We’re sure to catch heat for this one, but sometimes you have to hear the truth, even if it’s an unkind truth. We’re referring here to awards such as Who’s Who Among American High School Students. The first time you get a letter from Who’s Who, it feels great. Someone has told you that you’re among the best in the whole country! It happened to us in high school, too. And when we found out that Who’s Who wanted $40 for a book with our name in it, we shelled out the $40 and bought that book quicker than you can say “ego boost.” If you want to do so, too, go for it. But consider something: How did Who’s Who find about you? Did you submit an application to Who’s Who? No. But they found you anyway, and without even speaking to you, named you one of the country’s most outstanding students. That’s a little bit odd, don’t you think?
The truth is, Who’s Who makes a lot of money by selling books – not by rigorously reviewing the achievements of every single high school student in the nation, comparing them all and deciding who’s the best. And the more students they include in their books, the more proud parents and students there are to purchase more books. Students and parents receiving notification from Who’s Who for the first time are unlikely to know this; however, those of us who serve on scholarship committees know it all too well.
Therefore, when you put Who’s Who (or organizations like them) on a list of your credentials, committee members are going to see that as “padding” – i.e., adding accolades to your application that are supposed to sound good, but really aren’t consequential. We recommend omitting Who’s Who from scholarship applications/essays.
I feel like I should add something here. No one who’s received a letter from Who’s Who should now feel like they’re not worthy of awards, accolades or recognition. Just because Who’s Who sent you a letter doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of more prestigious awards. And even if Who’s Who is the only award you’ve received, that also doesn’t mean that you’re not going to achieve every goal you set for yourself in the future. You can, and if you set your mind to it, you will. There are 100 times more successful people in the world than there are award winners.