How do I apply?

Applications for 2022 are closed—sign up for our mailing list to hear when applications for the 2023 cohort open!

What's the application process like?

Instead of requiring polished, formal writing, we would like to get a firsthand impression of your analytical reasoning ability and independent, creative thinking. The process consists of a quick initial application form, a second application form, followed by an invite-only interview for promising candidates.

The initial application stage takes just 30-60 minutes. The second and third stage will take up to 5 hours, mostly for you to look at (optional) background readings referenced in the application. These readings will both provide helpful context and make you a more competitive applicant. We have a strong no-BS attitude and won’t require any essays.

Who is eligible?

You are welcome to apply if you are currently in high school or are on a gap year before starting your first year of undergrad.

In general, we expect to mostly accept students who are in at least 11th grade of high school or aged 16–19. Younger students are welcome to apply, and if you are not accepted this year, we encourage you to apply again in future years.

What type of applicant are we looking for?

We expect that students who possess some of the traits and inclinations below or are determined to develop them will be great fits for the Atlas Scholarship:

• Exceptionally strong intellectual ability: Indicators of this include test scores (PSAT 1470+, SAT 1500+, JEE-Advanced 150+), achievements in competitions at the national level, conducting original research, or working on a passion project that displays deep knowledge of a field. This list is only to give you a sense of what caliber of student we're aimed at—even if you're from a nontraditional background and haven't had the chance to excel in any of these ways, if you've got exceptional abilities it's very likely you'll do well on our application!

• Having agency: When faced with a challenge, do you invent and pursue your own solutions without being prompted or told to do so? Do you work on ambitious projects on your own?

• Carefully thinking through your values and actions: When asked to make important decisions, do you think through the precise reasons behind your decisions? Do you optimize for important goals by making a plan and considering many options? When shown a better way to do a difficult task, do you adopt the new method?

• An affinity for truth: Do you seek out ideas that challenge your opinions? If you find evidence that contradicts your opinions, do you eagerly change your mind? Do you enjoy learning and exploring?

• Interest in rationality and cognition: Have you demonstrated a desire to improve your thinking? Do you enjoy talking about cognitive biases, or reading about psychology, economics, AI, cognitive science, philosophy, or a related subject?

A good applicant probably possesses at least three of these traits, though there are sure to be plenty of exceptions. These are merely guidelines.

Will you cover the cost of my flight and travel to the US?

Yes! We would love to have many international students join. If you make it to the Fellows stage, we will sponsor your flight and travel costs to the United States (in addition to accommodation and any other expenses).

What is the acceptance rate?

We expect 5% of applicants to become Finalists, and 2.5% to become Fellows. But keep in mind: if you're unusually thoughtful, you stand a much higher chance of being admitted!

What grades, test scores, or letters of recommendation are required to apply?

Applicants are encouraged to submit standardized test scores, if available.

That said, test scores are not a required component of the application, and not submitting scores will not harm your application. If test scores become a deciding factor for your application and you did not submit a test score, we may ask you to take the GRE (an online, at-home test) as part of your application.

We recognize there are many ways for students to demonstrate intellectual ability beyond academics. We do look at accomplishments and awards, but we are also excited about real-world projects, thorough original thinking, and deep conceptual understanding of a subject.

Grade reports and recommendation letters are not required as part of the application.

Why was I rejected?

We receive many wonderful applications, but unfortunately we can only accommodate a small number of students to maintain our low student-to-instructor ratio. You are encouraged to apply again next year. An application decision reflects only our guess about how good of a fit you would be for this particular program at this time, nothing more.

Can I apply again if I win a lower tier?

Finalists are welcome to re-apply in subsequent years as long as they still meet eligibility requirements.

Fellows should not apply again. There will be further opportunities circulated in the alumni community for these students (potentially including opportunities to attend / be a junior counselor at future Atlas Fellowship summer programs).

Are applications reviewed anonymously?

In general, applications are reviewed anonymously. If anonymity is not possible (e.g., we need to see your resume), we will try to make sure that the person reviewing your application is someone you have never interacted with.

In extraordinary circumstances, we reserve the right to waive anonymity (e.g., if someone sent us hate mail or we cannot find someone who doesn't know the applicant). We expect that this will be extremely rare.


What can I spend the scholarship money on?

Scholarship money should be treated as “educational and professional development funding” for award winners. This means the funds could be spent on things like professional travel, textbooks, technology, college tuition, tutoring, supplementing unpaid internships, and more.

We don’t expect award winners to spend their scholarship money all at one time. Students will receive ongoing guidance to manage and effectively spend their scholarship funds.

How is the Atlas Fellowship funded?

The Atlas Fellowship received a total of $10 million in funding from Open Philanthropy and the Future Fund for the year 2022, and we expect further funders to join them.

Our funders intend to renew their commitments for subsequent years if the program meets its goal of getting young people curious about impact-oriented careers.

Atlas Fellowship is a Section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) charitable organization that is supported by contributions from the general public. All contributions are tax-deductible to the extent provided for by applicable law. If you would like to make a donation, or if you have any questions about your donation, please contact us at info@atlasfellowship.org.


How long has this program been around?

2022 is Atlas Fellowship’s first year. While we have run some experiments to tweak our curriculum, we will still be learning and shaping it as we go.

That being said, this isn't our first summer program—last year, an Atlas Fellowship founder ran a similar program called Uncommon Sense. It didn’t come with a scholarship, but the content was similar.

Is the fellowship's name a reference to Atlas Shrugged?

No. We’re called the Atlas Fellowship because, like an atlas, we want to help you navigate the world.

Is the Atlas Fellowship about effective altruism?

Our program is about math, science, history, philosophy, machine learning, global trends and risks, and models for understanding and affecting the world—not about altruism.

The Atlas Fellowship does not screen applicants based on how altruistic they are or whether or not they’ve heard about effective altruism. We’re creating a community where people are trying to understand the world and chasing whatever goals and projects they're interested in. If our Fellows are set on improving the world, we are excited to support them. But we're also excited to support them if they're bent on creating a startup, a book, or a flying submarine.

We’ll discuss some ideas that are popular in the effective altruism community to the extent that those ideas are broadly useful for understanding the world. For example, understanding how climate change or another pandemic might impact global supply chains and international relations is generally important for making large-scale, long-term plans, regardless of whether you are particularly interested in preventing climate change or pandemics.

How are you taking Covid precautions?

We take COVID very seriously. All instructors who attend the in-person summer program will be triple-vaccinated and tested.

Participants will need to be vaccinated or recovered.

Regular testing will be done during the program. We will provide N95 or better masks to all participants for air travel.

Non-vaccinated students will not share rooms with each other and will be asked to physically distance throughout the program.

Participants may be required to estimate their COVID risk in the weeks leading up to the program.

We expect our policies to change as the COVID situation evolves.

Still need an answer?
Ask us anything

Did you get all your questions answered? If so, carve out time to start your application.

With the support of an optimistic, thoughtful community of peers and mentors, the Atlas Fellowship is an opportunity to explore a variety of global issues, develop your own conclusions about which problems to work on, and get started and unstuck on your quest in doing so!