I grew up in a rural part of an overrepresented state. When people ask me where I'm from, I try to explain to them that it's not your typical town in New Jersey. It's filled with produce farms. Remember, New Jersey is the Garden State. I am from the part that produces all that bounty. In college admissions, though, a student from my hometown often gets overlooked.But there is an unexpected solution—the College Board's National Recognition Program.
Sophomores and juniors who identify as Latino, Hispanic, Black, African American, Native, Indigenous, or attend high school in a rural community may be eligible for this honor if they have a 3.5 GPA and took AP exams, the PSAT-NMSQT, or the PSAT10. Students are notified in August before the school year begins. Once they receive their certificate, they can list it as an "academic honor" on their applications.
Why is this important?
Someone who lives in a rural community often has limited educational resources. Test scores tend to be lower and their applications may not have the slickness of a student's application from a more suburban or metropolitan area. Back in the day, my college application was the opposite of slick. But most admissions officers don't know the difference between Vineland, New Jersey (where I'm from) and Princeton, New Jersey (home to the illustrious and well-endowed Princeton University). When a student lists the National Recognition award as an academic honor, the admissions officer immediately understands the community or background that the student comes from.
For Latino, Hispanic, Black, African American, Native, and Indigenous students, listing the National Recognition award might be the only indication that they are coming from an underrepresented background. With affirmative action ending this year, colleges are going to be looking for clues about a student's racial identity, especially if the student doesn't write an essay or list an activity that reveals this.
I am not a huge fan of standardized tests. But in this case, taking APs or the PSAT might allow a student to not get overlooked in the college admissions process. The fact that I grew up in a farming community shaped me. It also made applying to college a whole lot harder. The National Recognition Program doesn't fix the admissions process, but it sure does make things clearer for admissions officers.
If a student receives one of the National Recognition awards, they should list it in the "Honors" section of their application. I sure would have done the same if it existed when I was a student. It might have explained a whole lot in my application if it was there.