The Ivy Coach Daily

August 15, 2023

Which Honors to List for Elite College Admissions

Which Honors To List For Elite College Admissions
Listing the National Honor Society among one’s honors on The Common Application isn’t impressive.

Originally Published on December 31, 2012:

If your child isn’t sure which honors to list on The Common Application to impress admissions officers at America’s elite universities, know they’re not alone. Many college applicants fill up the space, which typically consists of up to five slots, without giving much thought to which honors they choose to list and which they choose to omit. So let’s dive into some common pitfalls of The Common App.’s honors section.

Less Can Be More in The Common App’s Honors Section

One of the more common honors students include within the honors section is the National Honor Society (or some variation thereof, like the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica or the Société Honoraire de Français). Yet listing the National Honor Society on an application to an elite university is the equivalent of conveying to admissions officers that a student has a pulse. Congratulations! It’s an honor that adds no flavor to an application, and we at Ivy Coach would even prefer students leave a slot in the honors section empty than fill it with membership in NHS.

Honors Which We Believe Hurt Applicants’ Cases for Admission

Want to know which other honors we believe add no flavor to an application? While the list is lengthy, we’ll whet your appetite with the following: National Society for High School Scholars, Who’s Who Among American High School Students, Dean’s List, and Academic Honor Roll. Oh, and we’re just getting started.

Honors Which We Believe Help Applicants’ Cases for Admission

But now that you know which honors aren’t meaningful in our book in the highly selective college admissions process, you’re likely wondering which awards carry weight and can wow admissions officers.

So allow us to give Ivy Coach’s readers a little taste: Regeneron Science Talent Search Semi-Finalist, Lincoln-Douglas Debate Champion, and The Diana Award. Are you starting to see the difference in the caliber of honors?

The Rule for the Honors Section of The Common Application

In sum, if a student has to pay for an honor, the honor is not worth the paper on which it’s written. If just about any student can achieve the recognition, it’s not a differentiator in the elite college admissions process. And if you received a mailing touting that you won such and such award from an organization you’ve never heard of, save the Earth and recycle that mailing.

And one final word of advice? If you include a recognition within the honors section, don’t also include that same recognition in The Common Application’s activities section or the additional information section. Admissions officers don’t have amnesia, and repeating the honor will only make an applicant less likable and undercut their case for admission.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Completing the Honors Section

If you’d like to optimize your child’s case for admission to elite universities and submit a powerful honors section of The Common Application, fill out Ivy Coach’s consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to delineate our college counseling services.

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