Paying for College

Are Extracurriculars Funded by Scholarship "Honors" or "Activities"?

Question: Since sixth grade, my high school senior has participated in extracurricular programs and activities during the school year and summers locally, around the U.S., and overseas. In some cases, the cost associated with certain programs would have prevented my student from being there. In those cases, assistance was requested. In the cases where assistance was provided, it was referred to as a "scholarship." Should such "scholarships," be listed as "honors/awards" on a college application or college resume? Does listing the item as "honors/awards" prevent students from listing item as an activity? Is there a preferred placement/wording for this that does not present the reviewer with a false sense of the applicant's wealth or undermine the intent of the scholarship? Thank you.

The first thing you need to know is that the filling out of college applications is not an exact science. There is often going to be some gray area when distinguishing between “activities” and “awards,” between “activities” and “work experience,” etc. So your child shouldn’t lose any sleep over the way he or she categorizes various endeavors and accomplishments. The admission folks won’t penalize an applicant who doesn’t list all information exactly as they might have expected.


But, since you’re asking for my advice on how to deal with this particular dilemma, I’ll provide it. I think that your child’s various programs should be listed as activities. (Or, if they were summer undertakings, and if the application provides a separate spot for summer doings, they can go there). If your child was given a scholarship to participate, then put “scholarship” in parenthesis right next to the name of the program. (It doesn’t matter if the scholarship was presented for merit or for financial need. The key here is that adding this one word sends a message to the admission committees that proclaims, “We didn’t spend all of our own dough on this pricey program!”)

However, if any of the scholarships your child received were extremely selective (e.g., only one student or maybe a small handful got chosen to take part in a particular project and were fully funded to do so), then this could go under the “Honors/Awards” heading.

In most cases, the same endeavor should not be listed under both the activities and awards headings, but occasionally some cross-referencing is in order.

Example:

The student is the only one in a large city to be selected via audition for a full scholarship to attend a prestigious music school. The student takes lessons at this school every weekend for two years. This accomplishment could be listed under “Honors/Awards.” Then, on the “Activities” roster, the student could write: “Oboe Lessons; [Name of School] See “Honors/Awards.”

But, again, don’t sweat the formatting of the applications. Just make sure that the information presented is clear. Use only those abbreviations that you’re sure are nationally recognized, and don’t assume that the admissions officials will understand what the “Paragon Club” or the “Mosaic Society” actually does. So your child should be sure to add a couple words of explanation, as needed.

(posted 7/10/2011)