How to Create Your Honors and Awards List for Applications

How to create your honors and awards list for applications

It’s time for you to start thinking about listing awards, honors, and activities for your college and scholarship applications. There are five blanks for academic awards on the common application. Where do you start? What do you include? This shouldn’t be difficult if you’ve been keeping your awards and honors organized in your ScholarPrep Organizer, saved in folders, or saved on your computer.

Academic Awards and Honors

Academic awards and honors should be the only items listed under the Awards section on your Common Application. This section may not be lengthy if your school does not offer many awards, and that’s okay.

Examples of academic awards include, but are not limited to:

  • AP Scholar
  • Any “honor society” such as, International Thespian Society, National Honor Society, etc.
  • Honor Roll
  • National Language Exam Recognition
  • National Merit Award
  • President’s Award
  • School subject-based award
  • Subject-specific exams (i.e. National Spanish Exam; Science Olympiad)
  • Winner of a science fair or academic competition

Making the List: Title, Ranking, & Description


Know the correct title of the award you are listing. Look at the certificate, medal, trophy or other item to ensure it’s correct.


List the most significant based on the level of recognition first. The highest  level of recognition is where you should begin: international, to national, to state, to community to school. For example, if you placed 1st in district but 2nd in state in a debate competition, you would list the 2nd place first since it was at a higher level.

Next, determine the selectivity for the award. Being an “honor roll” student is not a very selective award as it is very common, especially since so many students are working to get into their college or university of choice. This would be near the bottom of the list based on selectivity. So, if you are a National Merit award winner that would be placed above honor roll student–if you choose to list honor roll student in one of the slots provided for awards.


The description of the award should be short and specific. Think Twitter..140 characters or less, but use proper spelling and grammar with no hashtags. Focus your keywords on the selectivity of the award. Do not use unnecessary information. Choose impactful verbs demonstrating selectivity to begin the description: “Awarded…”, “Achieved recognition for…”, “Recognized as…”, etc.

Examples include

  • Selected as one of five recipients of 500 applicants.
  • Awarded second place in a state competition with over 1,000 participants.

Non-Academic Awards and Honors

Many students earn awards or honors not related to academics. The non-academic awards and honors from athletic events, extracurricular activities, volunteering or from the community should be listed in the Activities section, not awards and honors. For example, if you were captain of the football team, you would include it under football. If you won 2nd place at state in track and field for long jump, you would list that under track & field.

When you list activities and non-academic honors, rank them with the most impressive first. For example, if you were a member of FBLA but did not hold any leadership positions it would be listed closer to the bottom following activities with honors/awards.

Outside of the Box Honors and Awards

Are you from a small school that doesn’t offer a lot of academic awards? Or, do you want to add more academic awards? Look online to sign up for academic competitions.  

Academic Competitions

A good place to look is The Center for Future Global Leaders (CFGL). CFGL is a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating the youth of today into tomorrow’s leaders through educational attainment and character development and sponsors a triad of academic competitions, known as IAC, that seek to recognize outstanding achievement in essay writing, mathematical problem-solving, and a mastery of English vocabulary. The IAC has over 6,000 participants each year from the USA, Canada and South Korea; it recognizes winners at the divisional, regional, national, and international levels.

Academic Clubs

You can also join subject-based clubs that compete, especially if there is one in your future career department. For example, if you are a business, marketing, or finance major you should join FBLA, BPA or DECA and compete in any competitions to gain experience and possibly awards.

Academic awards and honors should be a focus of yours once you enter high school. The more elite university you wish to attend, the more prestigious awards you will need to list. Start thinking about your future and what you need for applications, join the clubs you need to in order to compete, sign up online for competitions, and make sure you stand out from the crowd!

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