INTRODUCTION: Albert Einstein said, “The only rational way to teach is by example.” In that spirit, I created a course-ending activity for my student success course that invites students to honor classmates who best exemplify the qualities of successful students. This activity creates an uplifting celebration to bring closure to any academic course, college committee, or ongoing workshop group. It is also a way for departments or divisions to acknowledge members who exemplify excellence. All that is needed is a list of personal qualities and/or behaviors that the group has previously agreed will contribute to success (however it is defined by the group).

In our student success course, we focus on the eight On Course success principles (Self-Responsibility, Self-Motivation, Self-Management, Interdependence, Self-Awareness, Lifelong Learning, Emotional Intelligence, and Believing in Yourself), but this activity could easily be adapted so that students give awards to their classmates for whatever qualities or skills a course teaches.


  • To provide an effective course review
  • To acknowledge and celebrate students who have effectively implemented the course content


  • Ballot for each student in the class (sample appended below)
  • Certificate of Award for the top vote-getter in each of the 8 qualities (I use fancy bordered certificates available in office supply stores)


1. Near the end of the semester, review with your class the 8 Choices of Successful Students from On Course (or whatever criteria of excellence you wish to acknowledge and reinforce with exemplars from your group).

2. Give each student a “Ballot for Best Examples of Successful Students.” Ask students to nominate the classmate who they think best exemplifies each of the eight qualities. After writing the nominated student’s name, they are to write a brief description explaining WHY they chose that person, providing specific examples of behaviors they observed during the semester.

3. Collect the ballots, tally the results (outside of class), and create an award certificate for the winner of each category.

4. In the final class, announce the winners (with much fanfare) and hand out the certificates one by one, encouraging applause. For each winner, read the examples that were offered to explain why this person was chosen by his or her peers.


I have done this activity in my College Success class for several years now and it has always been well received. The process of voting forces students to think deeply about the 8 Choices and how they are exemplified by their classmates. Students appear to care very much about who wins and are very proud when they themselves are chosen by their peers. When I announce the awards, I make a big deal out of describing the inner qualities and outer behaviors that others have noticed. If there are ties for an award, I give certificates to both students. If one student wins in several categories, I usually go with the 2nd place vote getter so I maximize the number of people getting an award.

Students have told me they are very proud of being selected for an award and have included it on their resume or in their portfolio. One winner reported having his certificate framed! Last semester, I had a student follow me from class to my office to talk about his disappointment with not winning an award. He knew he had not given his best effort during the semester and he wanted to examine where he had gotten off course. By the time he left my office, he had created a plan so he would be a “winner” the following semester. I don’t think he would have had such an “Aha” without the awards ceremony!


HANDOUT: Ballot for Best Examples of Successful Students
[This Ballot was created for an On Course class, but could be adapted for courses that teach other qualities and/or skills.]

1. Accepts PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for creating their life as they want it. Adopts the Creator role, believing that their choices create the outcomes and experiences they want. Uses Creator language, accepting personal responsibility for their results. Makes wise decisions, consciously designing the future they want. _________________ is the best example in our class because…

2. Discovers SELF-MOTIVATION by discovering their dreams, committing to their dreams, and designing a compelling life plan complete with purposeful long- and short- term goals. _________________ is the best example in our class because…

3. Masters SELF-MANAGEMENT by planning and carrying out purposeful actions that move them on course to their goals and dreams. Develops self-discipline, showing commitment, focus, and persistence in pursuing their goals and dreams. _________________ is the best example in our class because…

4. Employs INTERDEPENDENCE by developing mutually supportive relationships, helping both others and themselves reach goals and dreams. Creates an effective support network and strengthens relationships with active listening. _________________ is the best example in our class because…

5. Gains SELF-AWARENESS by recognizing when they are off course, identifies their self-defeating patterns, and chooses new habit patterns and core beliefs that support their success.  _________________ is the best example in our class because…

6. Adopts LIFELONG LEARNING by taking personal responsibility for learning all of the information, skills, and beliefs necessary to achieve their goals and dreams. Develops wisdom from the University of Life, using problems, obstacles, mistakes, and failures as valuable learning experiences.  _________________ is the best example in our class because…

7. Develops EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE by taking responsibility for managing their emotions and for creating the quality not only of their outcomes but also their inner experiences. Manages distressing emotions in a positive way, controls impulses and motivates themselves, shows empathy for others, and handles feelings in a relationship positively. _________________ is the best example in our class because…

8. BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES by seeing themselves as capable, lovable, and an unconditionally worthy human being. Acknowledges their talents and personal value and believes fully in their ability to create their desired outcomes and experiences.  _________________ is the best example in our class because…

–Marianne Auten, Counseling Faculty, Paradise Valley Community College, AZ 

Forum Image OptionAwards Ceremony for Student Success Forum