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Articles / Applying to College / Will A Lack of Academic Honors on Common App Hurt My Admission Odds?

Oct. 10, 2019

Will A Lack of Academic Honors on Common App Hurt My Admission Odds?

Will A Lack of Academic Honors on Common App Hurt My Admission Odds?

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I am filling out the Common App now and there's a question that says "If you have received any honors related to your academic achievements beginning with the ninth grade or international equivalent, please indicate number of honors." Does this mean Honor Roll? What about a Student of the Week award? Other than those, I don't have any. Will this hurt me?


Fear not! Admission officials realize that some schools give out a gazillion honors while at others, even Albert Einstein or Marie Curie would have received no special recognition. At highly selective colleges, the admission folks will scan the Honors section to see if any atypical distinction jumps off the page. But most of the time, they find listings much like yours which don't move an application any closer to the "In" pile but certainly won't push it away either. Admission committees at the most hyper-competitive places tend to be looking for honors that are not only unusual but also earned at the "National" or even "International" level.

Moreover, there is no hard-and-fast rule about what "counts" as an honor. Most applicants will list awards like yours (i.e., Honor Roll and Student of the Week) although these accolades are very common. Some will even add entries like snagging a spot on their school's literary magazine, if this is a competitive post, but most students would simply put this in the Activities section. Here is a previous "Ask the Dean" column that offers more ideas of what to include and, especially, to not include on a Common App Honors roster.

Bottom Line: The college application process is plenty stressful, but at least this is one piece of it that you don't have to worry about because your list of "Honors" (or lack thereof) won't play a starring role in your admission outcomes.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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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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