Application Process

My school doesn’t use letter (A, B, etc.) grades. How should I report my class grades in my application?

If your school does not use a letter grade system, you can select pass or fail to describe your class grade. We will evaluate your self-reported grades with your report card, recommendations, honors and awards, and essays to get a full picture of your academic history.

Does the Young Scholars Program application require test scores?"

The Cooke Foundation does not require students to submit any test scores to apply for the Cooke Young Scholars Program. This includes SAT or ACT scores and state standardized test scores.

If my parents/guardians are separated/divorced/never married, do I need to include both of their incomes?

The Foundation typically requires both parents to submit their financial information and insights on their student’s education for the Cooke Young Scholars Program application. If a student’s parents/guardians are separated/divorced or not living together,  both parents should submit their financial information on separate forms. In cases where one or both parents have remarried, the stepparent’s financial information should also be included in the parent form. The combined income for both households, including stepparents, will be used to determine a student’s financial eligibility. The portion of the noncustodial household income is calculated based on how much time monthly the student spends with that household.

How do my parent(s)/legal guardian(s) complete and submit the Parent Information Form(s)?

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation requires every applicant’s parents/legal guardian(s) to submit a Parent Information Form as part of their application for the Cooke Young Scholars Program. This requirement may include a Non-custodial Parent Information Form in addition to the Custodial Parent Form if the applicant’s parents are divorced, separated, or were never married. The non-custodial form is required, however, the Cooke Foundation may waive the form in rare cases. When you submit a waiver form, your non-custodial parent form checklist item status will be updated to “waived” in our records. This does not mean that submission of the form has been waived; this means the material has been waived for the purpose of completing your application by the deadline. The Cooke Foundation may reach out for additional information or the Non-custodial Parent Information Form after the deadline. A link to the form is available here. 

How do I submit my application and supporting documents and by when?

Your completed application must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. in your local time zone on the day of the deadline. This includes all completed sections of the online application, your report cards that must be uploaded to your application, completed parent/guardian forms by your parent(s)/guardian(s), and submitted recommendation forms by your recommenders.

What kind of student writing is required in the application?

The Young Scholars Program application requires students to respond to three short answer prompts each limited to 200 words in length, and one essay prompt limited to 350 words in length. These responses must be the student’s own writing. The prompts are as follows:

-Consider one academic subject or interest that you love learning about outside of your schoolwork. How have you explored this topic, and what would happen if all students were required to learn about this topic? (short)
-Imagine you have been invited to serve on a town committee creating change on one issue of importance to your community. What is the issue, and how will you contribute to the committee’s efforts to bring about that change? (short)*
-Briefly describe a time you faced a challenge that forced you to grow, or a time you set a goal you were determined to achieve. What encouraged or motivated you to carry on, and what if anything would you have done differently? (short)
-Reflect on one significant moment, event, or relationship that changed how you perceive the world. Explain how it influences your thinking and actions today and why this matters to you and/or others. (essay)
-Imagine you are planning an educational trip to learn more about a big idea or topic you are interested in. You can go anywhere to pursue any experience or knowledge you desire. Tell us where you would go, what you would do and hope to learn, and why this matters to you and/or others. (essay)*

* indicates the question is adapted from University of Connecticut’s Interest-A-Lyzer assessment

What does a complete application include?

A complete application will contain the following materials:

  • Student Application: Includes demographic information about applicant and family, and academic information such as grades, activities and awards, and writing.
  • Parent/Guardian Form(s): Includes information from parent(s)/guardian(s) about applicant and household, as well as self-reported adjusted gross income. If applicable, we also require a form from the student’s non-custodial parent(s)/guardian(s).
  • Report cards from 6th and 7th grade.
  • Academic Recommendation: From a teacher in a core academic subject (English/Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies/History, Foreign Language).
  • Personal Recommendation: From a mentor, coach, or a second teacher/instructor who is not a family member.

How long does the recommender have to submit their recommendation form?

Recommenders have the same deadline as applicants. We encourage applicants to monitor the status of their application and communicate with their recommenders to make sure they successfully submit the form on time.

Can my recommender submit a letter of recommendation instead of or in addition to completing the online form?

No, the only acceptable recommendation for this application is the online form. Letters of recommendation will not be accepted in lieu of or in addition to the online form.

How does the recommender submit a recommendation?

Applicants will enter the recommender’s email address and contact information in the application. The recommender will then receive an email with instructions and a link to the recommendation form they will complete and submit. When the form is complete, they will click the “Submit” button and a message will appear requesting confirmation that the form is ready to submit. When they click “Yes,” a confirmation screen will appear to verify the form has been submitted. The recommender will also receive a confirmation email.

When will the recommender know that it is time to submit the recommendation?

Recommenders will receive an email with instructions about completing the recommendation form. It is the applicant’s responsibility to monitor the status of your application and follow up with your recommenders to be sure they have received the instructions and completed their online forms.

How do I properly log out?

Before you log out, always click the “Continue” button found at the bottom of every page of the application. This will ensure your application progress has been saved. When you are ready to log out and exit your account, use the “Logout” button at the top right of the screen. You will be able to return to the application to continue and update as frequently as desired until you submit your application or the deadline has passed.

How do I change my password or Username?

If you would like to reset your password, go to the Log In/Register page, click the “Forgot your password?” link, and follow the online instructions.

I forgot my User ID or password.

On the Log In/Register page, click the “Forgot your password?” link. To reset your password, enter the email address associated with your account and the applicant’s birthdate and click the “Submit” button. You will receive an email with a link to reset your password. If you need additional help, email scholarships@jkcf.org.

Do I have to finish my application all at once, or can I save it and come back later?

You can save your application by clicking the Continue button at the bottom of the page, or navigating to another section of the application using the dashboard on the left of the screen. This will allow you to return to it at a later time to continue or update as desired. You can return to your application as often as needed until you submit it or the deadline has passed. If you close your browser window without using the Continue button, the information entered on that page will not be saved.

What happens if an application is incomplete or is submitted after the deadline?

Applications must be submitted by the deadline of May 9, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. in your local time zone. Incomplete applications and those submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

How do I obtain the application?

The application for the Young Scholars Program is online only.  A link to it is posted on the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation website during the application open period. We do not have a paper version of the application available.

Selection Process

What are the selection criteria?

The Cooke Foundation reviews each application with assistance from a committee of education experts. The Foundation selects Cooke Young Scholars using the criteria below. While all criteria are scored, academic ability and achievement is the most heavily weighted criterion.

-Academic ability and achievement: How does the applicant stand out from others in terms of their academic ability and achievement? (Eligible applicants must have earned grades of all or mostly As, with no Cs or below in core academic subjects – English/language arts, math, science, social studies/history – since the beginning of 6th grade).

-Leadership: How does the applicant demonstrate initiative, serve as a positive role model, and contribute positively to the world around them?

-Persistence: How does the applicant show determination toward accomplishing their goals and overcoming challenges?

-Financial Need: Demonstrate unmet financial need. We will consider applicants with family income up to $95,000. During the selection process, the Foundation will conduct a full financial review which will take into account all income and assets of the student and the student’s parents. The median family income of last year’s entering cohort of Cooke Young Scholars was approximately $35,000.

How many Cooke Young Scholars are selected?

The number of Scholars selected varies from year to year. In 2023, 43 new Scholars were selected.

Am I eligible to apply?

To be considered for the Young Scholars Program, the applicant must meet the following eligibility requirements:

-Currently in 7th grade and/or entering 8th grade in the fall of 2024.

-Since the beginning of 6th grade, earned grades of all or mostly As in school, with no Cs or below in core academic subjects (English/Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies/History).

-Demonstrate unmet financial need. We will consider applicants with a maximum annual gross income of $95,000. Last year’s cohort of new Young Scholars had a median family income of approximately $35,000. During the selection process, the Foundation will conduct a full financial review which will take into account all income and assets of the student and the student’s parents.

-Reside in the United States and plan to attend high school in the U.S.

When and how are the scholarship winners announced?

All applicants are notified in June about whether they have been selected as a semifinalist. Semifinalists will enter the second half of the review process which continues through summer. Recipients of the scholarship are notified via email in early fall (September).

What the Scholarship Covers

What opportunities and support do Cooke Young Scholars receive?

The Young Scholars Program provides educational and college advising as well as financial support for academic and extracurricular enrichment from 8th grade through high school. Beginning in 8th grade, Cooke 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 Cooke Young Scholars.
  • Resources for career exploration and mentoring.
  • College counseling.

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

The Foundation expects each Cooke Young Scholar and their family to communicate at least once every four to six weeks and work closely with their designated educational adviser to develop and follow an annual Individualized 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 their community.
  • Maintain a good disciplinary record.
  • Participate in residential summer programs.
  • Follow through with the opportunities and services outlined in their ILP.
  • Do their best to take the steps that lead to achieving their ILP goals.
  • Attend Welcome Weekend and First Summer with their Cohort (students admitted in the same year) during the summer before 9th grade.
  • Attend a summer experience focusing on college search and readiness 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 Cooke Young Scholar and the scholar’s parent(s) or guardian(s). Families and Cooke Young Scholars discuss program expectations in depth with the educational adviser prior to signing.

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

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

  • Be sure your scholar communicates with their educational adviser regularly.
  • Communicate with the educational adviser about potential academic opportunities and plans for your student.
  • Celebrate your scholar’s academic, extracurricular, and personal accomplishments with his/her educational adviser.
  • Check that your scholar submits his/her school-issued report card promptly upon request.
  • Submit program renewals, forms, including tax forms and supporting documents, during the renewal process in a timely manner.

What should Cooke Young Scholars and their families expect from the educational adviser?

Educational advisers work closely with a group of approximately 35 Young Scholars in grades eight to twelve. They collaborate with the scholar and family, providing options, asking questions, and offering input to help:

  • Select a high school.
  • Plan an appropriately challenging four-year academic course load.
  • Improve time management and study skills.
  • Set academic, talent, and personal goals each year.
  • Construct a yearly Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) that connects services to the Scholar’s goals.
  • Research educational opportunities and services.
  • Develop talents and expertise.
  • Navigate the educational system.
  • Troubleshoot challenges.
  • Achieve academic and extracurricular goals.
  • Prepare to thrive in our nation’s top-performing colleges.

What is an Individual Learning Plan (ILP)?

Created to help each Cooke Young Scholar meet their 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. Cooke Young Scholars experience opportunities that may include:

  • Residential summer programs
  • School expenses
  • Music, art, or athletic lessons and supplies
  • Books and magazines
  • Software and technology
  • Distance learning courses
  • Internships
  • Conferences
  • Travel opportunities

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

The educational adviser works closely with the scholar, their family, and others to understand the abilities, talents, and goals of each Cooke 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 Manager and other staff work directly with the educational adviser to assure that a realistic, balanced plan is presented to the scholar and family.

How can I use the scholarship?

While Cooke Young Scholars are selected in the 8th grade, funding for services does not begin until the summer before 9th grade. Successful Cooke Young Scholars use the scholarship to nurture academic skills, explore passions and interests, and stretch outside of their comfort zone. Cooke 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.

Does the Young Scholars Program primarily provide boarding school scholarships?

No, the primary purpose of the program is to find challenging and enriching educational experiences for Young Scholars. Educational advisers work with scholars and their families to learn about their local high school options, and, if appropriate, support the process of exploring other options. The program does not require or direct students to attend any type of school. In some cases, the program may provide support for private boarding school.

How long will scholarship support continue?

The Young Scholars Program is designed to support students from 8th grade through senior year of high school. Each school year, the Foundation evaluates Cooke Young Scholars through a renewal process. Assuming program expectations are met by the scholar and family, the scholarship support continues through senior year of high school.

Are there any mandatory requirements?

In November of 8th grade, new Cooke Young Scholars are required to attend Welcome Weekend with their Cohort (students admitted in the same year); Welcome Weekend is a Foundation-sponsored, in-person event that officially kicks off Scholars’ time in the program. Then, during the summer before 9th grade, Young Scholars are required to participate in the First Summer, a residential summer program on a college campus. In the summer before 12th grade, Cooke Young Scholars are required to participate in a multi-week program focused on mentorship, research, as well as college search & readiness; this program also takes place on a college campus.


In 10th and 11th grades, Cooke Young Scholars participate in residential summer enrichment programs with one of our several summer partner programs. Each month throughout the academic year, Cooke Young Scholars are expected to communicate and work closely with their designated Cooke Educational Adviser.


How can I receive more information about the Foundation and the Young Scholars Program?

Are you a student applying to our scholarships? Click here to sign up and receive important information.

Are you a parent, guardian, or family member supporting your family member’s educational goals? Click here to sign up and receive more information.

Are you a counselor or educator working with students at a school, college, or community-based organization? Click here to sign up and receive more information.

Who was Jack Kent Cooke?

Mr. Cooke was a philanthropist, businessman, and devotee of learning and the arts who left the bulk of his estate to establish the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to help students of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education.

Are there any costs or fees associated with applying for Cooke Scholarships?

There is no cost or fee associated with completing and submitting a Cooke Scholarship application.

Contact Us

The application for the Cooke Young Scholars Program is currently closed.

If you have any questions regarding your application, please email us at scholarships@jkcf.org.