Recognition on a plaque: Why awards and trophies are necessary for college admissions

Post By: COYD Staff

academic awardsA couple of days ago, the Academy recognized the excellence of professionals in the film industry at the 83rd Academy Awards. Though many of us might not have agreed with who won or who was even nominated, the winners and nominees had a chance to be recognized for their hard work. Many times, the Academy Awards boost the sales of indie films that are great but have not been given a huge release in the theaters. With this kind of recognition, many people who don’t usually watch indie films will give a film a chance if it was nominated for or won Best Picture. Though the film was good on its own, the award makes it stand out from the crowd and boosts ticket sales and future work opportunities for the director or actors in the film.

In many ways, college admissions is similar. There are definitely student strengths that cannot be captured in an award or trophy. Those strengths, which I call qualitative strengths, can be reflected on their essay or in their letters of recommendation. However, due to the competitive landscape of college admissions, it is important to have both quantitative and qualitative recognition.

Sometimes you actually do need to get an “Oscar” to show that you are exceptional in a certain subject, sport, organization…etc. Furthermore, to continue the film/Academy award analogy, films that win small film festivals get small recognition, and films that win at the Academy Awards get worldwide recognition. You should aim to get recognition at a national level if not a global level. This advice is especially important for students who attend high schools that don’t send that many students to the top ranked schools or schools who have several valedictorians. Show the admission officers that you are not just a superstar at your high school or local community but can also compete on a national or global level.

Below are a four ways to have an “Oscar” on your application:

1) Publish something

There are many contests and publications where high school students can publish their writing. Some of these publications are specifically for young authors, but there are also some that publish all ages.

For a list of publications, click HERE.
For a list of contests, click HERE.

2) Sports awards

If you are great at a sport that is not provided at your high school, look for local leagues/clubs that you can join. If you are not excellent at any sport, do not chase after sports awards. They are other types of awards out there for you.

3) School club awards/Academic competitions

Many school clubs like Model UN, Science Olympiad, and Debate club participate in state or national level competitions. Commit yourself to a few clubs that you will excel at. Do not spread yourself thin and join many clubs.

4) Volunteer/Leadership/Social Change awards

Let’s say you are not the debate champion of your school and can’t throw a baseball to save your life, yet you are great at raising money for a cause and helping the community, environment, or other cause. Well, there is recognition out there for students like you.

Whatever your strength might be, try to get tangible recognition to enhance the quantitative side of your application.


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