are chosen for other equally shiny traits. The service academies value a combination of brains, brawn, and leadership somewhat equally–as they must. All appointees are academically capable, all pass the academic bar, but only that third is what you might label “scholarly.” The corps needs a balance of all of them in a way civilian colleges do not as their missions differ vastly. The Army puts it this way (as inscribed in stone at West Point):

The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. -Thucydides-

The service academies are looking to produce capable officers for each branch of our armed services. It takes a certain kind of kid to go this route, and those kids don’t always look like the applicants to the usual civilian suspects. You will need to dig deep to be able to explain clearly and genuinely to the nomination panels why you want to serve as an officer in our armed forces. Also be prepared to answer your understanding of the consequences of that decision. Candidates for service academies have a specific drive and goals that differ from typical civilian college applicants. Your application and interviews need to demonstrate that difference. Your answers to those questions can give the greatest boost to your application.

Thank you for all the great advice! I will be sure take all the information you’ve given me and use it.