Jack Kent Cooke scholarship
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship – Introduction

In this “Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship” guide, we will discuss merit-based scholarship opportunities for high school seniors. Specifically, we will cover the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. 

In this guide, we will discuss JKCF Scholarship eligibility, the funding it can provide, how to apply, and tips on how to become a Cooke College Scholar!

 Keep reading to learn about:

  • Merit-based scholarships for college and how CollegeAdvisor.com can help you get them
  • The benefits of the JKCF Scholarship
  • Applying for the JKCF Scholarship
  • The best approach to winning the JKCF Scholarship
  • Future prospects for Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners

What is a Merit-Based Scholarship?

There are many different kinds of scholarships for college. Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students based on academic and/or extracurricular achievement. Merit scholarships usually require certain test scores or a demonstration of leadership in a community or group. Additionally, many merit-based scholarships require letters of recommendation and essays. 

Each year, countless private universities as well as private organizations award merit-based scholarships for college. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship is just one of countless scholarships awarded every year.

There are all kinds of merit-based scholarships for college out there, varying in size and competitiveness. They can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Academic scholarship requirements also vary. 

Without a doubt, the cost of college can be overwhelming, and scholarships for college can make it a little easier. Scholarships can help offset the cost of college, and unlike loans, they don’t have to be repaid. For this reason, they promote equal access to educational opportunities regardless of background.

CollegeAdvisor Resources on How to Win Merit-Based Scholarships

The first step in applying to merit scholarships for college is identifying which ones you’re eligible for. A merit-based scholarship may only be available to in-state students, students with certain test scores, or some other requirement such as civic engagement. 

Check the universities you’re applying to; many of them offer their own merit scholarships. Do your research and find out which merit scholarships are best suited to you and your achievements.

Next, research requirements for each merit scholarship application. Academic scholarship requirements vary widely, from a few clicks to long essays. You may need transcripts or copies of standardized test scores. Most competitive merit-based scholarships also require a recommendation letter (or two) and essays. Take note of deadlines so they don’t sneak up on you, especially during college application season. Knowing what you need to apply will set you up for success.

Then, be smart in putting together your applications. Especially with highly competitive scholarships for college, you want to put your best foot forward. When asking for recommendation letters, approach teachers who know you and can speak to your capabilities. 

Ask friends, families, and advisors for help on your essays and any short answer questions. Study hard to earn the high grades and test scores needed to get those scholarships. And most importantly, submit everything on time, or better yet, well before the deadline!

For a more detailed overview of merit-based scholarships for college, take a look at our scholarship information page. Need merit scholarship search tips? Check out some of our webinars. We also have more in-depth guides on certain merit scholarships, like the $20,000 Coca-Cola Scholarship and Vanderbilt University’s scholarships.

What is the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship?

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship is an undergraduate scholarship program. It’s available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need, looking to attend the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities. 

The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is the nation’s largest scholarship program of its kind. JKCF scholarship recipients receive a monetary award in addition to college planning support, ongoing advising, and access to the Cooke College Scholars alumni network.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation was founded in 2000 at the bequest of entrepreneur Jack Kent Cooke. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation aims to help exceptional students reach their full potential through education. To that end, it has rewarded over $200 million in scholarships to date, supporting nearly 3,000 current Cooke Scholars and alumni.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation offers a variety of scholarships. However, this JKCF scholarship guide focuses on the Cooke College Scholars Program. We will discuss specific Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship eligibility criteria later on in this guide.

For now, know that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation looks for academic achievement, leadership, persistence, and unmet financial need in Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship is for students who excel academically, contribute to their communities, and persevere through challenges.

Jack Kent Cooke scholarship
Photo by micheile dot com on Unsplash

How much is the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship?

The amount offered by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship varies. The maximum amount offered by the JKCF Scholarship is $55,000 per academic year, for up to four years, in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. The money may go toward educational costs, including tuition, room and board, books, and other required fees.

Cooke College Scholars can still apply to other scholarships for college. They also need to apply for their university’s financial aid. The JKCF Scholarship renews yearly. Renewal of the JKCF Scholarship is contingent on a review of the recipient’s performance and progress.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship can go toward the costs of a four-year undergraduate program. For this reason, the JKCF Scholarship only partially funds the bachelor’s/master’s dual degree programs.

Moreover, you must be pursuing a degree in person; non-degree and online programs are not eligible. Pay close attention to these academic scholarship requirements if you are considering applying to the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship.

The cost of college for a four-year degree at a competitive American university can be well into the six-figure range. Compare that to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship’s offer of up to $220,000 over four years! Even if you don’t get the maximum amount, the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship can more than halve the cost of college.

Paying less out of pocket for the cost of college can mean less belt-tightening during college. It can also mean less—or no—debt upon graduation! Beyond the monetary benefits, Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners have less stress over how they’re going to cover the cost of college. This is a huge benefit of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship.

How competitive is the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship?

In light of the criteria for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship and the amount it offers, it’s no surprise that it’s competitive. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation doesn’t release detailed applicant pool statistics annually. However, in 2015, 3,300 students applied for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship. The 2022 cohort comprised 100 Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners in addition to 50 Cooke Young Scholars selected earlier in the year.

In other words, the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship has an approximate acceptance rate of under 3 percent. Therefore, past Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners did exceptionally well to win this merit scholarship.

Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winners
Photo by Florian Schmetz on Unsplash

According to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, 93 percent of Cooke College Scholars attend a most or highly competitive college or university. About 95 percent of them graduate—97 percent Transfer Scholars—with an average GPA across the board of 3.86.

As of 2015, most undergraduate Cooke College Scholars attend Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cooke Scholars study everything from chemistry and neurobiology to foreign affairs and music. They also explore various options after graduation, like philanthropy, startups, and activism, in addition to further degrees.

Cooke College Scholars contribute to a wide variety of fields thanks to the support of the JKCF Scholarship. 

For example, 2009 Cooke Scholar Dr. Dustin Nowaskie founded the nonprofit OutCare Health in 2015. This is a comprehensive resource and directory for LGBTQ+ healthcare. Furthermore, Daniel Alejandro Leon-Davis, a 2011 Cooke Scholar, founded Immigrant Heritage Month. Another Cooke Scholar, Neveen Mahmoud, is the founder of social impact startup The Young Vets, which supports student-athletes. 

The sky really is the limit with the impacts Cooke College Scholars can make in every corner of society.

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship Eligibility Requirements

There are a few criteria for determining your Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship eligibility. You must:

  • Be a high school senior
  • Plan to attend a four-year college in the fall
  • Have a cumulative, unweighted GPA of at least 3.5
  • Demonstrate unmet financial need, with a maximum annual income of $95,000

Of course, that just gets your foot in the door. This is one of the most competitive scholarships for college, after all. Now, let’s look at what you should show beyond academic scholarship requirements to give yourself the best chance of winning the JKCF Scholarship.

Strong candidates for the Cooke College Scholars program have more than just good grades and good recommendation letters. They demonstrate enthusiasm for challenges and for learning. They seek extra academic opportunities and new ways to grow. This could mean doing research with a teacher or local scholar. It could also mean taking dual enrollment classes at a local university.


Another huge factor is leadership. True leaders take initiative, motivate others to be their best and contribute meaningfully to their community. In fact, 83 percent of Cooke Scholars have done civic or community service in high school. There are endless ways to be a leader. For example, you could spearhead community service projects or find areas of unmet need in the school or neighborhood. 


Future Cooke Scholars are also persistent. You get knocked down, you get back up again. They keep their eye on the prize. In the face of obstacles, a strong applicant will stay determined while also being able to adapt. Whether in extracurricular activities, passion projects, or just daily life, demonstrating grit makes an application that much stronger.

Financial Need

Lastly, beyond academic scholarship requirements, applicants must demonstrate unmet financial needs. The JKCF Scholarship is intended specifically for these students, so applicants whose families make over $95,000 annually are not considered. In fact, the 2022 Cooke Scholars cohort had a median family income of $35,000.

How do I apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship?

Once you’ve determined your Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship eligibility, it’s time to apply. This section of the “Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship” guide will explain the required application materials. We’ll also take a look at submitting the JKCF scholarship application.

cooke college scholars
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Among scholarships for college, the JKCF Scholarship has pretty typical requirements.

When applying, you need the following:

  • An official high school transcript
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Family financial information
  • Several short essays

Test scores are not required for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship. Even if you submit test scores, the Foundation won’t consider them as part of your application.

Applications for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship are only accepted through the Common Application. You don’t need to be nominated for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship—anyone eligible can apply. Add the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship to your Common App like any other college. Then, you’ll complete the sections of your application like your Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship eligibility and short answer essays.

Letters of Recommendation

Of your two recommendation letters, one must be from an 11th-grade teacher in a core academic area (i.e. not performing arts or P.E.). The other should be from another academic with whom you’ve worked closely. You may have worked on them for a research project or community initiative. Aim for strong letters that will highlight that you have what it takes to be counted among Cooke Scholars.

Essay Requirements

The short essays are pretty standard supplemental essays. What can you contribute to the Cooke Scholars community? What makes you an ideal Cooke Scholar? You will also write about your college and major selection as well as your future plans. Don’t worry if you’re not entirely certain yet—you can explore one of your interests.

If you are selected as a semifinalist, then congratulations! The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship committee will review all applications again to choose finalists. They may request additional information in the meantime. An advisor will also interview you as part of that selection process. A few months after that, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation will announce the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners!

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship–Application Timeline

This year, the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship application will open on August 25th. Then, you have almost three months to get your application together before it closes on November 17th. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation won’t give preference to those who submit their application earlier. But that doesn’t mean you should finish everything up in early November! Check out our guide to managing your time here

Get everything together as early as you can. If you’re already set on applying and have determined your Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship eligibility, contact your recommenders before August. That way, they have plenty of time to draft a recommendation letter. Make sure you’re maintaining good relationships with them.

Also, have your family’s tax information at hand so you aren’t scrambling to find it when the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship application opens. If you can, consider drafting supplemental essays early to reduce your workload when the application opens.

After November 17th, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship committee reviews applications. Semifinalists are announced on their website in January 2023 – these JKCF scholarship semifinalists will also receive an email. After the second review round, Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners are announced in March or April 2023. Regardless of acceptance, semifinalists will receive a decision email.

See the table below for the full Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship timeline

DateJack Kent Cooke Scholarship Event
August 25, 2022 Application opens. Apply online in the Common App.
November 17, 2022Application submission deadline.
January 2023Semifinalists are announced. All applicants will be notified of their status via email.
March 2023 Scholarship recipients are announced. All semifinalists will be notified of their status via email
jack kent cooke scholarship eligibility
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

JCKF Scholarships – Frequently Asked Questions

Now, let’s look at a few frequently asked questions about the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship.

If I’m _____, can I still apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship?

While you look at the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship eligibility, it’s important to realize who does and doesn’t make the cut. 

Eligible applicants must be high school seniors planning to attend an accredited four-year program in the fall. Non-US citizens, people with diagnosed learning differences, homeschooled students, and those planning to attend college outside the US are eligible. However, GED holders, those planning to attend non-four-year programs or online programs, and those with a gross annual income of over $95,000 are not.

However, it must be remembered that the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship committee will consider unusual circumstances that increase family income. There is a section on the application for explaining family finances and special circumstances. And if your family didn’t file taxes, don’t panic! You can enter estimated family income instead. If you have any particular questions about your Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship eligibility, reach out to the Foundation.

Aside from funding, what are the benefits of the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship?

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship is obviously a big deal. The reputation of the JKCF Scholarship makes it a strong point on any resume. 

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners are paired with an educational advisor who will support them throughout college. This advisor will regularly help their Cooke Scholar with various aspects of college life: college resources, internship and fellowship opportunities, and graduate school applications. They will also monitor your academic performance and help develop academic support plans. 

There is also the global Cooke Scholars alumni network. Alumni are available as mentors to Cooke Scholars. There is also an alumni program providing advice and resources to aspiring entrepreneurs specifically.

In addition to the formal alumni network, Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners and alumni can attend the Cooke College Scholars Weekend each year. This social event is a great way to meet other Cooke Scholars and alumni and grow your network.

What is expected of Cooke College Scholars?

Cooke Scholars are, of course, high achieving individuals, and that should not stop in college. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship winners must maintain above a 3.0 GPA and take challenging courses.

Cooke Scholars are also upstanding community members. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation expects them to stay engaged with their community – to demonstrate good character and leadership. Whether they’re elbow-deep in campus activities or working in the local community, Cooke College Scholars must stay active.

Lastly, Cooke Scholars must maintain communication with their educational advisor. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation asks that they have regular updates on progress, ask questions about college life or opportunities, and discuss their educational goals.

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship vs. National Merit Scholarship

Both the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship and the National Merit Scholarship are highly selective scholarships for college. Both are awarded to students planning to attend an accredited college in the fall. However, there are several differences, including the amount awarded, number of recipients, and selection criteria. 

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship is capped at $55,000 per year for all four years. The National Merit Scholarship consists of multiple different types of scholarships; all 7,500 Finalists compete for one-time $2,500 payments. Some National Merit Scholars can also receive an additional corporate scholarship or college-sponsored scholarship.

Furthermore, The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship is awarded to a couple of hundred students per year at most. Remember, there were only 100 Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners in 2022. On the other hand, there are approximately 7,500 National Merit Scholarship finalists annually. But don’t be fooled by the larger number of finalists: there are technically about 1.5 million applicants each year. That puts the National Merit Scholarship at about a 0.5 percent acceptance rate!

The National Merit Scholarship also has different selection criteria, including stricter academic scholarship requirements. Semifinalists are first screened by their PSAT/NMSQT scores. In other words, everyone who takes the PSAT or NMSQT is an entrant.

To be a finalist, applicants must:

  • Be endorsed by their school principal
  • Submit an SAT or ACT score
  • Hold or intend to apply for U.S. citizenship 

Note that there is no financial need requirement.

The Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship also heavily weighs academic excellence. However, winners also need to demonstrate financial need, community engagement, and character.

There are countless merit-based scholarships for college out there, all with different requirements and awards. It’s a good idea to apply for several, using your strengths to make your applications shine!

5 Tips on How to win the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship is one of the best scholarships for college. It reduces the cost of college significantly. And coupled with ongoing advising and networking opportunities, it can set students up for a lifetime of success. So if you’re eligible, you really should go for it!

jack kent cooke foundation scholarship
Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash

Here are some of our top tips for winning the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship.

1. Start early

We don’t just mean getting a jump on the application this August. Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners show they have what it takes over many years.  As early as you can, start to think about how to make the impact the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation looks for in Cooke Scholars.

2. Be a dynamic learner

It’s not just about a 4.0 GPA. Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winners seek extra opportunities to learn. Explore dual-enrollment courses at a local university. Get in touch with a professor in an area of interest and see if you can collaborate on a project. Find ways to further your learning outside of school.

3. Get involved in your community

This could be anywhere from your neighborhood to your house of worship to your region. Find groups creating a positive impact and join in. Cooke College Scholars are concerned about their community’s well-being and raise others up. Look for leadership opportunities, too! How can you improve the way impacts are made?

4. Pursue your interests meaningfully

If the opportunities available to you don’t meet your interests, then make new ones! Don’t take part in something you’re not passionate about just because it looks good. Turn your passion into action. You could make a webpage collating information for local voters, or create a video game that you share online. Cooke Scholars don’t wait for chances–they create them.

How to Win the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship– Final Thoughts

There’s no way around it: the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship is hard to win. There are a lot of factors that determine Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship eligibility and ultimate selection. The personal advising, alumni network, and prestige of being a Cooke Scholar are perhaps as valuable as the monetary award.

Follow the advice in this “Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship” guide, and you’re well on your way to becoming one of the Cooke scholars. 

More CollegeAdvisor Merit-Based Scholarship Resources to explore!

We here at CollegeAdvisor.com have no shortage of expertise with merit-based scholarships. Maybe after reading this, you’re leaning toward other merit scholarships for college. Already have your eye on the Coca-Cola scholarship? We have a guide for that. Vanderbilt and USC applicants, we’ve got you! Still searching? Check out our webinars on finding scholarships and financial aid. Happy searching, and good luck!

Zell Miller Scholarship

This article was written by Gina Goosby. If you want to get help with your college applications from Gina or from CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expertsregister with CollegeAdvisor.com today. Also, check out our other guides to Merit-Based Scholarships as you embark on your college application journey!