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Articles / Applying to College / Are Extracurriculars Funded by Scholarship "Honors" or "Activities"?

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

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | July 10, 2011

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.


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)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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