How to choose what event to go for Dean’s List at

To be quick: Is there a “right” way to choose what event to put up a Dean’s List nominee at?

A Dean’s List nominee can only compete for finalist at one of their events. This past year, I had the option to choose between going for it at Tech Valley Regional, or Hudson Valley Regional. I chose Tech Valley, but didn’t get it. Is there really a difference, or way to predict if the nominee has a better chance at once event or the other?

I might not be wording my question correctly, sorry. Feel free to ask me any questions or for a clarification to my question

I don’t know if there’s a good “strategy” other than just doing your best in the interview. Maybe if you knew that a regional has a history of having an abnormally low amount of Dean’s List nominees, you could go for that one. Personally, I’d go for the “home” regional of your team if you have an established presence there just because, but I’m not entirely sure if it makes a tangible difference.

And obviously, pick a regional that the nominee is going to be able to attend.


Full Disclosure: We are (so far) a 1-event/yr team, and one of our students did win Dean’s List at Tech Valley (our local regional) this year. I also FTAA’ed at Husdon Valley.

I don’t have much by way of secret-inside-information to guide you here. That said, I do think you made the right decision.

Looking it it by the numbers, each team can nominate up to 2 students (not all teams nominate two, we didn’t last year), and with ~36 teams at Tech Valley puts you at ~36:1 odds on a random draw. With ~46 teams at Hudson Valley, the odds could be numerically worse.

Some years the judges really have a hard time picking a winner, many of the teams attending Tech Valley have great outreach programs, and work with other FTC/FLL/FLLJr teams. I’ve read some of the essays for some of our Dean’s List winners (and those that missed it by such a slim margin), and they really are impressive.

My best advice is - if you really want to win Dean’s List, it’s the interview that can really make it happen for you. Read the description of the award and be preparted to show how you are the best fit for it. Be passionate, be excited, and remember, even if you don’t become a Finalist, it still looks great on a college application (and scholarship applications too).


As a dean’s list winner, there is no “right or wrong” regional. My team nominated two people at our home regional, and i got through. What worked for me was that my coaches and teammates asked me to share things that i did beyond the robotics scope. Volunteering, extended learning, going above and beyond to be a team and community player all help. (not saying your nominee did not do this, just saying that it helps.)

But another thing is to make sure the nominee is aware of FIRST values. A large majority of the interview is based on how you (as a nominee) has applied the values of FIRST to life outside of the team.

To sum it up, don’t forget that Dean’s list is about the Values of FIRST and how the Nominee has exhibited them in the community.

In this way, it is very similar to the chairman’s award in that, between a team that travels around the world to help out a team and a team whose budget only allowed them to help out a local team, but they did it to the best of their ability, the judges are still going to pick the team that BEST exemplified the Core Values of FIRST, and which team interviews best.

imo there is no “right regional” to put a nominee in. my team and the other finalist from our regional came from vastly different teams and outlooks, but were picked based on what we did in our family, team, community, and what we did to better ourselves.

I hope this gives you some info. I will try to get one of my coaches to answer this question as well, and soon. Good luck!


Thank you guys for the help. I will definitely go over these points with my mentors in order to help this year’s nominees.

I wouldn’t say there is really a difference as far as where you should be nominated, however it might just be better to do it at your home regional, since the judges have a higher chance of knowing you or your team. However compared to the other aspects of the award, I don’t think that this really has that much of an impact.

On a separate note, if you were nominated as a sophomore, you might have been passed up because of that. I don’t fully know if there is a reason to the correlation, but this year there were no sophomore winners, and last year there was only one. I don’t know about finalists however.

Edit: I have to second @Chibs_from_931’s points: Deans List is meant to be an award for those who your mentors and judges feel live FIRST values, and are leaders in their community. This is the MOST important thing, and judges need to be able to see that in both your interview and your nomination. Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that imo Deans list isn’t really an award you specifically work for, its a byproduct of your passion for STEM and FIRST, as it shows that you are really motivated by your interest and passion in what you do, and not just the award and how it could help you in the future. I think that this is something teams can overlook, and should keep in mind when going through this process.


Thanks Cole. That really added what I was missing. Dean’s list is a measure of overall character against the FIRST values scale, so it really isnt something a team should simply “compete” for. On many occasion, my team has not nominated a team-member because we honestly have had some really bad years. Dean’s list isnt an award a team can really compete in, its more an opportunity to let the nominee get recognized for the outstanding work they do in their community.

On the Sophomore nomination note-
I think I read somewhere that Dean’s list is only accepting juniors and seniors from this year forward. Not exactly sure but I believe that was the case.


I Completely agree with everything @Cole_Nagata and @Chibs_from_931 have said. What I always tell people this award is about is that, you are a employee of FIRST, so what have you done for FIRST.

To add onto what @Chibs_from_931 said about the sophomores, I have also read something from FIRST that they prefer juniors for the award. As it’s evident from the past two years of Dean’s List Winners that there was only one sophomore to have won.

In my opinion I think that teams should really only nominate juniors. Just that extra full year to be able to do and learn more can go a long way. But as Cole and Chibs have said, you don’t set out a plan of things to do just to win Dean’s List.

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I agree with everything @Cole_Nagata and @Chibs_from_931 have said above, but I will add my story being an Award Winner as well.

First off, selling why you exemplify FIRST’s core values and how you show passion for STEM and FIRST in your community, on your team, and your future plans. The FIRST core values are a big part of the process, so to any future nominee, make sure you know each one and how you exemplify it. I’d say those are some of the big things that I demonstrated in my interview that made the judges go “Wow”. Really connect with the judges to make them remember you. I made a book (like a Chairman’s/EI book) about my impact on my team and community, with my future plans and how FIRST is helping me achieve those plans. I made 4 books, 2 to give to each of the judges, one for me to reference in the interview if need be, and then a spare in case something happened to one of them. I ended up giving that book to a friend who won in 2017 because he liked it so much.

My team is from Western Pennsylvania and there’s only 1 regional in my state. We go to a competition in Ohio and the PA competition. I chose PA because it was my home state, and I have been doing outreach with my team that has helped support STEM growth in PA. It was nice that 20 less teams were signed up for this Pennsylvania competition than the Ohio one, but as mentioned before in this thread, the number of Dean’s List nominees doesn’t necessarily have to line up with the number of teams. I felt like I had a better chance at the Pittsburgh PA competition because of what I’ve done for PA, more than the number of nominees, and I asked my mentors to choose that competition for me to go for the award at. So wherever the nominee feels more comfortable going to should be the competition chosen. So there is no definitive right or wrong regional as @Chibs_from_931 said.

My team, to my knowledge, has only ever nominated 3 people in 5 years. 2 in 2017, where we had a finalist, and then me. We don’t just nominate two best people because there are two spots, some teams may and that’s up to the team.

On the sophomore thing - I’ll back up what @JQ_Kocik said. In my opinion it’s tough to win as a sophomore because most nominees will be juniors, so that’s 12 additional months of being a leader, doing outreach, getting involved, etc. Not saying it’s impossible, but just that additional year of being a leader in FIRST can be huge.

Getting the nomination is still a really big accomplishment! It shows you’re doing something right! Keep doing the great things you’re doing and always be open to new opportunities to make a difference.

EDIT: I’m always happy to help out any future nominees! Don’t hesistate to ask me for help when it gets to preparation for next year.


IMO, sophomores should be nominated if the coaches/mentors feel thy deserve it. I was nominated as a sophomore last year, and just the experience of being in the interview room and knowing better what to expect and what judges are looking are is extremely helpful to me for if I was to be nominated again in my junior year.

Sure, sophomores don’t usually win, but a student shouldn’t lose the opportunity to win the award if they have the chance, just because they’re a sophomore.

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That’s not correct. In the original iteration of the award, it was Juniors and Seniors, but they moved it to Sophomores and Juniors so that the students would be able to put it on their college applications.

I would suggest either a) your first event so that the stress of the interview is over sooner or b) your home event so that it’s easier for the nominees parents to attend. How many nominees there will be at a given event is really unguessable – last season the KC regional had 11 nominees for 36 teams. Arkansas had 6 nominees for 58 teams.

My best advice for nominees is do a practice interview with your mentors before your real one – it can help you get a little more comfortable before you’re in the room.


I would guess it’s better to go for your “home” regional. A lot of the award depends on work you’ve done in your community, and judges are part of the same community you live and work in. They’re likely to be familiar with the schools you’ve volunteered at, charitable organizations you’ve worked with, local businesses you’ve partnered with, etc. They may be more likely to connect with your story than judges at an “away” regional (although excellent interviewing skills could potentially make up the difference).

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Ultimately, you never know how it’s going to turn out. It’s impossible to know how many nominees will be at any particular event, or the relative strengths of each nominee.

However, you can try to make a more informed decision. Sometimes you’ll know people on other teams that you know would be strong contenders for the award. You can look at team histories to see how many DL finalists each team has had (and at which events!) in the recent past as an indication of how well prepared students on those teams are. An event that has a lot of teams that are typically strong contenders for Chairman’s or EI likely have strong, well-rounded students to nominate as well.


My opinion is pick whichever event the nominees family is most likely to be at.


Thanks for that info!

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In the past 5 years, we have had 4 students win Dean’s List Finalist awards at regional events.

  • All of them were Juniors.
  • 3/4 were at “away” regionals, and last year’s was at our home regional.
  • All four were won at the smaller of the two events we attended

So, from our experience, if you want to hedge your bets I’d suggest nominating Juniors (who have had more time to do more stuff) and submitting at the smaller event that you’re attending (less competition). In your interview, focus on community outreach, helping others, and spreading STEM. Those are FIRST’s favorite things. Just like all awards, if you want to win, read the description in the manual. The manual tells you the exact criteria they’re judging on.

However, I don’t think the Dean’s List is the type of award you should be trying to “game” like that. My honest opinion is that you should submit at your home event because the win will be more meaningful to the student, and that you should nominate whichever student(s) truly earn it. Just being nominated should be considered an honor, because it means that your team and mentors recognize the work you’ve put in.


Sure! If your team has a sophomore team member that you feel deserves the award for their passion for FIRST and STEM, by all means nominate them. I think what people are saying is just that you can grow and learn a lot over the course of a year. But by all means, your teams shouldn’t be afraid to stick your head out the door. Clearly, if your team nominated you as a sophomore, that means that they recognize your efforts and passion for STEM, which is great!


Definitely agree with this point. Between FTC and FRC I’ve been fortunate to be around several Finalist and Winners the last five years. I’ve also been around kids who were equally deserving who did not advance to Finalist. It will be a crap shoot trying to pick one regional to attend, anyway – there are too many variable to try to game the system. # of nominees, do you get judges you “gel” with you, quality of other applicants are things you have no control over.


For me it was a little different because we were in the district system, but I feel a major advantage that I had was that I met the judges at earlier events.

When I came to the interview, I was more relaxed because I saw familiar faces, and the short time limit was less restrictive because the judges already knew who I was.

So I would recommend teams in districts who are going to two nearby events to submit for dean’s list at their later event. Or if you are in regional system, I would submit at an event where you have done well with the judges in the past.

I also brought a swerve module into the interview that I had designed. It wasn’t planned, and I don’t know if it made a difference, but might be worth mentioning.

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^I definitely agree as far as the judges go. I was super nervous before my interview. But when I walked into the room, I knew all three of the judges through robotics, so I felt a lot more comfortable.

For the swerve thing: I definitely think that bringing in something, whether a swerve drive module or some sort of pamphlet, helps incredibly. I had printed out a small pamphlet containing info on some of the outreach i did, and gave that to the judges. This can help them better remember you. In the case of a swerve drive module, while this isn’t something the judges I assume kept, it’s something that can really show your passion for what you do, which is something judges want to see.

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