The journey starts here.
Scholars are united by a shared passion for making a difference.
Each spring, we select 12 students from eligible U.S. public high schools and a nominated educator from each school to join our program. Five students and one educator from the African Leadership Academy, selected through the Academy’s own independent process, also join our program. Applying to our program is competitive. In the information that follows, we describe eligibility and criteria for becoming a Bezos Scholar and explain our selection process.
Applications to apply to the Bezos Scholars Program open on October 21, 2021. Annually, candidates are notified of their status by early March and Scholars are selected by mid-April. A public announcement of the new Scholar cohort is shared on our website in early May.
What we look for in Student scholars
Successful Bezos Scholars are passionate, intellectually curious young people who are rising leaders in their schools and communities. They are interested in personal and intellectual growth, practice reflection, demonstrate a strong work ethic and communicate clearly. We favor students who engage with their communities, pursue their passions in substantive ways and are interested in serving others. Competitive applicants show us their commitment to both learning and equity. Standout candidates articulate how our program would help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
We also value diversity among scholars, including cultural, racial, socioeconomic, geographic and gender diversity. We aim each year to build a cohort of Scholars that reflects the diversity of the United States and Africa.
Eligibility requirements for U.S. student scholars
To be considered for our program, U.S. students must:
- Attend an eligible public high school in the United States that currently has a 30% or greater overall free and reduced lunch rate. See here for a list of current ineligible schools.
- Be a junior at the time they are applying to the program.
- Be enrolled in or have taken during their high school career, one or more honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or college-level course.
- Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or have received DACA status.
- Be available to fully participate in the year-long program and attend all dates for the Aspen Ideas Festival trip* in Aspen, Colorado, slated for June 23 - June 30, 2022.
- Nominate an educator, a willing and supportive adult from their school to serve as a mentor, who will fully participate in the program with them.
*If the Scholar trip is not possible, virtual Aspen Ideas Festival programming will be offered in its place.
How to Apply
The basic steps for applying to become a Bezos Scholar are outlined below. The Bezos Scholars Program firmly believes in equal opportunity and values the importance of each person as an individual. Read our full Equal Opportunity Statement.
Is this the program for you? Explore our website, read program stories, and watch videos on our YouTube channel to get a deeper understanding of program impact, Scholar commitments and community change projects. Then, be sure to confirm your eligibility.
Use Our Guide
For comprehensive information about our application and detailed instructions, download our Application Guide to better prepare and proactively gather needed information.
Complete the Application
Fill out our online application hosted on Kaleidoscope. You’ll be asked to provide information about yourself, your school, academic performance and leadership experience which includes recording a short video and writing three short essays.
Nominate an Educator
Part of the application requires that you nominate an educator—supportive adult from your school—that would fully participate alongside you throughout the program as your Scholar teammate. They are required to complete an Educator Nominee Form as part of your application.
Solicit a Recommendation
Yep, just like for college admissions. Part of the application also requires that someone who knows you well and has witnessed you thrive in a leadership position complete a brief Recommendation Form as part of your application. This person cannot be a family member, friend/peer, or the same person that is your nominated educator.
Completing an application takes intentional effort, thoughtfulness and perseverance and is a huge accomplishment. Celebrate yourself and those who supported you in applying, especially your educator nominee and recommender.
Our selection criteria
Using a holistic selection process that considers multiple aspects of a candidate, our selection committee evaluates and scores candidates based on three main criteria:
Intellectual curiosity and commitment to education.
Bezos Scholars are strong students. They have taken challenging classes and have generally performed exceptionally well. Scholars are also intellectually curious. They strive to push the boundaries of their learning in and out of the classroom.
We recognize that many factors affect a student’s success. If you’ve had academic challenges while in high school, share more about them in your application, and tell us about how you persevered in spite of them.
Demonstrated leadership and community engagement.
We seek passionate young people who are rising leaders in their schools and communities and who inspire and motivate those around them through their actions and commitment. Bezos Scholars are independent, creative thinkers. They enjoy converting ideas into action. They lead with humility, compassion and sense of purpose to help others and the world around them.
Readiness and capacity to engage in the program.
Bezos Scholars are excited to take their skills and community involvement to the next level. They are able to balance community engagement, academics, extracurricular activities and family commitments. Scholars generally employ strong presentation and public speaking skills; they can summarize thoughts and ideas while being authentically themselves, even if speaking in front of others is not in their immediate comfort zone. They thrive in collaborative settings; they enjoy working with and learning from others. And they enjoy trying new things and challenging pre-conceived notions of what youth can do and what they personally can do to make a difference.
About our Selection Committee
Our volunteer Selection Committee members are leaders in the fields of education, youth leadership and development, science and the arts. Some members are former Bezos Scholars. All committee members share a strong commitment to supporting and championing young leaders. This story from 2021 can tell you more about our Selection Committee, some of its members, and what they look for in applicants. Go to our FAQ page to read more about the Scholar selection process.