2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Is earning a Black Belt an honor on common app?

On common app, where it says, "Do you wish to report any honors related to your academic achievements beginning with the ninth grade or international equivalent?" could I put earning a Black Belt? I was only hesitant because it doesn't really relate to my academic achievements.

@rsri2 years ago

I think it is considered an honor because not many people achieve a level that high. but unless you're going for kinesiology majors or you have a really good story to back up traits you got from it like discipline and such, it may not serve to be that useful.

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2 answers

2 years ago[edited]

Hi @aows.11, I definitely think it's an honor but not an honor that is going to help you get into a top college.

On the plus side, achieving a martial arts black belt shows evidence of doing physical activity at an expert level. It shows you have dedication, persistence, and diligence to follow through on a long-term lesson plan. One could argue that these character traits are all positively additive and helpful in having the aligned mindset to attack a college education from an attitudinal perspective.

On the negative side, higher education is not linear or iterative. What I mean is that in martial arts whether it's Karate, Judo, Kung Fu, Aikido, Kendo, or Tae Kwon Do, students around the world all have to complete progressions of lessons in a linear fashion to move up from a White Belt to Black Belt. In traditional studios, you don't get rewarded for being original or coming up with your own interpretation of martial art. You first master the basics, then the intermediate moves then more complex ones. I don't think there is any sort of correlation that having a black belt in anything is going to make you intellectually vital or curious or a better thinker or more compassionate person or a better leader. You might argue that in fact, you are better at all these things. However, from a college admissions officer's lens, there is no forensic evidence to confirm that. I would argue that just because you can master muscle memory, that doesn't mean you are gifted in intellectual learning.

So I would add it only if I couldn't find another 5 awards or honors that are more meaningful to an admissions officer. You are not going to know who reads your file, chances are they are not a Black Belt in anything or know someone who is a black belt so it might not have drawn any net benefit. But I have heard of applicants who were Eagle Scouts or collected lots of Girl Scout badges who got accepted by top colleges because that's more commonplace and a proxy for community service. I think if you are not physically healthy or have a disability, it would be hard to get a black belt in anything so from the accessibility angle, it has it's limitations to who can excel at it.

2 years ago

Getting a black belt is an impressive honor, but (like you mentioned) the honors section on the CommonApp is only for academic achievements! Instead, I'd recommend briefly mentioning it in either the additional information or activities section :)

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