Hallmark Awards Entries: Avoid the Biggest Mistakes Chapters Make

Susan Edwards, Phi Theta Kappa’s Associate Vice President of Honors Programing, Leadership Development and Undergraduate Research, suggests it’s time for chapters to start working on Hallmark Awards entries now, by first creating a team and making assignments (within the next week). A suggested timeline might go as follows:

December 1 – Make sure your team can access the online entry forms
December 21 – First draft of awards entries complete
January 12 – Revisions due back to team
January 16 – Final Review complete
January 18 – Enter online and submit

While entries are due January 24, 2018, by 5:00 pm Central Time, it’s best to submit them a few days prior to the deadline to avoid major website traffic delays.

Below, Susan also shares the biggest mistakes chapters make in each Honors in Action Rubric and how your chapter can avoid them – plus tips on the College Project Award application.

Like the Beta Delta Sigma Chapter at Los Angeles Valley College in California (above), you might want to have some healthy snacks and brain cell mascots handy for your Hallmark writing sessions.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Make Sure Your HiA Project Directly Addresses:

  • The Honors Study Topic: How the World Works: Global Perspectives
  • A Specific Theme in the Honors Program Guide as it clearly relates to the overall topic
  • An Overarching Research Question
  • HiA Planning/Judging Rubrics

Here Are the Biggest Mistakes Chapters Make that You Want to Avoid (By Rubric):

Academic Investigation

  • Not Exploring multiple sides of an issue
  • Not listing ACADEMIC sources in your entry
  • Not tying research to specific Honors Study Topic theme
  • Not even mentioning Honors Study Topic

Leadership Roles/Development

  • General statements; no leadership specifics

Example: Jon did a great job of leading the team.

  • No INTENTIONAL leadership learning related to the HiA Project
  • Eating up word count with names and long titles
  • Eating up word count with general leadership learning not directly tied to completion of the project


  • Not demonstrating specifics of effective communication/shared goals among collaborators
  • Not reaching a wide audience:
    • people at the college who are not part of chapter AND
    • Community members AND
    • Others in OR beyond the region
  • Not demonstrating specifics of effective communication/shared goals among collaborators


  • Not making clear how action directly related to research conclusions specifically addressing how learning about a complex issue motivated the chapter to act
  • Not making clear how action directly related to research conclusions


  • Not including project’s SPECIFIC contributions to Honors Study Topic/Theme/Issue
  • Not including measurable quantitative and qualitative outcomes
  • Not including specific personal growth as scholars and leaders or influence of the project on participants

For the College Project Entry

The College Project is designed to foster communications between the chapter and college administrators.

  1. Briefly describe your College Project and who from the chapter and the college administration was involved in determining it?
  2. Summarize your objectives for the College Project and the process by which the chapter and college administration set these objectives.
  3. Describe the planning process and strategies developed to complete the College Project.
  4. What were the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of your project, including the lessons learned by your chapter members and others?
  5. What is left undone or what opportunities remain for the future?

Here’s What the Judges Are Looking for in Each Rubric:

A joint brainstorming session with the college president, campus CEO or other high-level administrator
It’s OK if chapter has ideas to share, but there should be consensus WITH the administration on what project the chapter will do on its behalf.

Leadership Development
Specific ways the chapter members planned/prepared themselves for the implementation of the project
We learn by doing, but it’s important to prepare as much as possible by seeking expert guidance or attending workshops or conferences that build the skills necessary to carry out the College Project.

Cooperative Effort/Communication
Clearly articulated communication and cooperative effort
The chapter may work with other faculty, administrators or staff to complete a project, but there should also be a communication plan for updating the campus CEO/top administrator. If a chapter runs into obstacles, they should work with appropriate administrators/staff to make necessary revisions to the College Project.

A measurable component by which its success is determined
Make sure the project planning includes a way to assess impact in addition to ways chapter members and the targeted audience for the project grow personally as well.

Flawless Spelling and Grammar

Final Points to Consider

  • Keep detailed notes during the process
  • Have one writer, one voice, but all input
  • Edit, edit, edit
  • Walk judges through your process
  • Use specific examples
  • Be concise — 1,200 Word Count for College Project Entry; 2,600 Word Count for HiA Entry
  • Preview your online application well ahead of the entry deadline (January 24, 2018)

Use these resources for more information and good luck to everyone!