The Bezos Scholars Program was founded in 2005 by Mike and Jackie Bezos, who are passionate about amplifying and elevating youth voice and leadership. It is funded and run by the Bezos Family Foundation. The Aspen Institute, whose mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values, also provides support. The Bezos Family Foundation’s vision is that all young people—especially those furthest from opportunity—can reach their full potential and meaningfully contribute to society.
Applicant's school must:
To encourage equity of opportunity, students that attend schools who have had a Scholar selected since 2018 are not eligible to apply. For the 2021 application cycle, ineligible schools include:
Each Student Scholar is provided optional and free, individual remote college advising with our BSP college advisor who is passionate about education and how it can transform lives and communities. Our advisor works with students all over the world to help them meet their educational needs and goals. Here is a preview of what the college advisor offers:
Students selected as semi-finalists will also be required to:
After submitting the above, students will be invited to an interview with the Bezos Scholars Program team to be considered as a finalist.
Who is eligible:
How to ask someone to provide a recommendation on your behalf:
Solicit input from trusted students, school staff, your family, and people close to you on who to ask and ultimately select as your recommender.
Set up time to reach out to people you identify that meet our eligibility criteria and might make a great recommender. Explain the program to them, review our website together, discuss the commitment, and ask us any questions that are not answered on the website/in the application.
Identify your first and second recommender choices in case your first choice declines your invitation. Respectfully and enthusiastically ask them to be your recommender, explaining why you want to be a Bezos Scholar and why you would like them to support you in applying.
Once someone agrees to be your recommender, enter their contact information into the recommender section of your application. They will then receive an email invitation to complete an online form on your behalf.
Give your recommender enough time to complete their form and check in periodically to make sure they meet the deadline. Their form must be submitted no later than midnight on January 11, 2021.
Once they complete the recommendation, both of you will receive an email confirming it has been submitted and received on our end.
Sincerely thank them for agreeing to support you in applying and for taking the time to complete the form by the deadline. Keep them updated as you learn your application status during the selection process.
Student applicants and their educator nominees are asked to evaluate and confirm their capacity to fully participate from May of the student's junior year to May of their senior year. Their commitment generally entails the following:
Throughout the year-long program, we aim to build capacities in values-based leadership, social-emotional learning, and social innovation. The beauty of the Bezos Scholars Program lies in its use of evidence-based practices: robust curricula, leadership skill building for students, advocacy development for educators, and community engagement to create a powerful learning experience.
Impact assessments demonstrate that after the year-long program, Student Scholars yield equivalent or higher learning gains across critical leadership and socio-emotional outcomes than their peers did after a full year of college.
For Educator Scholars, a majority report that the year-long program becomes a memorable and meaningful experience that deepens and/or reignites their passion and commitment to their field. Many of them leave the experience even more invested in stepping into leadership roles in the field of education or ready to take the next step in their career trajectory with clearer passion and purpose. Visit the Impact Page to learn key Student and Educator learning outcomes.
The Bezos Scholars Program is seeking passionate and intellectually curious young people who are rising leaders in their schools and communities. We value cultural, racial, socioeconomic, geographic, and gender diversity among applicants and seek to select a cohort that reflects the diversity across the United States.
A selection committee comprised of leaders in the fields of education, youth leadership and development, science, the arts, and Bezos Scholars alumni evaluate and recommend candidates based on the following criteria:
Readiness to Engage in the Program
While academic rigor and achievement is a qualifying requirement and the essay potion of the application is weighed heavily in the selection process, we recognize many factors can affect a student’s success and/or English writing competency. If you have had any academic challenges, anything affecting your ability to write essay responses, and/or if advanced level classes are not offered (or if offerings are limited at your school), we advise you to share details in one of your essay responses, knowing you are not required to disclose any information. If you expand on this in one of your essay questions, we recommend you focus on your resilience and perseverance in relation to your education.
Video Introduction and Written Responses to Essay Questions
Educator Nominee and Personal Recommendation Forms
Scholars are not expected or required to cover any costs associated with their required participation throughout the year-long program. Bezos Scholars Program covers ALL costs for students and educators associated with lodging and travel to and from Aspen, Colorado, except for transportation to and from their home airport. The Program also includes passes for attendance to the Aspen Ideas Festival 1, and all activities and meals during their time in Aspen.
Meals and an assortment of snacks will be provided throughout each day. There are also a lot of free food options available across the Aspen Institute campus during the Aspen Ideas Festival. We will honor any dietary or religious food restrictions Scholars share and always try to provide various options for different tastes/preferences.
The Bezos Scholars Program is a “program within a program” that takes place during the annual Aspen Ideas Festival on the beautiful Aspen Institute campus. From sunrise to sundown, the Aspen Ideas Festival packs hundreds of fascinating discussions into 10 days, with over 3,000 attendees.
On the Aspen Institute campus, Scholars and educators attend seven days of exciting and rigors activities and experiences. This includes Scholar-exclusive conversations and meals with provocative thinkers, writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and change-agents from around the world.
The Festival is divided into three parts, each with its own standalone pass: Health, Festival 1, and Festival 2. We will have only passes and access to the Aspen Ideas Festival for Festival 1. During Festival 1, there will be time each day for Scholars to choose 3-4 sessions to attend outside of BSP-specific programming.
We will convene as a group for private sessions with notable speakers and guests throughout the week. Most days, in the afternoons and evenings during Festival 1, we have planned leadership sessions, workshops, and activities specifically designed for Scholars.
Read what Scholars have to share about their experience in Aspen:
Explore the Aspen Ideas Festival Website and Program Book
While at the Festival, we advise Scholars to follow their passions in selecting sessions and events, but also be open and push themselves to take in something new and unexpected.
Scholars are not expected or required to cover any costs associated with their required participation throughout the year-long program. Bezos Scholars Program covers ALL costs for students and educators associated with lodging and travel to and from Aspen, Colorado except for transportation to and from their home airport. The Program also includes passes for attendance at the Aspen Ideas Festival 1 and all activities and meals during the time in Aspen.
Meals and an assortment of snacks will be provided throughout each day. There is also a lot of free food options available across the Aspen Institute campus during the Aspen Ideas Festival. We will honor any dietary or religious food restrictions Scholars share and always try to provide various options for different tastes/preferences.
For the 2021 cohort dates will be June 25 - July 1, 2021. Selected students and educators must attend all dates of the trip to be eligible to apply and participate in the program. Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 and with safety being our utmost priority, the Scholars trip to Aspen may not be determined until early May. If it is not safe to travel and gather in large groups, we will still host a 2021 cohort and will present engaging virtual programming for Scholars during the week that we intended to be in Aspen.
We arrange all travel for Scholars and send them a detailed travel itinerary before the trip. Students will stay together at a separate hotel from educators. Generally, both student and educator Scholars will share same-gender, double or triple occupancy rooms. Bezos Scholars Program staff will also stay at the student hotel and serve as student chaperones.
Aspen is remarkable year-round, but summer is especially beautiful! At an elevation of 8,000 feet, days in the Rockies in late June are usually warm and sunny with cooler mornings and nights. It can be unpredictable though, and weather can vary between sun, rain, hail, and even snow. Generally, weather is in the 70’s (F) during the day and the 40’s to 50’s at night.
There are cottonwood and aspen trees everywhere, blanketing the town in what appears to be "summer snow," which can aggravate allergies.
Altitude: Since Aspen is located at about 8,000 feet elevation, this means less oxygen and less humidity is available than at sea level, and a variety of usually mild symptoms can result. For most people, minor symptoms of altitude will disappear as their body adjusts within a few days. Some of the most common symptoms include:
The best way to minimize symptoms of altitude sickness is to take it easy, rest, drink A LOT of water, eat a little protein (even if you are not feeling hungry), and get plenty of sleep!
Successful community change projects are an intersection of a community need and a Scholar's passions. Students and educators spend substantial time at the beginning of the program researching, gathering information from and interviewing members of their community before choosing a specific theme topic.
The general project theme/topic from the founding year to continuing years, needs to stay consistent. For example, if the project was founded to support student mental health, the following year the project cannot be changed to now support college access. However, it could evolve to focus on student’s mental health during the college application process, or student’s mental health during their transition from high school to college.
Success can look different for each Scholar and community—just as the issue they choose to address is different. As part of the planning process, Scholars participate in workshops and in activities to investigate identifying needs in their community with diverse members of that community and are encouraged to think outside of the box.
Scholars work with their teams to define their own goals and success is measured by the progress made toward achieving the goals. We urge Scholars to focus on sustainability and to design projects that grow and evolve year after year. Check out these videos or our Community Change Projects webpage (www.bezosscholars.org/ccp/) to see examples.
Each project is student-led. Yet students and educators function as a collaborative team throughout the year and work together to identify issues and ideas that resonate with their community.
Scholars build a team of students, school staff, community members, and partners to support the creation and execution of their project. Educators play a special role as advocates and allies to students on the team. This can include helping to navigate school administration and policies, engaging the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)/Booster Club or other traditionally adult-centered spaces, advocating for the project and its needs, or promoting and providing support with outreach. The educator is a cheerleader, helper, and sounding board for students on the team. Educators are asked to know when they may be over leading and needing to step back so students and youth can step into their leadership.
After returning home from the Aspen Ideas Festival, Scholars complete a grant proposal to receive a $1,000 grant award. With support from the Bezos Scholars Program team and their educator, Scholars go through a revision process and submit their grant proposal, receive funding which is given to their school, PTA/Booster Club, nonprofit or government entity that has agreed to be their fiscal sponsor. Scholars also complete a progress report mid-way through the year, and a final report at the close of the year. Scholars can seek additional funding from their community, if desired, including in-kind donations.
Community Change Projects Scholars launch that remain in good standing are eligible to apply for and receive $1,000 each year, for up to three years total.
Student applicants are required to identify and nominate a trusted adult from their school to become their educator nominee. Educators cannot apply to the program without the nomination of a student. Nominated educators of selected students will be required to travel to Aspen, participate fully in the year-long program, and collaborate with Scholars and the teams they build to help develop and launch community change projects.
Who is eligible to be nominated:
Strong educator nominee candidates:
The educator nomination is an essential, required part of your application and choosing the right person as your educator will positively impact your experience in the program and in launching a community change project.
Please review educator nominee eligibility, roles, and commitments, as well as what makes a strong educator nominee.
Instructions on how to nominate someone:
Once selected, we refer to students AND educators as Scholars. However, their roles are different. A student’s participation is contingent upon their educator’s availability, as the qualified educator from their school, to attend all program dates for the week in Aspen, Colorado, and to support their development and creation of a community change project during the upcoming academic year.
An Educator Scholar’s role throughout the year-long program is to:
Educator Scholar’s role during the travel and trip portion of the program:
Students applicants will need to identify and nominate a trusted adult from their school to become their educator nominee. Educators will be required to go to Aspen with students, participate fully in the year-long program, and collaborate with them and the teams they build to help develop and launch community change projects.
Who is eligible to be nominated:
Learn more about program requirements here.
In the educator nominee form, we want to make sure you understand the program and commitments, are enthusiastic about the opportunity, and have evaluated your capacity to confidently commit. We also look for your support and encouragement for the student applicant with insights on their areas of achievement, academic rigor, resilience, ability to face and learn from adversity, and community leadership. Providing supportive evidence and tangible examples of the student applicant’s maturity, ability to work well with others, and readiness to become a Bezos Scholar is also appreciated.
Though it is the student applicant’s responsibility to ensure you have enough time to complete the form and submit it by the application deadline, anything you can do to complete the form by our deadline creates less stress for the student.