In addition to listing your relevant experiences, your résumé may also include an awards and honors section. Just as when you list your experience, your awards and honors should be relevant to your chosen field. If your honors and awards are not related to your field, only include them if you feel it will give readers an important insight into your achievements and interests.
When preparing to write this section, first consider which of your accomplishments will fit into the category of honors. Then prioritize your list, beginning with the most impressive and ending with the least selective awards.
Step One: Making Your List
Typically, the awards and honors section of a résumé should be related to your academic or professional recognitions, though the honors you choose will depend on your professional focus.
- Departmental honors for a senior thesis
- Dean’s list
- Fellowships and grants
- Achievements in academic competitions
- Any award related to one of your extracurricular activities
- Athletic achievements
- Workplace recognition
- Community awards
- Recognition for volunteering efforts
If you have a range of awards, you should rank them from the most impressive to the least impressive. And again, remember that readers are specifically looking for cues that demonstrate your potential in your field; any awards you were given that are relevant to your field will signify your commitment and potential for future success.
Step Two: Ranking Your Awards
Level of Recognition
If you have won any regional, national or international awards, list these accomplishments before honors granted on a local or university level. For example, winning recognition at a national science fair will be seen as more impressive than a local competition. These accomplishments will show admissions boards that you have distinguished yourself outside of your community, and earned the respect of academic authorities.
Consider the selectivity of each award. For example, if you were one of three hundred students to make the Dean’s list, but were the only student to win honors in your department for your thesis, prioritize your thesis award.
Step Three: Describing Your Awards
If you are using a program-specific application, you may be allowed a brief space (typically under 150 characters) to describe your honors. If you are submitting a résumé, you should still follow these tips, as precision and clarity will work towards your advantage.
- Be precise: Because you have a limited space, each word has to count. Focus on the selectivity of the award, and avoid unnecessary descriptions.
- Example: “Selected as one of ten recipients out of 1,000 applications.”
- Example: “Awarded first place in national competition with over 10,000 participants.”
- Choose impressive verbs: Use language that emphasizes selectivity and prestige. Examples: “Achieved recognition for,” “Awarded,” “Selected for/as,” and “Recognized as”
Final Tips: Dos and Don’ts
- List only academic or professional awards and honors in this section
- Prioritize the most selective awards
- Prioritize any awards granted at the state, national, or international level
- Include non-academic awards if they are irrelevant to your field.
- Eliminate less selective awards (i.e. honor roll) unless you have more impressive honors to put in their place.
- Give unnecessary space to honors that are irrelevant to your future degree or career.
The honors section of your résumé is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have achieved recognition for your academic work. However, do not worry if you do not have many awards to name, as there will be many other opportunities on your application to show admissions boards that you are a driven, passionate, and enthusiastic candidate.