Frequently Asked Questions

The Application Process

The Aspen Ideas Festival

Local Ideas Festivals



The Application Process

Is there a limit on the number of applications a school may submit?
Yes, we ask that schools submit no more than two student applications. If more than two students are eligible and interested in applying for the program, we suggest the school host an internal selection process to identify the top two candidates who will move forward with an application.

What are the eligibility requirements?
Applicants must be attending a school that meets the following criteria: 

  • Public High School (including Charter and Magnet schools)
  • At least 30 percent of students are eligible for free/reduced lunch program (this is a firm cutoff)

The application period for the 2015-2016 school year is now closed. The application for the 2017 cohort will be available in late-October. 

Student Scholar applicants must meet the following criteria:  

  • Enrolled in a public high school that meets the above criteria
  • Public high school junior during the 2016-17 academic year
  • Legal U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Demonstrates leadership in school and community
  • Has taken 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), International Baccalaureate (IB) classes or college level courses
  • Availability to participate on all dates

Learn more about eligibility for students and educators

Can you make exceptions for stellar students in other grades?
The Bezos Scholars Program is designed specifically for rising seniors. Only students who are currently juniors in public high school may apply.

Can a mentor or educator from outside my school (i.e. works at a local community organization) serve as the educator nominee?
No. The Educator Scholar must be an educator (principal, vice principal, guidance counselor or classroom teacher) from the student's high school. 

How does an educator apply?
Educators apply along with a student as part of the student application. The student must initiate the application. As soon as the student applicant begins the application, they will be provided several links: one for letters of recommendation, one is a school report to be completed by the principal and one for the educator applicant. The student or principal should email the educator nominee applicant the unique, respective link to complete their portion of the application which includes basic questions and a few short responses.

What if I haven’t taken the PSAT, SAT. ACT or practice ACT?
Results from one of these standardized tests are required as part of the application. A copy of your score report is sufficient—we do not require an official copy from ETS.

What is the application deadline?
The application period for the 2016-2017 Bezos Scholars Program has closed. The due date for completed student applications for the 2017 cohort will be Februrary 10, 2017. 

How do I submit my application?
To begin, you will access the application on our website. The option to to save and return to your application is facilitated by registering with your email address. The online application contains three parts:

  1. Part One includes basic background information; school and out-of-school activities; coursework; test scores and three written responses. There is also a release form that you and your guardian will need to sign and upload. Be sure to have your transcript and test scores readily available so you can enter in the application form.
  2. Part Two includes two letters of recommendation. This part will require you to identify two individuals to submit letters of recommendation for you. You might consider asking a teacher, mentor or community member to complete those two recommendation forms. Please note that applicants are responsible for ensuring that references have enough time to complete the recommendation forms by the deadline.
  3. Part Three is for your Principal and Educator Scholar nominee to complete. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that principals and educators have enough time to complete their forms.

Applications must be submitted by the deadline to be considered for the Bezos Scholars Program. Late applications will not be considered. Please do not leave fields blank, unless they are identified as optional. If a question is not applicable, please use N/A to fill the blank.

How many Bezos Scholars will be selected?
The Selection Committee will select 12 U.S. Student Scholars and 12 U.S. Educator Scholars from the U.S. Bezos Student Scholars are selected through a competitive process. Educator Scholars are nominated by the school principal, and invited to attend if the student is selected. Principals may attend the festival, or nominate teachers, lead administrators, guidance counselors and curriculum coordinators to attend as Educator Scholars.

How are scholar applications evaluated?
Applications will be read carefully by multiple people who serve on the selection committee. The selection comittee will look for well-rounded individuals with marked scholastic achievement. They will evaluate a number of criteria, including rigorous course selection, high grade point averages, civic engagement and extracurricular activities. We’re seeking passionate and intellectually curious young people, who are rising leaders in their schools and communities and we value cultural, racial, socioeconomic and geographic diversity among applicants and schools.

How can I make my application stand out?
We’re looking for independent thinkers, demonstrated leaders, engaged community members: curious high school juniors. Help us understand how this opportunity will serve you as an aspiring leader. Top applicants:

  • Express themselves clearly and authentically
  • Highlight their leadership skills and community involvement
  • Double-check their work and submit a complete, error-free application
  • Demonstrate academic achievement and rigor
  • Are timely. Don’t miss the application deadline!

The Aspen Ideas Festival

What are the program dates for the 2017 Bezos Scholars Program @ the Aspen Institute?
The dates of the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival have yet to be released. After attending the Aspen Ideas Festival Student and Educator Scholar teams return home and participate in webinar classes as they plan and implement a Local Ideas Festival throughout the following school year.

What can I expect to experience at the Aspen Ideas Festival?
Arrive with a big appetite for new ideas and inspiration. On the Aspen Institute campus, Student and Educator Scholars attend seven days of seminars, tutorials, lectures and debates. They share roundtable discussions with some of the most provocative thinkers, writers, artists, entrepreneurs and change-agents from around the world. Each day, dedicated leadership trainings prepare scholars for the challenge ahead: Creating sustainable Local Ideas Festivals that will transform their schools and communities. The days begin early and end late.

What’s Aspen like in the summer?
Aspen is remarkable year-round, but summer is especially glorious. At an elevation of 8,000 feet, days in the Rockies will be warm and sunny; nights are a bit cooler. Scholars spend days on the beautiful campus of the Aspen Institute and nights at various locations on campus and in town. There are cottonwood trees in all directions, providing what often appears as a "summer snow."

Local Ideas Festivals

Can Scholars select any topic for their festival?
Successful festivals tackle an issue that is relevant to the community and that Scholars are passionate about. We encourage Scholars to conduct research and survey their community before selecting a topic.

What does a successful festival look like?
Scholars tackle a range of pressing issues from STEM education to literacy to environmental issues and more. They measure the success of their festivals through various methods including increased awareness levels, peer and community engagement, etc. We also focus on creating sustainable festivals that continue year after year. Check out these videos to see successful festivals in action.

How do Scholars receive the seed funding?
After returning home from the Aspen Ideas Festival, Scholars are invited to apply for their first-year grant ($1,000 in seed funding). To do this, they submit a grant proposal (with ongoing training and support from staff from incipience to completion). Scholars are encouraged to seek additional funding from their community, including in-kind donations, as well. Schools are eligible to receive $1,000 each year for three years to continue their festivals. 


Are there any application fees or hidden costs to this program?
No, the Bezos Scholars Program covers ALL expenses, including airfare, transportation, lodging, meals and festival fees for student and educator scholars. Scholars are responsible for travel to and from their home airports on the day of departure and return, as well as day-of travel expenses, such as snacks.

Does the Bezos Scholars Program offer professional credits for educators?
No, we cannot offer credit.

How was the program established?
The Bezos Scholars Program @ the Aspen Institute, founded in 2005, is a collaboration between the Bezos Family Foundation and the Aspen Institute. It is funded by the Bezos Family Foundation and hosted by the Aspen Institute, a global forum for leadership and open-minded dialogue, in Aspen, Colorado.

Who can I contact for more information?
If you have additional questions, contact