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


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.


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