It’s often stated when a huge prize is at stake in a Powerball or Mega Millions game: “You gotta be in it to win it.”

The same is true for the various recognition programs offered by the National Honor Societies. But unlike the lottery, these programs are not a game of chance and, frankly, these contests carry much more prestige. Plus, the National Honor Societies’ programs all require an application—not a ticket—to begin.

The National Honor Societies’ Award Programs

The National Honor Society (NHS) offers its respected NHS Scholarship program, and any senior member in good standing is eligible to apply. The National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), meanwhile, offers the NJHS Outstanding Achievement Award, presenting 500 of the most exceptional members with $500 college savings awards. Advisers nominate members by submitting an application. Lastly, chapters can earn recognition through the Outstanding Service Project award program. This program also requires an application submitted by the adviser.

How can you make an application really stand out?

Whether you are an adviser guiding students in preparing an application for a scholarship or the person who is submitting an application to nominate a student (or a project) for an award, you should share or remember these tips to ensure efforts are properly invested:

  • Plan: Learn the program’s deadline, review the application’s requirements, then chart a reverse timeline in order to complete the application and submit it on time. Build in time for unexpected emergencies-like your computer crashing at midnight—that might sidetrack your effort.
  • Recruit: Does your application require a recommendation or certification by another individual? Think strategically about asking the individual(s) who can best speak to your strengths. Plus, consider that person’s time and don’t wait until the last minute to ask.
  • Read: Make sure you’ve studied every question carefully and considered your response.
  • Write: Be passionate and compelling on questions that require a written answer. Give examples and be specific about why YOU deserve this honor. Consider that you possibly are competing with many, many other applicants, and you want to make sure your application rises to the top, like foam floating on your Starbucks latte. Also, pay attention to word counts. Don’t exceed the limit!
  • Verify: Make sure your entries are accurate and complete. (Did you skip a field by mistake or accidentally transpose some numbers?)
  • Check: Print out your application and proofread it carefully. This bears repeating: Proofread it carefully! Check for spelling and grammatical errors. If you’re not confident in your skills in this area, ask someone you trust—an English teacher or someone who has professional expertise—to read it and recommend edits or corrections. (And this goes for you, too, advisers. Don’t be shy. If writing or proofing is not your forte, enlist the assistance of someone from your English and language arts department.)

These same tips can be useful for college applications. Be sure to share them with your members. Make this investment of time worthwhile. Good luck!