In an effort to help make the PSE National Awards Program more transparent, and to encourage more chapters to participate, here are some commonly raised misconceptions about competing:
Myth: Entering the Awards Program takes a LOT of time and effort.
Truth: Yes, there is work involved with writing the award entry, but for the most part, chapters should be able to leverage their COG reports to help with the majority of the work. And yes, there is work involved with creating the on-site presentation if you are selected as a finalist, but the experience of assembling such a presentation is something that will definitely help you in the real world.
Myth: Only the "big" chapters win awards.
Truth: Chapter size is not part of the criteria in any award category. Chapters of ALL sizes have succeeded in the Awards Program, even when it comes to the Top Chapter awards. For example, in 2006, Arizona State University (Iota) won the Lewis F. Gordon Top Gold Chapter award with a chapter size of only about 30 members, and in 2014, Northern Illinois University (Gamma Zeta) finished second in Top Gold Chapter with a chapter size around 40 members.
Myth: Only the Gold chapters win awards.
Truth: Other than when used to qualify for the different Top Chapter categories, COG Tiers/Points are also not part of any category's criteria. The criteria for our competitions is based primarily on execution, and the National Awards Program maintains the belief that a chapter should be able to execute regardless of COG standing.
Myth: The chapter with the most COG points in their tier will win that Top Chapter Competition.
Truth: COG Points are not a direct component in the scoring of Top Chapter! The PSE NEF Awards Program recognizes that the COG point scale is a good way to help group our chapters by capability, but does not recognize COG points as a clear determinate of "which is the better chapter". There are many different ways that the COG can be slanted towards certain types of chapters and activities (bigger recruitment, certain combinations of proft/non-profit projects, etc.), so while we will continue to use COG ranking to split the chapters up for the Top Chapter competitions, the actual COG points will not be directly factored in.
Myth: The same chapter wins "everything" every year.
Truth: There have been stretches in the history of the program where certain chapters have been continually successful in certain awards (ex: UW-Whitewater's winning a record 7-straight Top Gold Chapter competitions from 1972-1978), and where certain chapters have had very successful single years (ex: Miami University's 8 1st/2nd-place finishes in 2012), but it is incorrect to say that generally, the awards all cluster around a single chapter. In the 2013 Awards Program, 18 different chapters took home trophies for placing in the different competitions.
Myth: There are certain "tricks" that you need to know in order to win.
Truth: All of the guidelines, criteria, and instructions that you need to follow for your entries are clearly outlined in the official Call For Entries. Every year, our judges can clearly identify entries that lose points because the person preparing them obviously did not read those rules! Don't be that chapter!
Myth: My chapter doesn't have a chance because we've never competed in the program before.
Truth: Past competition history is also not part of any award criteria, and again, many chapters have had success in the program even in their very first competition year. For example, in 2009, 5 first-time competition chapters placed in the program, including the University of Northern Iowa, who won the Lewis F. Gordon Top Gold Chapter award in their very first attempt! Besides, if you believe the "we've never competed" thing, it's not like that'll change by skipping this year's program, so give it a shot!
For a full list of past winners, please check out our Awards History page!
Myth: The competition judges are all alumni with "special" relationships to certain chapters.
Truth: The competition judges are a combination of alumni, members of the PSE National Council and National Educational Foundation boards, and corporate partners/recruiters. The Awards Chairs take serious measures to prevent any previous ties to our chapters from inserting bias into the competition, including blocking certain judges from certain competitions (alumni from judging their own chapters, partners from judging chapters they've worked with, etc.). The videos of the competitions are also reviewed to further evaluate the judges for use in future years.
Myth: The judges are always just going to pick the same chapters year after year.
Truth: It's important to note that our judging panels vary a great deal from year to year - and it's actually become uncommon to have even 1-2 judges repeat in the same competitions in consecutive years, let alone having the same exact panel in one competition. In 2014, the program averaged 6-9 judges in each competition's written round, and 4-6 judges in each competition's on-site round, with very little overlap. As a result, our final scores reflect the opinions of a unique set of 10+ judges each year.