Meet the 2019 Bezos Scholars!


Is there a limit on the number of student applications a school may submit?

Yes, we ask that no more than two students per school submit an application. If there are multiple eligible students at a school, we suggest the school host an internal selection process to identify the top two candidates to move forward with submitting an application.

What are the eligibility requirements for students?

Applicant's school must:

  • Be a public high school (charter, magnet schools, and tribal schools through the Bureau of Indian Education are eligible).
  • Have at least 30% of students who are eligible for free/reduced price meals (firm cutoff).
  • To encourage equity of opportunity, priority will be given to schools that have not had a Bezos Scholar in the previous two years.

Applicant must:

  • Be a junior during the 2018-19 academic year
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or have received DACA status
  • Demonstrate leadership in their school and community
  • Have taken and received scores for at least one of the following tests: PSAT, SAT, ACT, or ACT Aspire
  • Be enrolled in, or have taken, one or more Advanced Placement (AP) classes, International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, or college-level courses
  • Be available to participate fully and attend all trip dates for the Aspen Ideas Festival trip in Aspen, Colorado on June 22-28, 2019
  • August 2019 – June 2020: Commit to attending monthly webinars, check-in calls, and develop and launch a community change project (Local Ideas Festival) as well as complete three reports on the progress of project development

Are exceptions made for stellar students in other grades?

Only students who are juniors at a public high school during the current academic year may apply.

Can a mentor or educator from outside my school (i.e. a mentor who works at a local community organization) serve as the educator nominee?

No. The educator nominee must be a principal, vice principal, guidance counselor, or classroom teacher from the student's high school who intends to work at the high school during the following academic year.

How does an educator apply?

Educators submit their nominating information as part of the student's application. The student will be provided a link to send to the educator they nominate. This link is unique and tied to the specific student’s application. The form includes basic questions about background, teaching style, and a few short written responses.

What if I haven’t taken the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or ACT Aspire test?

Scores from at least one of these standardized tests are required as part of the application. An unofficial copy of your score report is sufficient—we do not require an official copy from ETS.

When is the application deadline?

Applications must be completed and submitted by February 8, 2019. A complete application includes all parts of the application, including the principal's letter of support, the educator nominee form, and two letters of recommendation.

How do I submit my application?

To start an application, students must first affirm eligibility and create a profile. A profile allows you to save and return to your application any time prior to the deadline. Once you submit your application, it can no longer be edited. Here’s what to look forward to as you complete your application.

1. Part One: Your Story: Basic demographic information, school details, coursework, standardized test scores, extra-curricular activities you participate in, and three written essay responses to be able to share what is most important to you – your passions, your accomplishments, and your community contributions. Be sure to have unofficial copies of transcripts and test scores to upload.

2. Part Two: Your Support: As part of your application you also need support and completed application materials from the following:

  • Principal: Your school principal must complete a short form, Principal Support Form, with information about your school
  • Educator: You will need to identify, nominate, and partner with a trusted educator at your school. This educator will also travel to Aspen and take part in the Aspen Ideas Festival, participate fully in the year-long program as your Educator Scholar, and work closely with you for the duration of the program to help plan and execute your community change project. We advise you to communicate with your school principal for guidance on your Educator Nominee.
  • Recommenders: Identify two people to submit letters of recommendation on your behalf. Consider asking a teacher, mentor, or community member. Letters of recommendation from family members cannot be considered.
  • -Links are provided in the application to send online forms directly to the above individuals
    -It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the principal, educator, and those submitting letters of recommendation do so before the application deadline.

How many Bezos Scholars are there each year?

30 scholars are selected each year:

  • 12 juniors and accompanying educators from U.S. high schools
  • 5 students and 1 educator from the African Leadership Academy

To date there have been more than 300 Bezos Scholars and educators!

How are applications evaluated?

Applications will be read carefully by members of an external election committee. The committee—comprised of a diverse group of leaders in education, global advocacy, science, design, media, and youth leadership—will select finalists based on academic rigor, written responses, demonstrated leadership, community engagement, and submitted recommendations.

We’re seeking passionate and intellectually curious young people, who are rising leaders in their schools and communities. We value cultural, racial, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity among applicants and schools.

In an effort to provide this opportunity to a broader number of schools, priority will be given to schools that have not had a Bezos Scholar in the previous two years.

How can I make my application stand out?

We’re looking for high school students who are independent thinkers, demonstrated leaders, and engaged community members. Be sure to show how this opportunity will serve you as an aspiring leader! Top applicants:

  • Express themselves clearly and authentically
  • Highlight their personal and group leadership skills and community involvement
  • Double-check their work and submit a complete, error-free application
  • Demonstrate academic rigor
  • Are excited about learning for learning's sake, and are open to new perspectives and ideas

In Aspen

What are the program dates for the 2019 Bezos Scholars Program in Aspen, Colorado?

June 22 – June 28, 2019. Selected students and educators are required to attend all dates of the programming in Aspen. The Bezos Scholars Program exclusively covers costs associated with lodging, and travel to and from Aspen, Colorado on the required dates of attendance at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The Bezos Scholars Program does not cover any travel costs or accommodate travel outside of program dates, nor any travel not associated directly with attending or returning from the Aspen Ideas Festival.

What can I expect to experience?

Arrive with a big appetite for new ideas and inspiration! On the Aspen Institute campus, Scholars and educators attend seven days of seminars, tutorials, lectures, and debates, and Scholar-exclusive conversations and meals with provocative thinkers, writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and change-agents from around the world. Scholars teams are encouraged to attend Aspen Ideas Festival sessions of their choosing. In addition, tailored, interactive personal and team leadership development training prepares Scholar teams for the challenge ahead: creating sustainable community change projects, known as a Local Ideas Festival. Days begin early and end late! Aspen is at high altitude, and is located 8,000 ft above sea level. Days are often sunny, morning and evenings are often cool - but dry.

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 will be warm and sunny with cooler mornings and nights. Scholars spend days on the Aspen Institute campus, and evenings at various locations on campus and around town. There are cottonwood and aspen trees everywhere, blanketing the town in what appears to be "summer snow," and often aggravates outdoor allergies.

Local Ideas Festivals

Can Scholar teams select any theme for their Local Ideas Festival?

Successful Festivals are an intersection of a true community need and a Scholar's passions. We encourage Scholars and educators to spend time gathering information from their community, however defined, before choosing a Festival theme.

What does a successful Local Ideas Festival look like?

Successful Local Ideas Festivals are different for each student and educator team. Scholars embrace a wide range of issues, including STEM education, literacy, environmental issues, peer mentoring, immigration rights, and more. Success is measured by the Local Ideas Festival achieving goals the team establishes at the beginning, such as measurable increase in community engagement, a certain number of attendees at a given event, or establishing a school club by a given date. We urge Scholars to focus on sustainability, by designing Festivals that grow and evolve year after year. Check out these videos to see examples of successful Festivals.

How do the students and educators work together on a Local Ideas Festival?

Scholars and educators function as a collaborative team throughout the year. Beginning even before Aspen, Scholar teams work to identify issues and ideas that resonate with their defined community. Then, in Aspen, both students and educators participate in personal and team leadership development exercises, work together to brainstorm themes and ideas for their Local Ideas Festival, and participate in all the Aspen Ideas Festival offers. Returning home, Scholars build a broader team of students and school staff to support the creation and execution of their community change project.

How do Scholars receive seed funding?

After returning home from the Aspen Ideas Festival, Scholars write a grant proposal for a $1,000 school award. With support from the Bezos Scholars Program team, Scholars submit their grant proposal, complete a progress report in January, and final report in June. Scholars are also encouraged to seek additional funding from their community, including in-kind donations. The award is made to the Scholar's school or a related 501(c)3 organization, such as a PTA. Schools are eligible to receive $1,000 each year, for up to three years, to continue their Festivals. Schools continuing their Festivals and seeking funding must also complete a grant application.

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Are there any application fees or hidden costs to this program?

There are no hidden fees or costs. The Bezos Scholars Program covers ALL expenses, including airfare, transportation, lodging, meals, and festival fees for both students and educators for all days of the Aspen Ideas Festival. Scholars and educators are responsible for any costs associated with travel to and from their home airports and day-of travel expenses, such as snacks. The Bezos Scholars Program does not accommodate travel outside of designated program dates.

How was the program established?

The Bezos Scholars Program was founded in 2005 by the Bezos Family Foundation. It is funded and run by the Bezos Family Foundation and hosted by the Aspen Institute, a global forum for leadership and that promotes the spirit of inquiry and dialogue.

Who can I contact for more information?

If you have any questions, please contact