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Articles / Admissions / What Awards to Include on College Applications

May 28, 2020

What Awards to Include on College Applications

Question: Which of my awards should I mention on college applications?

It’s fine to mention all the awards you’ve earned, althoughâ€"depending on where you’re applyingâ€"some will carry little or no weight. For example, being tapped by Who’s Who Among American High School Students is probably less of an honor than being named bathroom monitor in many places. While it’s okay to leave it on your awards list, admission officials at the more competitive colleges won’t exactly be wowed to see it, so you may want to use your judgment when it comes to that oneâ€"or to similar dime-a-dozen honorsâ€"and perhaps skip it. Feel free to edit out any honors that seemingly half the school--or the state--receives. (These will vary from region to region.)


Most important, unless an award is universally well known (e.g., National Merit Semi-Finalist) be sure to explain each honorâ€"why or how you got it, what it means. Just a few words will often do the trick. If you are the only student who earned a particular honor, and not one of several (or many), be sure to say so. If an award is a regional, state, or even national one and not just a school-wide prize, be sure to point that out, too.

Some students have loads of awards to list on their applications and someâ€"depending on where they live and go to school or what their talents areâ€"have very few. Generally, the only time awards make a significant difference at admission-decision time is when they are major ones or, in some cases, unusual ones. Sometimes, too, awards establish a pattern that is telling. For instance, if you received several from various organizations for “leadership” or for “going above and beyond the call of duty” or even for being “congenial,” then this may give admission folks some useful information about you that your other application materials may not.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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