John Jay Scholar
John Jay Scholars are selected as incoming freshman and retain some kind of special status during their time at the university. They themselves are generally not sure what this is. Occasionally, the John Jay Scholars hold their own, exclusive events. They are also rumored to be first in line for various postgraduate fellowships.
The John Jay Scholar recognition is a recruitment incentive given to about 25-30 members of each class of Columbia College. It is part of the Columbia Undergraduate Scholars Program, which is a loosely organized group of students whom Admissions seemed to think needed an extra incentive to matriculate. The various kinds of scholars have a speaker series and a few other events, as well as a separate advising office.
In addition to a feeling of mild embarrassment, there are other actual benefits to the designation. As scholars in CUSP, they are eligible for grants through independent summer research fellowships. The program also provides funding to supplement unpaid summer internships as well as research assistantships. The application processes for the above are strenuous but not considered particularly difficult to obtain the offered fellowships.
Some people find the program lectures, professor forums, and seminars enjoyable social and/or intellectual opportunities. There is no money officially associated with the award because no Ivy League school may offer merit scholarships. Nevertheless, John Jay Scholars unofficially always receive grants in lieu of loans in their financial aid packages. For some this amounts to a huge scholarship, but for others the difference is negligible.