What Awards to Include on College Applications
Question: Which of my awards should I mention on college applications?
Itâ€™s fine to mention all the awards youâ€™ve earned, althoughâ€”depending on where youâ€™re applyingâ€”some will carry little or no weight. For example, being tapped by Whoâ€™s Who Among American High School Students is probably less of an honor than being named bathroom monitor in many places. While itâ€™s okay to leave it on your awards list, admission officials at the more competitive colleges wonâ€™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 â€œleadershipâ€ or for â€œgoing above and beyond the call of dutyâ€ or even for being â€œcongenial,â€ then this may give admission folks some useful information about you that your other application materials may not.