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Articles / Applying to College / What Honors and Awards Should Go on My Common App?

What Honors and Awards Should Go on My Common App?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Nov. 27, 2012

Question: I am doing the Common App and had a question. For Honors and Awards, I am not sure what I am supposed to put. When I researched this online, it said that I should put what I was nominated for. So, I searched my stuff to find everything and have 6 things: Foreign Language Honor Society, National Youth Leadership Forum, National Student Leadership Conference, Junior State of America (JSA) Programs, Student Ambassador Programs and National Society of High School Scholars. However, I am also not sure what level they are on such as state, national, and such. Please help me.

Don't include nominations for the National Youth Leadership Forum, National Student Leadership Conference, JSA, Student Ambassador Programs, or National Society of High School Scholars. I don't know anything about the Foreign Language Honor Society so I can’t comment on that one. But the others are all organizations that claim to be more selective than they really are. College officials will not be impressed by your nomination to join these programs … most of which cost a lot of money.


It’s fine to have no honors or awards whatsoever on your Common App. Some teenagers attend schools or participate in activities where honors are doled out liberally. Others, however, may be strong students and/or class leaders and yet have little or nothing to list in the Honors/Awards section. If your school has an Honor Roll (or the equivalent) and you have been on it, that would be a good thing to include. If you’ve ever entered an art contest, poetry slam, music competition, film festival, etc. and earned some sort of recognition, then this could count as "academic" and could go on the list as well. If you’ve taken national exams in math, language, etc., strong results on these tests would count as “honors,” too. If you were selected to represent your class or school at an important event, this could also be an academic honor (depending on the event and why you were chosen. A pie-eating contest might not qualify. ;-) )

If you have to leave the entire section blank, just write “None” so that the college officials won’t wonder if you skipped the question by accident. And don't sweat it. My friend Arthur used to say, “Awards are like hemorrhoids …” but the rest of his words of wisdom are too inappropriate to write here. Maybe you can figure them out yourself. :twisted:

(posted 11/26/2012)

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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