Black Lives Matter. Read our message from the Bezos Scholars team.

Application

Why was the program established?

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.

What are the eligibility requirements for schools and students?

Applicant's school must:

  • Be a public high school in the United States (charter and magnet schools are also eligible).
  • Have a 30% or greater free and reduced lunch rate.
  • To encourage equity of opportunity, students who attend schools who have had a Scholar selected in the last two years are not eligible to apply.

Applicant must:

  • Be a junior during the current academic year and at the time they are applying to the program.
  • Not currently attend one of the ineligible schools listed in the following FAQ question.
  • Have a proven track record of demonstrated leadership in their school and/or community.
  • Be enrolled in, or have taken, one or more Honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or college-level classes.
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or have received DACA status. We apologize in advance, we are not able to serve DREAMers that do not have 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, June 25 - July 1 (for the 2021 cohort). We apologize in advance, but no exceptions for late arrival or early departure can be made. 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 present engaging virtual programming for Scholars during the week that we intended to be in Aspen.

What schools are ineligible for the current application cycle?

To encourage equity of opportunity, students that attend schools who have had a Scholar selected in the last two years are not eligible to apply. Due to COVID-19, Scholars were not able to be selected in 2020. For the 2021 application cycle, ineligible schools include:

  • Amundsen High School in Chicago, IL
  • ASU Preparatory Academy: South Phoenix High School in Phoenix, AZ
  • Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, LA
  • C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, LA
  • Charlottesville High School in Charlottesville, VA
  • Colton High School in Colton, CA
  • Gahr High School in Cerritos, CA
  • Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, CA
  • Gonzales High School in Gonzales, CA
  • Granada Hills Charter High School in Granada Hills, CA
  • Harlingen School of Health Professions in Harlingen, TX
  • Harrisburg High School- SciTech Campus in Harrisburg, PA
  • Hawthorne Math & Science Academy in Hawthorne, CA
  • Ideate High Academy in San Diego, CA
  • James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT
  • Kokomo High School in Kokomo, IL
  • LaFayette High School in LaFayette, AL
  • Livingston Collegiate Academy in New Orleans, LA
  • Noble High School in North Berwick, ME
  • Piedmont Classical High School in Browns Summit, NC
  • Pomeroy High School in Pomeroy, WA
  • Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, PA
  • West High School in Salt Lake City, UT
  • West Valley High School in Cottonwood, CA

What college application support is provided to students selected as Scholars?

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:

  • From the start of your scholar year to right before you graduate high school, the advisor can work with you via email, text, phone, and video calls to build a trusting relationship and learn your needs and goals.
  • They can support you through the college and financial aid application as well as your decision-making process. One-on-one sessions can include anything related to applying to university: forming a balanced college list, essay review, Common Application or Coalition review, assistance with applying to scholarships, and more.
  • They will track the hours they work with each Scholar and can offer more on a case-by-case basis, depending on student need and their availability.
  • In addition, they will offer a series of optional learning webinars between August and December as “crash courses” focused on different facets of the application process.

What additional application materials will students who are selected as semi-finalists be required to submit?

Students selected as semi-finalists will also be required to:

  • Re-affirm their interest in being considered as a Bezos Scholar—they and their educator nominee remain committed to meeting program requirements if selected.
  • Provide parent/guardian contact information.
  • Confirm their unweighted cumulative GPA by uploading an unofficial transcript.
  • Ask their school principal or vice principal complete to a Principal Support Form. This ensures a school leadership representative recommends and supports their participation, as well as agrees to partner with our program to bring a community change project to their school/community.

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 to provide a recommendation and how should I ask them to do so?

Who is eligible:

  • Consider asking someone from your school, faith community, a guidance counselor, coach, mentor, adult club leader (e.g. youth group leader, choir director, math club advisor), employer, or community member.
  • Recommendations from parents/guardians, siblings, relatives, family friends, the person you selected to be your educator nominee, and/or paid private tutors/counselors will NOT be accepted.

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.

What are year-long commitments for Student and Educator Scholars?

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:

  • Engaging a specific community; identifying a collective need and how to make a meaningful impact on that need.
  • Attending the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado, from June 25-July 1, 2021 (all-expenses-paid) if it is safe to travel at that time. If it is not safe to travel, they agree to participate in virtual program offerings during the same time frame.
  • Dedicating between 5-20 hours per month on program-related activities throughout the year (Scholars and Educators). This includes attending two to three virtual sessions a month that are one to three hours long, and monthly check-in calls with other Scholars and the Bezos Scholars Program team.
  • Building a team from their community to help develop and launch a community change project.
  • Submitting a grant proposal and other funding deliverables identified by the program related to the community change project.

What is the program’s impact on Student and Educator Scholars?

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.

What should I include in my application to make it competitive, and how are applications evaluated?

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:

Leadership Qualities

  • Demonstrated leadership and civic engagement
  • Identified leadership traits and skills
  • Ability to collaborate
  • Independent thought and ideas
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion

Readiness to Engage in the Program

  • Social-emotional maturity
  • Expression and listening skills
  • Readiness and capacity to grow
  • Academic Rigor

    • Rigor of coursework
    • Cumulative GPA

    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

    • Strong presentation and public speaking skills—the ability to concisely summarize thoughts and ideas while being authentic, even if being on camera and/or speaking in front of others is not a place of comfort.
    • Strong competency of written responses that demonstrate complete and supported ideas, statements, and actions that show leadership, creativity, humility, and compassion.
    • In the video and written responses, exemplifying what we are looking for in the above categories (leadership qualities, readiness to engage in the program, and academic rigor), including providing relevant information on your commitment to your education, recent academic growth, and accomplishments that are points of pride is desired.

    Educator Nominee and Personal Recommendation Forms

    • Educator nominee understands the program and commitments, is enthusiastic about the opportunity, and clearly defines their ability to commit to the program.
    • Enthusiastic support and encouragement for the applicant with insights on the applicant’s areas of achievement, academic rigor, reliance, ability to face and learn from adversity, and/or leadership in the community.
    • Supportive evidence and tangible examples of applicant’s maturity, ability to work well with others, and readiness to become a Bezos Scholar.

    How are Student and Educator Scholars selected?

    • The Selection Committee reviews and scores all completed student applications; scores are averaged to select Bezos Scholar semi-finalists.
    • Student semi-finalists are notified and asked to complete a few more application items before being invited to a phone interview with a Bezos Scholars Program team.
    • Finalists are then selected and notified they have been chosen as a Bezos Scholar. Their official acceptance is contingent on the interview and acceptance of their Educator Nominee.
    • Nominated educators of finalists are invited for a telephone interview with a Bezos Scholars Program team member.
    • Bezos Scholars are confirmed after the Educator Nominee interview is completed.
    • Please see the section titled “Spring” on our Timeline page to learn more about how and when students and educators are selected.

    How many Bezos Scholars are selected each year?

    30 scholars are selected each year:

    • 12 US-based high school students and a nominated educator from each of their schools.
    • 5 students and 1 educator from the African Leadership Academy.

    Does the program cost any money for Student and Educators?

    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.

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    In Aspen

    What to Expect Day-to-Day at the Aspen Ideas Festival

    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.

    • Please visit www.aspenideas.org for information on speakers, tracks, and the most up-to-date Festival information.
    • Go online, read about the experience, check out the audio/video gallery from past festivals, check out the sessions offered and notables speaking in Festival 1, and subscribe to the Festival’s email list.

    Is there any cost to Scholars associated with the trip to Aspen?

    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.

    What are the program dates for the Aspen, Colorado?

    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.

    What can I expect to experience in Aspen and at the Aspen Ideas Festival?

    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.

    What’s Aspen like in the summer?

    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:

    • Shortness of breath while doing an activity or exerting yourself
    • Headache/Foggy headed
    • Nasal congestion, irritation, or dryness
    • Fatigue/Low energy
    • Loss of appetite
    • Mild nausea
    • 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!

    Local Ideas Festivals

    Can Scholar teams select any theme for their Community Change Projects?

    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.

    What does a successful community change project look like?

    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.

    How do the students and educators work together on designing a project?

    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.

    How do Scholars receive funding to launch their Community Change Project?

    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.

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    General

    Who is eligible and what makes a strong educator nominee candidate?

    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:

    • Should be someone you connect and work well with, who is supportive of student-led projects, and understands and can commit to program requirements.
    • Needs to be a current school staff member OR staff member of a community organization that partners with and offers programming and/or resources to your school. A school staff member could be a classroom teacher, school administrator, or any other staff working at your school.
    • Principals and vice principals are eligible to be nominated. Please keep in mind that our program commitment may be challenging for principals and vice principals due to their roles and responsibilities within their school/district.
    • Must also plan on returning to work at your school/for the organization partnering with your school for the following academic year.
    • Educator nominees that are also applicant's parents/guardians, relatives, and/or paid private tutors/counselors will NOT be accepted.

    Strong educator nominee candidates:

  • Understand program expectations and have the capacity to take on additional commitments.
  • Have built trust and a good relationship with their student nominee. Ideally, they have already witnessed and/or supported the student’s leadership.
  • Love their school and community and are invested in stepping into their leadership to help students take action to make change for the greater good.
  • Are strong student advocates, allies, and mentors.
  • Are open, enthusiastic, and supportive of student-led projects; are passionate about fostering student leadership.
  • Can provide students with constructive feedback and conflict mediation; can efficiently balance when to step up and back to ensure students feel supported while being given the opportunity to lead.
  • Are invested in their own growth as an educator and recognize they already know a lot—and still have a lot to learn.
  • How should students ask and nominate the right educator nominee?

    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:

    • Solicit input from trusted students, school staff, your family, and people close to you on who to ask and ultimately select as your educator nominee.
    • Set up time to meet with people you identified that meet our eligibility criteria and might make a great educator nominee. 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. Download and share the Educator Nominee digital flyer to promote the opportunity to them.

    • Identify your first and second educator nominee choices in case your first choice declines your invitation. Ask them to be your educator nominee, explaining why you want to be a Bezos Scholar, and why you would like them to be your educator partner throughout the program.
    • Once someone agrees to be your educator nominee, enter their contact information into the educator nominee section of your application.
    • They will then receive an email invitation to complete an online form on your behalf that ties to your individual application.
    • Give them 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've complete it, both of you will receive an email confirming it has been submitted and was received on our end.
    • Thank them for agreeing to be your nominee 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.

    What is the Educator Scholar’s role?

    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:

    • Believe in the student and community change project they create.
    • Show up and participate—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
    • Identify, build on, and affirm student strengths and areas for growth.
    • Ask open-ended questions to support students in critical thinking.
    • Teach and reinforce student leadership; affirm and celebrate student progress and success using skills they are learning/flexing.
    • Coach students and the teams they build, especially through challenges.
    • Keep the big picture in mind.
    • Help student leaders adjust goals and timeline as needed.
    • Provide helpful, non-judgmental feedback.
    • Step back and relinquish power when needed to help ensure the project is student-led.
    • Understanding when to challenge and when not to challenge students.
    • Help manage and reset expectations as needed.
    • Be a community connector and promoter, especially with other adults, to facilitate resources and opportunities for youth voice and leadership.
    • Assist with project management and logistics related to the community change project, including grant funding access and management.

    Educator Scholar’s role during the travel and trip portion of the program:

    • Educators agree to travel to and from Aspen with their student and participate in the trip portion of the program. All travel and lodging expenses and arrangements are covered by and taken care of by the program. During travel to and from Aspen, the student’s educator will act as their chaperone and take reasonable steps to ensure their safety and appropriate behavior.
    • After the student arrives in Aspen and meets in-person with a Bezos Scholars staff member, our program staff will become the student’s chaperone for the remainder of the time they are in Aspen, until they check in at the airport to return home. At that point, the educator will resume chaperone responsibilities for the student.
    • Program staff stay at the same hotel as students, and educators stay in a separate hotel. Once in Aspen, the educator’s role is to mentor and participate alongside their student and to provide guidance and support for them as needed/requested by the program staff. Student’s parent/guardian(s) and the principal of their school will also receive this information about the educator’s role during the Aspen trip.

    How does an educator apply?

    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:

    • The educator nominee needs to be a current school staff member OR staff member of a community organization that partners with and offers school programming and/or resources.
    • A school staff member could be a classroom teacher, school administrator, or any other school staff.
    • Principals and vice principals are eligible to be nominated. Please keep in mind that our program commitment may be challenging for principals and vice principals due to their roles and responsibilities within their school/district.
    • Educator nominees must also plan on returning to work at their school/for the organization partnering with their school for the following academic year.
    • The educator nominee should be someone student nominees connect and work well with, who is supportive of student-led projects, can provide constructive feedback, and can commit to program requirements.
    • Educator nominees that are also an applicant’s parents/guardians, relatives, and/or paid private tutors/counselors will NOT be accepted.

    Learn more about program requirements here.

    What should an Educator Nominee be sure to include on their form to support their student’s application?

    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.