Chicago Area Mensa is proud to participate in the Mensa Foundation's national scholarship program. Money is awarded through an essay contest held each year, with applications available online starting in mid-September continuing through mid-January when the entries are due. Applications are not available before mid-September, and entries are not accepted after the deadline in mid-January. Award winners are notified in June.
The National Program
Membership in Mensa is NOT required in order to enter the contest. Applicants must be enrolled for the following academic year in a degree program in any accredited U.S. institution of post-secondary education. This includes undergraduate, graduate, and non-traditional programs, as long as the institution is accredited and the degree program is above high-school level.
Individuals are encouraged to enter every year, regardless of whether they have won or lost in previous years.
The applicant must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, and must reside (or attend school) within the boundaries of a participating local Mensa chapter. Chicago Area Mensa is such a chapter, as are most Mensa chapters in the U.S. Chicago Area Mensa includes northern Illinois and northwest Indiana. The scholarship website will help you determine if your zip code lies within a participating chapter.
Awards are unrestricted as to age, race, gender (with two exceptions), grade point average, and/or financial need. Essays are limited to 550 words or less (the equivalent of about two typewritten, double-spaced pages).
About 140 scholarships are awarded locally, regionally, and nationally each year. More than half are $300 each, a quarter are $500 each, and the rest are either $600 or $1000 each. The Chicago Area Mensa applicant pool produces at least two and up to ten winners each year.
Several national scholarships acknowledge individuals pursuing specific fields of study such as Journalism, Aerospace, the Liberal Arts, History, and English (whether learning to be a teacher or a writer). One scholarship is awarded each year to a woman who has returned (or is returning) to school after an absence of seven or more years.
The newest of these Special Awards is named for Chicago Area Mensa's own Helen Kupper, who spearheaded the effort to fund an annual scholarship for students pursuing a Fine Arts degree.
A limited amount of information about the program, including current and past winners, is available courtesy of the Mensa Education & Research Foundation. You may also contact the local scholarship chair.
Important to Remember
This is a contest. This is an ESSAY contest about the contestant's career, academic, and/or vocational goals. Not only must the contestant have a goal or goals, s/he must be able to clearly define them and logically support them so that the judges (local, regional, and national) will believe that her/his past experience and future education will help her/him attain them.
Ten percent of the essays we receive are rejected simply for not following the rules specified on the entry form (essays must be double-spaced, no more than 550 words, no name/identifying information on/in the essay itself, postmarked or submitted electronically by the deadline, etc.). Two of the rejected essays in past years were from people identifying themselves as Mensans. Of the essays we judge locally, around ten to fifteen percent are submitted to the regional chair, and around twenty to sixty percent of those win awards each year.
Make no mistake, there's a lot of people competing for a few awards that, for the most part, add up to little more than book money. But cash is cash, and if you (or someone you love) are working towards a goal in life, we strongly encourage you to enter this fall, and look forward to reading about your dreams and ambitions.
We're always interested if someone wants to serve as a judge. Experience as an English teacher or writer/editor is NOT required (in fact, the national organization encourages the local chairs to recruit a diverse judging pool). Judging usually involves several evenings' work divided into two 2-4 night blocks (one block of time for each round of judging). The first block is around the last two weeks of January, the second block is around the first two weeks of February. In past years, judges had 20-30 essays to judge each round.
Judging is done in your own space on your own time. The essays are delivered as .pdf files via email. Scores are reported by email or phone. The national chair provides standardized judging criteria and scoring sheets.
If you are interested in volunteering as a judge, contact the scholarship chair during the months of August through November.
Additional Mensa Education & Research Foundation Scholarships
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scholarship.php last updated January 4, 2013.