Preparing for College

Should Pre-High School Awards Go on Applications?

Question: If I won awards prior to high school, can I include them on my college applications?

This can go either way. Admission officials put little focus on pre-high school achievements, but some are worth including nonetheless, so it's up to you to decide which ones--if any--to include.

Typically, we recommend listing such accomplishments if:

1. They are truly exceptional. For instance, if you won a state-wide or (better yet) national award for science and not merely a prize at your school, regardless of how coveted, then it's okay to list it (or if you received widespread media attention--beyond your immediate home town--for a program you founded, an athletic or musical accomplishment, etc.)

2. They highlight an atypical ability that may not show up on the rest of your application. If, for example, when you were younger, you excelled at ballet but you don't dance anymore, then citing your prize would call this talent to an admission committee's attention. (But the prize would still have to be a significant one to be worth mentioning.)

Again, this is a judgment call that you must make yourself, but your best bet is to tell colleges about only outstanding or unusual accomplishments, if they happened before you entered high school, even if they seem to you as if they took place just yesterday.