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Articles / Applying to College / Is this an "Activity" or an "Honor"?

Is this an "Activity" or an "Honor"?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Nov. 9, 2008

Question: On the Common Application, it asks for "any academic distinctions or honors you have received." There are some organizations such as International Thespian Society that grant membership only after a lengthy qualification process. Would membership in such an organization be considered an "honor" or should it go in the Extracurricular Activities section?

A membership in an organization that requires a lengthy qualification process could certainly be listed under the "Honors and Awards" heading on a college application, although it could be called an extracurricular, too. However, the typical student has more extracurriculars than can fit on an application but not enough honors to fill all of those spaces. So, in such cases, it makes sense to count membership in a selective organization (such as the International Thespian Society) as an honor, which leaves more spaces in the Activities section, where they are probably needed.


Often the lines between activities and awards or honors can be blurred, and college admission officials understand this. So don't stress over where your various undertakings end up on the application. The most important thing is to let the admission folks see what's important to you and what you've achieved, without splitting hairs over exactly how that transpires.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

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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