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How important are awards when applying to Top Tier schools?

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I’m a junior and for the first two years of high school, I went to a small under-resourced school in rural town. My school didn’t have many opportunities to win awards other than Principal’s List (A’s) which I got each year but so has every other applicant go the colleges I’d like to attend. I was also a state finalist in a poetry recitation competition but it doesn’t contribute to my “spike” (neuroscience & public service) and that is pretty much all I have at this point. Are there any other awards I should shoot for or is it not that big a deal?

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Congrats on your poetry award - that's fantastic! Since you're a junior, you have some more time to potentially participate in competitions. Have you considered science-related competitions like these? https://blog.collegevine.com/10-science-research-competitions-for-high-schoolers/

I don't know of any public service awards off the top of my head, but the important thing is developing your activities as deeply as you can. Colleges will evaluate your ECs based on "tiers," and you can learn more about them here, if you don't know about tiers already: https://blog.collegevine.com/breaking-down-the-4-tiers-of-extracurricular-activities/

I'd say awards can definitely boost your application, but it's not necessary to have them, as long as you have strong ECs otherwise. For instance, being a state-level debater isn't an award per se, but it's still impressive for top colleges. Hope that makes sense, and let me know if you have more questions!