Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation offers one of the most generous and prestigious undergraduate scholarships in the country. The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship provides up to $40,000 per year to help exceptional students with financial needs attend top universities and fulfill their potential.

With an ultra-competitive acceptance rate, the Cooke scholarship is highly selective. But for the students who earn this award, it’s truly life-changing. The foundation has awarded over $200 million since 2000 to help over 2,700 students graduate.

This comprehensive guide explains everything you need to know about the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, including:

  • Eligibility requirements
  • Application timeline and materials
  • Selection criteria and process
  • What the scholarship provides
  • College and career support programs
  • Alumni networking opportunities
  • Frequently asked questions

Read on to learn how high-achieving high school seniors with financial hardship can apply for this incredible scholarship to unlock their full potential.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Overview

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

Before diving into the specifics of the scholarship, let’s look at an overview of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.


The Foundation was established in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke. Cooke was an entrepreneur and former owner of the Washington Redskins who believed in giving back through education.

The Foundation provides scholarships from middle school through graduate school and beyond to promote excellence and advance young people with financial need. Over $200 million in scholarships have been awarded to date.


The Foundation’s mission is to advance the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Their aim is to help young people of modest means develop their talents and abilities to improve lives and build a better society.


In addition to the flagship undergraduate scholarship covered here, the Foundation provides other scholarships, grants, and programs supporting students including:

  • Young Scholars middle/high school scholarships
  • Community College Transfer scholarships
  • Graduate school scholarships
  • Teacher fellowships
  • College counseling services

Next, let’s look at specifics for the Cooke College Scholarship.

Cooke College Scholarship Overview

The Cooke College Scholarship provides up to $40,000 per year to attend a 4-year undergraduate institution. Key details include:


  • Up to $40,000 per year based on need
  • Renewable each year for all 4 years of college

Use of Funds

  • Tuition and fees
  • Room and board
  • Books and supplies
  • Health insurance
  • Personal expenses
  • Transportation


  • 75-90 selected per year
  • Recent classes have been 46% female/54% male
  • 24% first-generation college students

Graduation Rate

  • 91% of Cooke Scholars graduate in 4 years compared to 60% of all college students

This makes the Cooke scholarship one of the most generous awards available to undergraduate students based on both financial amount and comprehensive support services.

Cooke Scholarship Eligibility

The Cooke scholarship has strict eligibility standards. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria:


  • Be a current high school senior in the U.S.
  • Plan to graduate during the current academic year
  • Minimum 3.5 unweighted GPA
  • Rank in the top 10% of their class
  • Minimum SAT score of 1200 or ACT score of 25

Financial Need

  • Must demonstrate significant financial need
  • Family income below $95,000
  • Are dependents for tax purposes
  • Do not have access to adequate financial resources to attend college

College Enrollment

  • Intend to enroll full time in an accredited 4-year college in the U.S. starting the Fall after graduation
  • Cannot be currently enrolled in college courses

As you can see, the Cooke scholarship sets a very high bar for eligibility. But they are committed to providing transformational support to students with demonstrated excellence and economic hardship.

Cooke Scholarship Application Timeline

Here are the key dates and deadlines for the Cooke scholarship application process:

  • September – Application opens
  • October 30 – Application deadline
  • November – January – Application review period
  • Late January – Semi-finalists selected and contacted for interviews
  • February – March – Finalist interviews conducted
  • Late March – Scholarship recipients announced

Students have just over a month from September through October 30th to complete and submit the full application. Awards are granted for use for the upcoming academic year.

You must submit all materials by the October 30 deadline. Late, incomplete, or ineligible applications are not accepted, so be sure to start early and follow all directions.

Cooke Scholarship Application Requirements

The Cooke application process is comprehensive and detailed. You must submit all of these required materials:

Online Application Form

This covers basic personal details, academics, financial information, and essays.


Submit complete high school transcripts showing all courses taken, grades earned, and cumulative GPA.

SAT/ACT Scores

Submit official score reports demonstrating eligibility requirements are met.

CSS Profile

This provides detailed information about your family finances.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required to verify financial need.

Letters of Recommendation

Submit 2 letters speaking to your abilities, talents, and character.


You must complete several essay questions about your background, goals, and interests.

This extensive application allows the Cooke Foundation to fully evaluate candidates based on merit, achievement, need, and potential.

Cooke Scholarship Selection Criteria

What traits do Cooke Scholars possess? Here are some of the top criteria used when evaluating applicants:


  • Consistently outstanding academic performance and potential
  • Strength and rigor of high school curriculum
  • High class rank consistent with GPA
  • Strong standardized test scores

Financial Need

  • Severe economic constraints prohibiting college access
  • Dependents without resources to self-finance education
  • Limited family income and net worth


  • Evidence of drive and determination to succeed
  • Resilience and ability to overcome adversity
  • Self-motivation and effort despite challenges


  • Demonstrated initiative, influence, and impact on others
  • Service to community and passions beyond self
  • Potential to use skills to lead future fields and endeavors


  • Well-rounded talents, abilities, and interests beyond academics
  • Likelihood of exceptional future contributions to society
  • Maturity, judgment, and wisdom beyond years

The Cooke Foundation takes a holistic view seeking well-rounded individuals poised for success.

Cooke Scholarship Selection Process

The Cooke scholarship selection process is extremely competitive, with thousands of applicants evaluated in multiple rounds:

Initial Application Review

Applications are assessed for eligibility, completeness, and merit based on all submitted materials. The most promising candidates are identified.

Semifinalist Selection

Roughly 500 semifinalists are chosen and invited to complete a short follow up application with additional essays.

Semifinalist Interviews

Approximately 150 semifinalists are selected for live interviews to assess their potential and presentation skills.

Finalist Evaluation

30-40 finalists are identified and progress to the final selection committee review.

Recipient Selection

In this last stage, the scholarship selection panel chooses the 75-90 recipients for the year. All applicants are notified of outcomes.

With such an extensive process, recipients can be proud of being recognized from a deep pool of qualified applicants.

What the Cooke Scholarship Provides

Beyond dollars, the Cooke scholarship delivers comprehensive support services to recipients including:

College Counseling

Advising is provided to help scholars transition to college and advise on everything from courses to careers.

Academic Support

Tutoring, writing assistance, internships, and study abroad aid is available to bolster academic success.

Graduate School Counseling

Guidance is given on applying to competitive graduate programs and securing funding.

Career Services

Job search strategies, interview prep, resume reviews, and networking opportunities are offered.

Wells Fargo Banking

Free checking and savings accounts, plus financial literacy education are provided.

Campus Visits

Cooke staff visit scholars on campus regularly to assist with any needs.

Technology Package

Scholars receive a laptop, printer, and software to support their education.

Renewable Support

The scholarship can be renewed each year for 4 years based on satisfactory academic progress.

This robust package of resources helps propel scholars through college graduation and into their careers.

Cooke Scholarship College Matriculation

The Cooke scholarship provides the flexibility to attend a wide range of 4-year non-profit colleges and universities within the United States.

Over 200 different institutions have enrolled Cooke Scholars including:

  • Ivy League Universities – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.
  • Elite National Universities – Stanford, MIT, Duke, Northwestern, etc.
  • Leading Liberal Arts Colleges – Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, etc.
  • Top Public Universities – UC Berkeley, UVA, UMichigan, UNC, etc.
  • Specialty Institutes – Curtis Institute of Music, Webb Institute, etc.

Scholars have the opportunity to enroll at institutions normally out of financial reach. Where they attend depends on admissions outcomes.

Cooke Scholarship Alumni Network

One great benefit of receiving the Cooke scholarship is joining a network of over 2,700 talented alumni.

A few notable alums include:

  • Jeff Bezos – Amazon founder
  • Luis von Ahn – Co-founder of Duolingo
  • Emmy award winning television writers and producers
  • Founders of education startups and nonprofits
  • Lawyers, advocates, and policy-makers
  • Cutting-edge researchers and inventors
  • Leaders in business, technology, medicine, and more

The Cooke Foundation provides ongoing career networking, mentoring, and support to continue advancing alumni long-term.

Cooke Scholarship Application Tips

Here are some top tips for submitting your strongest possible Cooke Scholarship application:

Start early

Begin preparing your materials over the summer before senior year. Give yourself ample time to put together a thoughtful and polished application.

Follow directions

Carefully adhere to all instructions and formatting requirements to avoid disqualification based on technicalities.

Choose recommenders wisely

Select references who know you well and can speak in depth about your abilities, character, and promise. Give them plenty of advance notice.

Ace the essays

The essays are your chance to bring your application to life. Show, don’t tell why you are an exceptional candidate.

Highlight financial need

Use all components of the application to underscore your financial challenges and how this scholarship would be vital to your college access.

Check transcripts

Ensure your transcripts are accurate and free of errors. Highlight any advanced, accelerated, or college-level classes that demonstrate rigor.

Prepare for interviews

If you reach the semifinalist stage, practice for your interview to make a polished impression.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many students receive the Cooke scholarship each year?

Between 75-90 students are selected annually out of over 6,000 applicants. This makes for an extremely competitive 1% selection rate.

What is the income cut-off for “financial need”?

To qualify, your family income must fall under $95,000 per year for a family of four. Your assets, expenses, and special circumstances are also considered.

Can undocumented students qualify?

Yes, DACA and undocumented students can apply as long as you meet the other eligibility requirements.

Do homeschooled students qualify?

Yes, homeschooled students can apply by submitting transcripts, grades, and test scores. Your parent must verify your ranking.

Does this scholarship apply to graduate school?

No, the Cooke College Scholarship is only for undergraduate education. But the foundation offers other graduate school fellowships.

What schools have Cooke Scholars attended?

Cooke Scholars have enrolled in over 200 colleges including Ivy League universities, elite liberal arts programs, top public schools, and specialty institutes.

When are scholarship funds distributed?

Funds are paid directly to the college on your behalf before the start of each term to cover approved tuition, fees, and expenses.

Is the scholarship renewable all 4 years?

Yes, the Cooke scholarship is renewable each year if you maintain eligibility requirements including full-time enrollment and minimum GPA.

Realize Your Potential with the Cooke Scholarship

The Jack Kent Cooke scholarship represents more than just tuition dollars. It’s an opportunity to realize your full academic abilities and leadership potential without financial barriers holding you back.

If you’re an exceptionally high-achieving high school senior with financial need, take the time to thoughtfully apply. The effort could pay off with admission to your dream college, four years of funded education, and a lifetime of opportunities ahead.

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