Application Process and Deadlines

COVID-19 Response

As we continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 virus and receive thoughtful feedback from educators in our community, the Cooke Foundation has extended the Young Scholars Program application deadline to April 15, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Eastern Time. We will continue to do our best to support applicants during this time, and remain committed to our schedule of reviewing all applications and notifying scholarship recipients in the fall of 2020.

We understand that many schools may still be closed on April 15, but we hope the extended deadline will give students time to complete as much of their application as possible.

Cooke Foundation staff are currently working remotely and request that all inquiries are sent via email to accommodate this adjustment. We are currently able to respond within two to three business days to inquiries sent to scholarships@jkcf.org. Our online chat support will resume closer to the deadline.

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 supporting documents and when are they due?

All application materials are required to be submitted via our online application by 12:00 p.m. EST on April 15, 2020. Some materials, such as report cards and test score reports, will need to be uploaded to the application account for it to be considered complete.

What kind of student writing is required in the application?

The Young Scholars Program application requires students to respond to four short answer questions each limited to 200 words in length, and one essay question limited to 500 words in length. These responses must be the student’s own writing. The questions are as follows:

  • What is one academic or extracurricular interest you have pursued outside of school, and how did you go about exploring this interest? (short answer)
  • You are asked to join a social action committee in your town. Your task is to work with elected officials on issues of importance to your community. What primary issue do you think needs to be discussed and why? (short answer –borrowed from University of Connecticut’s Interest-A-Lyzer assessment)
  • Tell us about a time when you persisted through a challenge. What encouraged or motivated you to carry on?(short answer)
  • Describe one or two personal strengths or passions you would utilize to help others, then tell us why you chose those characteristics. (short answer)
  • Briefly describe a stimulating educational experience of yours (for example, a book you read, a paper you wrote, or a project you completed). Then share what you learned from that experience and how it has shaped future plans for your education. (essay option 1)
  • You have the opportunity to plan an educational trip anywhere you choose. Where would you go and why? What would you do while visiting there?Remember in your response that this is not a vacation –the purpose of the trip is to gain a unique educational experience. (essay option 2 –borrowed 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 and test scores, 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).
  • Standardized Test Scores: Most recent score report (6th grade) from state standardized testing; may also include score reports from above-level testing through a regional talent center.
  • 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.

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 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.

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

Recommenders have until the application deadline of April 15, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) EST to submit their form. 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.

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

Applications must be submitted by the deadline of April 15, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) EST. Incomplete applications and those submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

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.

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 or call 800-941-3300.

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.

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.

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.

Who do I contact with questions regarding the scholarship application process?




How do I obtain the application?

The application for the Young Scholars Program is online only and 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.

  • Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia: Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY), Melissa House, (410) 735-6232 or jkcinfo@jhu.edu.
  • Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee: Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP), Judith Elsey, (919) 668-9134 or jelsey@tip.duke.edu
  • Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin: Northwestern University Center for Talent Development (CTD), Tammie Stewart, (847) 491-3782 or tammie-stewart@northwestern.edu.
  • Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming: Center for Bright Kids (CBK), Dr. Amy Rushneck, (303) 428-2634 or cbk@centerforbrightkids.org.

What is the role of the Talent Centers?

The Cooke Foundation collaborates with regional talent centers to conduct outreach for the Young Scholars Program and also provide avenues for above-grade level testing. While applicants are not required to be talent center program participants in order to apply to the Young Scholars Program, the Cooke Foundation encourages applicants to enroll in the talent search with their regional talent center. More information can be found here. If you have questions about applying to the Young Scholars Program, please contact the talent center affiliated with your state and the outreach staff at the center will assist you with your questions.

Selection Process

What are the selection criteria?

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

  • Academic ability and achievement: Strong academic record, academic awards and honors, and substantive assessments by educators providing confidential letters of recommendation. We consider grades, standardized test scores, participation in available honors or advanced courses, commitment to learning, and work ethic.
  • Demonstrate unmet financial need: Your family income does not exceed $95,000.The median family income of entering Cooke Young Scholars last year was approximately $43,000.
  • Persistence: Perseverance and resilience when faced with challenges, ability to set and remain focused on goals, and work ethic.
  • Leadership: Positively influencing others and taking initiative in various circumstances (family, community, school, church, etc.).
  • Service to others: Purposeful and meaningful commitment to others, which may be evidenced by participation in volunteer/community service activities.

How many Cooke Young Scholars are selected?

The number of scholars selected may vary from year to year. In 2019, 60 Cooke Young Scholars were selected.

Am I eligible to apply?

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

  • Grade level: Entering 8th grade in the fall of 2020.
  • Academics: Since the beginning of 6th grade, have earned grades of all or mostly A’s in school with no C’s or below in core academic subjects (English/Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies/History, Foreign Language).
  • Income: Demonstrate unmet financial need. We will consider applicants with family income up to $95,000. Last year’s cohort of new Young Scholars had a median family income of approximately $43,000.
  • Location: Reside in the U.S. or a U.S. territory and plan to attend high school in the U.S.

When and how are the scholarship winners announced?

All applicants, whether selected for the scholarship or not, are notified by email in late summer. Recipients’ names will not be published by the Cooke Foundation.

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 educational experiences for high school students. In some cases this includes support for private boarding school. Educational advisers work with Cooke 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.

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?

During the summer before 9th grade, Cooke Young Scholars are required to participate in the Foundation-sponsored Young Scholars Welcome Weekend and First Summer experience. In the summer before 12th grade, Cooke Young Scholars are required to participate with their Cohort (students admitted in the same year) in a program focusing on college search and readiness on a college campus.

Cooke Young Scholars also participate in summer enrichment programs in 10th and 11th grade, which include residential placement away from home. Cooke Young Scholars are expected to communicate and work closely with their designated Foundation 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.

Contact Us

The application for the Cooke Young Scholars Program has closed. If you have any questions regarding your application status, please email scholarships@jkcf.org.