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What opportunities and support do Young Scholars receive?

The Young Scholars Program provides Scholars with individualized educational advising and comprehensive financial support from 8th grade through high school.

Beginning in 8th grade, Young Scholars:

  • Participate in high-quality academic and extracurricular opportunities in their local community, on college campuses, and around the globe.
  • Develop the knowledge, talents, and leadership skills to be significant contributors.
  • Set and reach academic and talent goals that will prepare them to be competitive, well-informed applicants for our nation’s best colleges and universities.

Each receives a unique combination of opportunities that may include:

  • Guidance in selecting a high school and, if necessary, support in applying to a private or magnet high school.
  • Summer academic or enrichment programs.
  • Computers, software, or other learning technology.
  • Specialized support in music, art, science, math, or other subjects.
  • Connection with a nationwide community of Young Scholars.
  • Resources for career exploration and mentorship.
  • College advising and counseling.

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As a Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholar, what is expected of me?

The Foundation expects each Young Scholar and his/her family to communicate at least once every two weeks and work closely with their designated Foundation educational adviser to develop and follow an annual Individual Learning Plan (ILP).

The Foundation also expects each Young Scholar to think big, work hard, and:

  • Maintain a strong academic record (As and Bs in an unweighted GPA calculation) while taking an appropriately challenging course load.
  • Act with honesty and personal integrity.
  • Demonstrate character and leadership.
  • Be concerned about and engaged in his/her community.
  • Maintain a good disciplinary record.
  • Participate in residential summer enrichment opportunities.
  • Follow through with the opportunities and services outlined in his/her ILP.
  • Do his/her best to take the action steps that lead to achieving his/her ILP goals.
  • Attend Welcome Weekend during the summer before 9th grade.
  • Attend Scholars Weekend during the summer before 12th grade.
  • Work cooperatively with Foundation staff.

These responsibilities are outlined in a letter of commitment included in the award packet, signed by the Scholar and the Scholar's parent(s) or guardian(s). Families and Scholars discuss program expectations in depth with the educational adviser prior to signing.

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As a parent/guardian of a Young Scholar, what is expected of me?

We expect parent(s)/guardian(s) of Young Scholars to partner and communicate regularly with their educational advisers. Together, we build a strong support network and help Young Scholars think big, work hard, and achieve.

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What does working with a Foundation educational adviser involve?

The Foundation matches an on-staff educational adviser (EA) with each Young Scholar. The EA collaborates with Scholars and their families during the middle and high school years, to provide academic guidance, assess needs and opportunities, identify resources, and determine the Foundation’s support. Young Scholars and their families are expected to communicate at least every two weeks with their educational advisers by phone, email, and via Skype. Each educational adviser conducts home and school visits to each Young Scholar.

The EA plays four different roles: guide, advocate, coach, and tailor.

As a guide, the EA helps each Young Scholar:

  • Select a high school
  • Plan an appropriately challenging four-year academic course load
  • Discover new educational resources
  • Research enrichment opportunities
  • Prepare for and complete the college admissions process

As an advocate, the EA:

  • Conducts home and school visits
  • Collaborates with educators, coaches, mentors, and other key adults to help support the Scholar’s learning
  • Helps make educational decisions

As a coach, the EA helps each Young Scholar:

  • Develop strengths and skills
  • Address academic challenges as they arise
  • Stretch outside of his or her comfort zone
  • Set yearly academic and extracurricular goals

As a tailor, the EA helps each Young Scholar:

  • Construct a yearly Individualized Learning Plan (ILP)
  • Understand how ILP opportunities complement one another
  • Achieve academic and extracurricular goals
  • Select summer experiences that enhance growth and learning

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What is an Individual Learning Plan (ILP)?

Created to help each Young Scholar meet his/her academic and extracurricular goals, an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) is a map of the annual educational opportunities funded by the Foundation.

ILPs are designed to help Scholars develop and nurture academic skills, explore passions and interests, and stretch outside of their comfort zone.

Young Scholars experience opportunities that may include:

  • Residential summer programs
  • School expenses
  • Fine music/art/athletic lessons and supplies
  • Books and magazines
  • Software and technology
  • Distance learning courses
  • Internships
  • Conferences
  • Travel opportunities

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Who decides what is included in a Young Scholar's ILP?

The Foundation educational adviser works closely with the Scholar, his/her family, and others to understand the abilities, talents, dreams, and goals of each Young Scholar. Educational advisers then develop individualized recommendations that can move the Scholar toward those goals. Family input is carefully considered, and parent(s) or guardian(s) always have the right to decline any recommendation. The Young Scholars Program's director and other staff work directly with the educational adviser to assure that a realistic, balanced plan is presented to the Scholar and family.

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How can I use the scholarship?

While Young Scholars are selected in the 8th grade, funding for services does not begin until the summer before 9th grade. Successful Young Scholars use the scholarship to nurture academic skills, explore passions and interests, and stretch outside of their comfort zone. Young Scholars also make the most of their relationship with their educational adviser to learn how to set goals, make educational decisions, maximize opportunities, succeed in high school and prepare for college.

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Does the Young Scholars Program primarily provide boarding school scholarships?

No, the primary purpose of the program is to find challenging educational experiences for high school students. In only some cases does this include support for private boarding school. Educational advisers work with Young Scholars and their families to determine the suitability of their local public or magnet schools. Where suitable local school opportunities are available, scholarship funds will be used to enhance local educational opportunities through distance learning courses, summer programs, and other services. If no suitable local school option is available to meet the Scholar’s educational needs, the Foundation works with the Young Scholar and his/her family to apply for admission to and financial aid from a boarding, day, or parochial school. If the Scholar is admitted to a private school and the financial aid the family receives is inadequate to meet their financial need, the Foundation may contribute to these costs.

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How long will scholarship support continue?

Each school year, the Foundation evaluates Young Scholars through a renewal process. Foundation staff consider the Scholar’s commitment to and participation in the program; working relationship with the designated Foundation educational adviser; academic performance; and progress, conduct, and motivation. Assuming students meet the program expectations each year, our support continues throughout high school. When students have not met the expectations of the Young Scholars Program, the Foundation does not renew their participation in the program. Depending on the severity of the issue, the Foundation also takes disciplinary action during the year as necessary, up to and including removal from the Young Scholars Program.

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Are there any mandatory requirements?

During the summer before 9th grade, Young Scholars are required to participate in a Foundation-sponsored Young Scholars Welcome Weekend in the Washington, DC area. In the summer before 12th grade, Young Scholars are required to return to the Washington, DC area to participate in Scholars Weekend.

Young Scholars are expected to communicate at least once every two weeks and work closely with their designated Foundation educational adviser. Young Scholars also participate in summer enrichment programs, which often include residential placement away from home.

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How many Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars are selected?

This year the Foundation will choose up to 60 Young Scholars from across the country.

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 Am I eligible to apply?

To be eligible for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program:

  • You must be entering 8th grade in the fall of 2016.
  • Since the beginning of 6th grade, you have earned grades of all or mostly As in school with no Cs or below in your core academic subjects (English/language arts, math, science, social studies/history).
  • Your family income does not exceed $95,000. The average family income of entering Young Scholars over the last three years is approximately $25,000.  In recent years nearly all Young Scholars have come from families with incomes below $60,000.
  • You must reside in the U.S. or a U.S. territory and plan to attend high school in the U.S. 

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What are the selection criteria?

The Foundation reviews each application individually with the assistance of a panel of education experts.  The Foundation selects Young Scholars using the criteria below. While all criteria are important, the Foundation pays particular attention to the first two.  

  • High academic ability and achievement: Strong academic record, academic awards and honors, and substantive assessments by educators providing confidential letters of recommendation. We consider grades (typically mostly 'As'), achievement test scores, participation in available honors or advanced courses, commitment to learning, and work ethic.
  • Financial need: Your family income does not exceed $95,000.The average family income of entering Young Scholar’s is approximately $25,000. In recent years nearly all Young Scholars have come from families with incomes below $60,000.
  • Persistence: Determination and perseverance in the face of challenges, ability to set and remain focused on goals and to put in the effort needed to meet those goals in the face of obstacles.
  • Desire to help others: Purposeful and meaningful commitment to others which may be evidenced by participation in volunteer/community service activities.

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When and how are the scholarship winners announced?

All applicants, whether selected for the scholarship or not, are notified by email in the fall. Recipients' names will not be published on the Foundation's website.

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 What does the application process involve?

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program application requirements will include:

  • Student Application, including demographic information about you and your family, academic information such as your grades and standardized test scores, short and long essays, activities and awards, and uploaded report cards and test score reports. 
  • Parent Form, including information about your parent(s)/guardian(s)and other household members, as well as financial information and uploads of recent federal tax return forms. 
  • Three Recommendation Forms:
    • English/Language Arts Teacher Recommendation to be completed by your 6th or 7th grade English/Language Arts teacher
    • Math Teacher Recommendation to be completed by your 6th or 7th grade Mathematics teacher
    • Personal Recommendation to be completed by acoach, mentor, etc.

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 What are the key dates in the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program application process?

Early January 2016
A link to the online application will be posted on the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation website. 

April 14, 2016
Application closes at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Eastern Time

April – August 2016
Application review is conducted; review may include telephone interviews with applicants.

September 2016
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation notifies all non-recipients by email. Recipients will receive a phone call.

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 How do I obtain application materials?

In late January, the online application for the Young Scholars Program will be posted on the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation website.

If you do not have Internet access, contact the regional talent center that conducts outreach in your state for assistance.   

East and West Coast states

Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY)
Bridgette McIntyre
(410) 735-6270 or

Southern states

Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP)
Devin Patterson
(919) 668-9100 or,

Midwestern states

Northwestern University Center for Talent Development (CTD)
Tammie Stewart
(847) 491-3782 or

Rocky Mountain states

Center for Bright Kids (CBK)
(303) 428-2634 or

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 What is the role of the Talent Centers?

The Foundation collaborates with regional talent centers to inform students, families, and schools about the Young Scholars Program and answer related inquiries. Applicants do not need to be part of the talent centers' programs to be eligible for or participate in the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program. 

If you have questions about applying to the Young Scholars Program, you can contact the talent center affiliated with your state and the outreach staff at the center will assist you with your questions.

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Webinars for students, families, and educators

Join us for a live webinar on eligibility requirements, selection criteria, and key dates. Cooke Foundation staff will answer attendee questions and share best practices and tips for the application process.Several dates and times are available:

Register for Upcoming Webinars


Information for families

Application Guidelines