Scholarship Program


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 January 15th when the entries are due. Applications are not available before mid-September, and entries are not accepted after the January 15th deadline. 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.

There are two requirements for applicants:

  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and must be enrolled in a degree program in an accredited U.S. institution of higher learning during the academic year following the application date.
  • Applicants must submit an application and essay explaining his or her career, academic and/or vocational goals.

Awards are unrestricted as to age, race, gender, 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 170 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 between three to five winners each year.

Several national scholarships acknowledge individuals pursuing specific fields of study such as Journalism, Aerospace, History, Interpersonal Communication, 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. Scholarships are also designated for active/retired military and their spouses.

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 .

This is an ESSAY contest featuring awards based solely on the strength of the essay. The most compelling and well-written descriptions of the contestant’s career, academic, and/or vocational goals will advance the farthest. 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.

The contest utilizes an online application process which takes care of essay formatting and structure. However, please note that essays will be rejected for not following the specified rules. For example, essays must contain no more than 550 words, contain no name/identifying information on/in the essay itself, and be submitted electronically by the January 15 deadline. Judges do not know the identities of the applicants and use a standardized scoring formula, awarding points in categories such as grammar, organization, craftsmanship and goal statement.

We’re always interested if a Chicago Mensa member 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 e‑mail. Scores are submitted to the scholarship chair via e‑mail. 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

American Mensa members and their children (IRS-recognized dependents) enrolled in American colleges and universities are eligible for the additional awards which will be listed as part of the online application process.

There is also an international program for non-American Mensa members and their children (age 25 or younger) enrolled in American colleges and universities. The list of eligible awards are listed as part of the online application process. Applications are available online starting in late September continuing through January 15th when the entries are due. Applications are not available before late September, and entries are not accepted after the January 15th deadline.

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