The Coolidge Scholarship is an annually awarded, full-ride, presidential scholarship that covers a student’s tuition, room, board, and expenses for four years of undergraduate study. The Coolidge may be used by recipients at any accredited American college or university. Anyone of any background, pursuing any academic discipline of study, may apply to this non-partisan, need-blind, program.
Students apply for the Coolidge Scholarship during their junior year of high school. Finalists are flown in for a finalist weekend at the Coolidge Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont where they interview with the Coolidge Scholars Finalist Jury, chaired by Dr. Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Recipients of the Coolidge Scholarship are notified of their award late in their junior year, before college application (note: current high school seniors are not eligible to apply). Finalists who are not named Coolidge Scholars are eligible to receive a smaller, one-time, college scholarship.
Calvin Coolidge worked hard in academics; the young New Englander’s only sport was public speaking, often on public policy. The main criterion that distinguishes Coolidge Scholars therefore is academic excellence. Secondary criteria include: demonstrated interest in public policy; an appreciation for the values Coolidge championed; as well as humility and service.
The summer before their senior year of high school, newly-selected Coolidge Scholars spend several orientation days at the picturesque birthplace of the President, Plymouth Notch, Vt. There scholars get to know Coolidge and his world, and help the Coolidge Foundation oversee its formidable debate programs. Scholars return to Plymouth Notch for a week in each of the next three summers.
The top Coolidge applicants are named “Senators.” In the summer, the Coolidge Foundation invites Coolidge Senators to the Senators Summit in Washington, D.C. At the Summit, the Senators explore the nation’s capital, learn about President Coolidge, and perhaps most importantly get to meet other high achieving students from across the country.
The Coolidge Scholars Program is operated by the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation.
The selection timeline can be found at the Coolidge Scholars Website.
Primary Criterion: Academic Excellence
Above all, Coolidge scholars must possess a distinguished academic record. Competitive candidates will have pursued and succeeded in the most rigorous course of study available to them. Awardees will demonstrate an uncommon academic depth and intellectual curiosity. In the case of the Coolidge Scholarship, depth matters as much as breadth. Coolidge winners’ interest in scholarly and intellectual pursuits goes beyond the classroom. Mere credential collection is not a defining trait of a Coolidge Scholar. Jonas Salk, the father of the polio vaccine, provides a good example. Salk so excelled in school that he skipped grades. However, he was also intellectually curious, writing: “As a child I was not interested in science. I was merely interested in things human.”
Secondary Criterion: Interest in Public Policy and Appreciation for Coolidge Values
From his boyhood days in Plymouth Notch through his years in the White House Coolidge studied public policy. This scholarship therefore seeks young citizens who exhibit an interest in policy. Candidates also should demonstrate an awareness of and appreciation for the values President Coolidge championed throughout his life. Some such values include: civility, restraint in government, respect for teachers, thrift, and respect for the presidency. The award is not restricted to candidates planning to pursue degrees in fields such as public policy or government. To the contrary, all academic disciplines are valued by this award. Like the president, Coolidge Scholars will engage in the pressing issues of their time. Like Coolidge, Coolidge Scholars are at all times civil, valuing respectful debate over partisan attack. Candidates will be asked to prepare an 800-word application essay on Coolidge values.
Secondary Criterion: Humility and Service
Humility is a hallmark quality of leaders in the Coolidge tradition. In his autobiography, Coolidge wrote: “It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.” The Coolidge Scholarship seeks young people who display a sense of service and care for the well-being of others.
Other prizes are awarded to young people for accumulating leadership credentials in high school. This prize focuses rather on high school achievement that gives young people the potential to lead later in life. A young person who tends to work alone, but demonstrates potential to conduct breakthrough research, for example, is a strong candidate. Introverts can win this prize.
The Coolidge Scholarship is non-partisan and is awarded on merit regardless of race, gender, or background.