What Hallmark Award Judges Wish You Knew

Have you ever wanted to peek inside the mind of a Phi Theta Kappa Hallmark Award judge? What secrets could he or she share that could improve your submissions?

You’re not alone, and this isn’t one-sided. After decades of applications, common issues have arisen that Hallmark Award judges would like to share. Here are some things the judges wish you knew, in no particular order.

“When answering questions about an individual award nominee, use specific facts to back up the person’s qualities. Saying so and so has done wonderful things for the chapter’ isn’t enough; tell us what the wonderful things are. Quotes are also great when describing the influence the individual has had on others. Avoid using generic descriptions that aren’t useful in evaluating the person’s impact on a chapter, such as Her smile lights up a room,’ or He’s the nicest person in our chapter.’ “

“For the Honors in Action Project Award and the College Project Award, we need to learn about the processes people engaged in, not simply the end results of the processes.”

“We can tell that you use a thesaurus to look for various ways to convey the same thought. Be sure your message is still the same and makes sense when using words or phrases from a thesaurus.”

“The word count limit is not a required word count. Don’t use fluff and filler that detracts from the content of your chapter’s accomplishments just because you have a certain number of words allotted for the application responses. Keep your writing clean, clear and concise.”

“Judges read a specific award category, not ALL of your chapter’s award entries. So please don’t assume we will know what you wrote about in your Honors in Action Project entry when writing your Distinguished Chapter Officer entry.”

“Don’t assume we know your local community partners by just providing their acronym. Spell it out first, and then you can use initials in all other references to save on word counts.”

“On Honors in Action projects specifically, do your research first. We can tell when it’s an afterthought.”

“Although we do not designate a specific formatting form for documenting your sources, pick a style and stick to it (APA style for example).”

“When it comes to sources, be creative – sources can be found everywhere. Think outside the box and use sources like personal interviews and surveys, in addition to academic journals.”

“Use sources that show you actually researched the Honors Study Topic theme, meaning that all of your sources do not point to one opinion or conclusion. Show us that you looked into varying perspectives on a topic.”

“Please, please, please proofread your entries before sending. Although grammar and punctuation only account for a small number of points, these points are sometimes the difference between winning entries and non-winning entries.”

“Don’t assume you’ve hit all of the key points on the Judging Rubric until you have someone completely unfamiliar with your project or individual’s accomplishments grade’ your entry using the rubric. They’ll be able to spot holes you weren’t even aware of because you know the project/person so well.”

“When judging, I always have the rubric in front of me. Award entries that go specifically by the rubric are so easy for me to judge. I look at the rubric, and I see that the answer is in the nomination – it’s scored! I move on!”

“When nominating advisors for awards, always check to see what they have accomplished prior to your joining the chapter.If an advisor has previously held a leadership role in the organization, it will definitely add points to their score.Not mentioning previous accomplishments indicates to the reader that you do not know the advisor very well or that you did not do your homework.”

Administrator Hallmark Awards are due by 5 pm CST December 10. Individual Awards are due by 5 pm CST January 14, 2015, and Chapter Awards are due by 5 pm CST January 28, 2015. Read more.

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