School math league team is state champion, but we were the only school participating in the state

So my state has a popular math league organization which many schools participate in, but my school has never placed even close to top 10 for it. But, that was canceled this year due to COVID-19. Our math league advisor then signed us up for a popular (in other states, not ours) math league competition that moved online due to COVID-19. Our school signed up for their state championships, but because we were the only school in our state signed up (I guess other schools in our state didn’t hear about it), after the competition, we were declared state champions. If I put this on my application, do you think admissions officers could find out we were the only school to compete in our state, and if they found out, how do you think this would reflect on my application because it’s technically not a lie?

Definitely an interesting question, I have no “expertise” to give an answer so I will be following out of curiosity, but in my opinion the focal point here is the extracurricular time you devote to be on the math league team, improving yourself as a “mathlete” and using your talents academic to represent your school on a team the same as an athlete. The purpose in including it on your application is to show that you choose to spend your free time in this way which adds value to your school and to your application, and how many competitors are needed make the award valuable is neither here nor there. If a sports team won the state championship game on a technicality, they are still the state champs and it still gets put on those players’ applications, I don’t see how this would be viewed any differently.

Thank you for the information. However, I feel like top universities don’t just want to see that you competed on a math league team—they want to see results (which I guess you could say our team has attained). If colleges found out the true reason of why we were first though, do you think this might cause them to reflect on my application more negatively, and be more doubtful of the validity of my other achievements?

I honestly don’t know enough to give advice. But I cannot imagine with the number of applicants that admissions will dig into the activities on each one enough to know the circumstances of your title. However, if they do than I would presume they would do the same with your other achievements and find nothing to doubt, thus you shouldn’t need to be concerned about that.

Don’t do it. Too easy to ask you other confirming questions like your individual performance on AMC 10/12 or AIME. Then you look really silly.

You would not be lying at all, you are state champion, so really go for it, if I was a collage admission person even if I found out I could not hold it against you.

@HazeGrey They can ask confirming questions after the application has been submitted?

What you put on your application needs to be consistent with what your counselor and teachers are saying in their recommendations. And yes, if you out something major on your application admissions could try to verify.

My advice is to just be honest. Yes you won but, by default.

I also agree that it’s not always about the awards, but what you did as part of the team.

A math team shows that you like to do math and enjoy team based academic competitions. To impress a school with your math skills you would need to take the AIME test.

Math team is a nice EC that can be a platform to talk about you and have a leadership position. It’s a lot like being on a robotics team.

Depending on how you wrote it, I think a humorous essay about how you won the state championship to a competition without competition could be great.

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When I played soccer back in the day, we had an expression “all goals look the same in the paper the next day”. In other words, a goal was goal no matter how ugly or lucky it may have been. Same applies to your state championship, although I’m a bit confused how you “apply for a state championship”. Is there no qualification?

And agree with this…

Schools have been known to research ECs to see if they are real. It’s not often, but it does happen. A school could perform a quick internet search to see who won the state championship and the roster for example.

Me too!

Make sure you list the award you won exactly. You are not the state math league champs, you are the ABC Math League State Champs. There is Miss Alabama for Miss USA, for Miss America, For Jr. Miss, etc. All are Miss Alabama, but not all titles are equal.

I like the essay idea.

Personally, I would not put it in. It is too easy for an admissions officer to google the championship (knowing many were likely cancelled due to COVID) and see you were the only team participating which you would make you look bad.

Also a team win is not going to make or break an application unless – you would need to show that you were a valuable/contributing member of the team.

Agree it could be a funny essay topic.

I love this post, along with the recent post by @PokeyII,
Just the fact that you’re both concerned about the ethics of your applications speaks volumes about your integrity and character.

I love @AlwaysMoving’s suggestion of weaving it into an essay, afterall you’re not claiming you qualified for one of the elite math competitions. Rather, your advisor’s follow through and commitment to the team, gave you an opportunity to shine (it sounds like you actually competed and this wasn’t just “awarded” to you) while others napped.

I would incorporate it into a humorous essay. The dates of the covid crisis are pretty obvious to all admissions officers. So practically anything more interesting than “sewing masks” in March through May of 2020 could possibly raise flags or garner extra scrutiny. Maybe in a good way, but maybe not.

Do you mind if I ask what state you live in? I wish my state made life that easy. Lol Wow!