Scholarships and Financial Assistance
Tuition assistance represents a ~20% reduction of the standard program fee. Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, instruction and programming.
If your family simply needs a little bit of extra help, our tuition assistance option (20% discounted tuition) is available to all families – no questions asked and without any additional scholarship application forms, tax returns, or anything outside of our normal application process. To take advantage of this option, students should submit a completed application for admissions and then, if accepted, parents indicate the tuition assistance tier at enrollment and will automatically be billed at the reduced tuition rate.
That’s it. Easy, right?!
Our scholarship program is designed to provide financial aid awards of up to 100% of program tuition. We receive a lot of questions about applying for scholarships, so here are some important considerations:
- All students must FIRST apply and be accepted BEFORE applying for financial assistance.
- We have three different scholarship application deadlines – early, priority, and regular. Generally speaking, applying earlier can improve your chances of receiving the funding you need to participate.
- We only provide funding for US residents (or non-resident US citizens) that are currently enrolled in high school/secondary education program
- Award amounts of 40 – 60% of tuition are more common than award amounts of 85 – 100%
- Scholarship awards do not cover airfare and other travel costs associated with getting to/from a program
- Generally speaking, students that are flexible with their program preference have the best chance of receiving a scholarship award that meets their financial need
- Please read carefully through the FAQs below to familiarize yourself with the application process
Scholarship Dates & Deadlines
How to apply for a Sustainable Summer scholarship
Step 1: Start Online Application
Apply online. There is no application fee for students seeking scholarship funding. The first step in the application process requires the student to provide some biographical information and submit a brief admissions essay that articulates your interest in sustainability and our program and also submit short (500 words or less) responses to two open-ended questions about sustainability.
Step 2: Submit Application, Request a Letter of Rec and Complete Any Required Supplements
Students will have access to our supplemental application materials portal, where they request a letter of recommendation from a teacher or mentor. International students from non-English speaking countries must also provide some additional information to help us assess English language proficiency. The complete application is reviewed by our admissions committee based on the timeline specified above.
Step 3: Notification of Admissions Decision and Apply for Financial Assistance
Admissions decisions are based principally on the applicant's ability to demonstrate interest in sustainability issues and to contribute positively to our community of students. Students and parents are notified via email and provided with the instructions for how to complete a Parent Statement of Financial Circumstances if they would like to apply for financial assistance.
Parent Statements of Financial Circumstances are due by the "Scholarship Deadline" specified for each round. Once we receive the Parent Statement of Financial Circumstances, our scholarship committee will review and provide a scholarship award decision.
Step 4: Enrollment Deposit
For students receiving a full scholarship, no enrollment deposit is required. For all other students, a $500 non-refundable deposit is required to secure enrollment in the program. The deposit is applied against the cost of tuition. Enrollment deposits are made online by credit card and the enrollment form must be completed by a parent. During enrollment, a parent will also complete a medical history form, which is reviewed by our office within one week of receipt. All enrollments are conditional pending review of the student's medical history.
Step 5: Get Ready
We will confirm your enrollment with an invitation to login to our MySummer website, which helps families prepare for their summer travel with us. Flights, packing lists, destination briefings, sustainability primers, tuition invoices, and other pre-program preparation information are accessed through MySummer.
We stagger the application deadline and the deadline for your application and the Letter of Recommendation. Your application (biographical information, personal statement, two short essay responses) need to be submitted by the stated application deadline to be eligible for consideration in that round. Your Letter of Recommendation must be received by the corresponding deadline of that round, which is typically 1-2 weeks after the application deadline (depending on the round). If any of the required application materials are not received by the deadline, the application is automatically rolled over to the next admission round.
Once a student has been accepted, all families are invited to complete a Parent Statement of Financial Circumstances.
- Submitted through our Parent Application portal, a parent/guardian will provide a recent tax return, asset and household expense information, special financial circumstances, etc.
- Note To Parents: In general, we require a tax return from the previous or current tax year. For example, if you are completing an application in January, you probably have not yet completed your return for the year that ended in December. So provide a tax return from the previous year, which you should have completed. We understand that every household’s financial circumstances are unique, but our committee is going to be very skeptical of an application that does not include a recent tax return. For 99.9% of heads of household, you are either legally required to file a tax return with the IRS or would miss out on a tax refund by not filing. So, if you can’t provide recent tax information to help us verify income and establish an appropriate award amount, you will need to provide a thorough explanation why this information is absent or we will be unable to evaluate your family’s application. If your financial circumstances have changed significantly since your most recent return, please clarify any changes in income or assets.
- We only require the “first page” of your return, which includes the Adjusted Gross Income line. Please block out social security numbers before uploading your return.
- We are sometimes willing to consider a FAFSA or financial aid determination letter from an independent school in lieu of a tax return. Please email email@example.com to request an exception. This does not guarantee that we will accept such a document in lieu of a return or that we will match the amount or percentage of an award from another institution, however we will consider your request to do so.
In general, our scholarship program is designed for both “low-income” and “middle-income” families and is intended to bridge the gap between a family’s expected financial contribution and/or their own fundraising efforts, and that of the total cost of participation. The amount of expected family contribution is calculated using an independent metric based on each family’s unique financial circumstances. Award amounts between 60 – 85% of the total cost of tuition are most common. Award amounts do not include airfare or other travel costs associated with getting to or from the program. These costs can be significant. Please budget accordingly by researching airfare costs before applying for a scholarship.
Applications for full scholarships (100% of tuition) are more competitive than those seeking half scholarships. These former grants are quite competitive and only awarded to students of exceptional caliber or that can demonstrate perseverance in the face of hardship.
We simply do not have the internal financial resources to support the financial need of all applicants, and have instead established relations with a number of foundations that work with families requiring significant financial assistance beyond which our internal funding can support.
We know that every family’s situation is unique and we do not have a definitive threshold on family income for the purpose of determining scholarship eligibility, although families with an adjusted gross income of less than $87,000 will generally be considered eligible whereas families with adjusted gross incomes in excess of $154,000 will generally be considered ineligible. However, we consider cost of living in your area, your financial commitments, and a number of other factors in determining eligibility.
Sustainable Summer scholarships can be combined with outside grant support (from a foundation, school, etc) to reduce the total participation costs of the program. Sustainable Summer scholarship award decisions are applied after outside grants.
If you enrolled in a program and then determine that you need a scholarship to participate, you should contact us to determine the most appropriate course of action.
For families that are considering applying for a scholarship “just to see what kind of award we get” we suggest the following: ask yourself what is your total budget for summer/educational enrichment. If you don’t know this number, you should figure it out before doing anything else. If you don’t currently have a budget for educational expenditures, now is as good a time as any to create one and stick to it! If you can afford to participate at the Tuition Assistance level for your program of interest, don’t apply for a scholarship. If you can’t afford to participate at the tuition assistance level, apply for a scholarship. The parent completing the statement of financial circumstances as part of our scholarship application should be as precise as possible when considering what amount to specify as a family contribution based on your family budget. It is, of course, much more fiscally manageable for us as an organization to make a scholarship award of 40% than of 80%, so if you’re considering “low-balling” your family contribution “just to see” if you can get a more generous scholarship award from our committee, you should know that you are, in effect, decreasing your odds of receiving any scholarship award. Consider this scenario: Three candidates for the same program, equal on merit. Two of the candidates are seeking 40% scholarships. One is seeking 80%. In this hypothetical scenario, we only have a finite amount of funding and can either meet the need of the two candidates seeking 40% or just the one seeking 80%. Again, this is a hypothetical where the candidates are the same based on merit, which obviously isn’t reflective of the real world. But this is somewhat representative of the sorts of decisions our scholarship committee has to make, particularly as we get later in the admissions year. So, be as realistic as possible with your stated family need and budget. This is particularly true if you are only interested in one specific Sustainable Summer program. We understand that this “black and white” approach does not reflect the complexities of household budgets. However, we firmly believe that every family is best served by establishing a fixed budget for a large discretionary expenditure such as a Sustainable Summer program (or any other summer enrichment experience) and sticking with it. We wish it wasn’t necessary to be so paternalistic, but experience has taught us that we must be. While there are many parents that totally “get” it and are realistic about the financial considerations of participation, there are equally as many that don’t. We’ve found that using blunt language like this helps families navigate the financial aid process.
We do our best to provide funding to all deserving candidates. In general, motivated students that can clearly articulate a passion for sustainability and the potential to become an environmental leader will receive a funding award. We want to see nuance and an understanding of important environmental concepts communicated in your application. Most of all, we want you to draw a clear line between the Sustainable Summer program and your goals. Be specific and be sure your references can back up your ambitions and potential. We aren’t always able to place students on their first choice program and the amount of funding you request is not always met, but it is rare that a strong applicant is denied a scholarship outright.
Be sure to articulate clearly and concisely how Sustainable Summer will benefit you keeping in mind that competitive candidates for scholarships will possess all of the following:
- A demonstrated personal commitment to and interest in achieving environmental sustainability
- An application that articulates how Sustainable Summer will benefit the participant and help him or her become a future sustainability leader
- A letter of recommendation that underscore all of the above
- Clear financial need
Scholarships are not granted on merit alone; only those students who could not attend a program without financial assistance will be awarded scholarship funds.
In general, we require a tax return from the previous or current tax year. For example, if you are completing an application in January, you probably have not yet completed your return for the year that ended in December. So provide a tax return from the previous year, which you should have completed. We understand that every household’s financial circumstances are unique, but our committee is going to be very skeptical of an application that does not include a recent tax return. For 99.9% of heads of household, you are either legally required to file a tax return with the IRS or would miss out on a tax refund by not filing. So, if you can’t provide recent tax information to help us verify income and establish an appropriate award amount, you will need to provide a thorough explanation why this information is absent or we will be unable to evaluate your family’s application. If your financial circumstances have changed significantly since your most recent return, please clarify any changes in income or assets.
We only require the “first page” of your return, which includes the Adjusted Gross Income line. Please block out social security numbers before uploading your return.
We are sometimes willing to consider a FAFSA or financial aid determination letter from an independent school in lieu of a tax return. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request an exception. This does not guarantee that we will accept such a document in lieu of a return or that we will match the amount or percentage of an award from another institution, however we will consider your request to do so.
In general, we do not provide scholarships to non-US citizens (although if a parent is a US citizen and the student is not, we will). We do work with third parties, such as the US State Department, to fund participation costs for international students but these financial aid programs are not available through our internal application process (you must be invited to apply through, for example, the State Department). Occasionally, we have unallocated scholarship funds that can be awarded to non-US citizens, but this is rare. We encourage international students to take advantage of our “tuition assistance” option instead.
Scholarships are available to the public-at-large provided applicants are 15 – 18 and in high school at the time of participation (note: graduated high school seniors are not eligible); are US citizens; and can demonstrate financial need, a keen interest in sustainability, and the ability to integrate well with a group and handle the challenges associated with participation appropriately. In general, families making less than $87,000 per year (adjusted gross income) are eligible for financial assistance up to 100% of the program tuition. Families with adjusted gross incomes higher than $87,000 may be eligible for awards depending on their unique financial circumstances, but, in general, need-based eligibility will phase out around $154K AGI. (NOTE: AGI can be substantially less than gross income, and we also take regional costs of living into consideration, so families earning gross incomes in the low six figures are often still eligible for aid.)