Why Apply for the Davidson Fellows

March 19, 2021
By AdmissionSight

The Davidson Fellows Explained

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship is one of the largest scholarships in the world put on by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. The David Fellows Scholarship offers students under the age of 18 to submit a project based on categories in STEM and Humanities, as well as a graduate-level piece option.

Not only does the Davidson Fellows Scholarship provide monetary assistance when it’s time for college, but it gives you a college graduate level project to showcase on your Common Application, and to college admissions counselors. It’s really important to have work you are proud to show off when applying to school, it gives you an upper hand in interviews, in the strength of your portfolio and proof of leadership.

Almost $8 million has been given to gifted students through the Davidson Fellows Scholarship. Continue reading this blog post to better understand what the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is and their other options. As well as learn about your eligibility and how to apply for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship, and what becoming a Davidson Fellow could mean for your college admissions, and how AdmissionSight can help in the entire process.

Four students are sitting on the grass while holding their books


About the Davidson Institute for Talent Development

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development began in 1999 as a foundation started by the Davidsons in Reno, Nevada. The Davidsons initially started Davidson & Associates Inc, which was an educational software company known for the Math Blaster™ and Reading Blaster™ programs. In 1997, they sold Davidson & Associates Inc to start a philanthropic program to continue their work in education while helping make a difference in children’s lives.

The mission of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development is to help and support gifted students who are under eighteen and who score in the 99.9th% on the IQ and achievement tests. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development aims to help give these students the specific tools and opportunities so they can reach their full potential.

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is aware that oftentimes education is unequal, and young people who are not aware of their potential don’t receive the challenging education they need, this is another reason for their involvement.

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is aware that these students work and learn differently than others, and on their website, they list some of the gifted student’s defining qualities.

  • An advanced ability to learn and process information rapidly.
  • An extreme need for constant mental stimulation.
  • A need to understand the world and for it to be logical and fair.
  • An ability to relate a broad range of ideas and synthesize commonalities among them.
  • An insatiable curiosity; endless questions, inquiries, and appreciation for nuance.
  • An inborn sensitivity and awareness of life.
  • A need to explore some topics in greater depth.
  • A sense of frustration with regard to mundane or repetitious processes.

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development also provides insight as to how gifted students differ while growing up. If you have any of these qualities, it may be a good idea for the IvyCollgeAdmit Pre-High School Consultation, to prepare yourself for applying to the Davidson Fellows.

  • Demonstrate different or unusual interests compared to their same-age peers.
  • Reach developmental milestones earlier and faster.
  • Read early or understand math concepts at a very young age.
  • Hold themselves and others to high standards.
  • Exhibit asynchronous development, which can manifest as uneven intellectual, physical, and emotional development.

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has other programs to participate in as well. There are various opportunities for students to gain knowledge, resources, and experiences.

  • The Davidson Young Scholars program is a family program that assists in the developmental needs of gifted students and assists parents.
  • The THINK Summer Institute is a Summer Program for students to become exposed to university courses between the ages of 13 to 16.
  • The Educators Guild provides an administration collective for students to receive resources and guidance.
  • The Davidson Gifted Database contains articles, resources, and gifted information for students to utilize.
  • The award-winning book, Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting our Bright Youth Minds is available for anyone to purchase and focuses on the significance of education.
  • The Davidson Academy Reno Day School is a free public school The Davidson Institute for Talent Development offers on the University of Nevada campus for profoundly gifted students. Read more about the school here.
  • There is also a Davidson Academy Online for students elsewhere in the United States, but this school is tuition-based.

Go more in-depth about the other programs The Davidson Institute for Talent Development here.

Overall, The Davidson Fellows and the various other opportunities through the Davidson Institute for Talent Development are competitive, applicants need great materials, experience, and guidance. To learn more about your potential and how to be a good contender for these programs, AdmissionSight may be able to assist, if you contact us. 

In the library, a female student is studying.

What is the Davidson Fellows Scholarship?

The Davidson Fellows scholarships provide monetary awards to students under the age of 18 who have created a notable project. U.S. News & World Report names the Davidson Fellows Scholarship as one of 7 other Prestigious Undergrad Scholarships. There are various categories students can apply to, including categories in all parts of STEM and in the arts.

  •  Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  •  Literature
  •  Music
  •  Philosophy
  • Outside the Box

The Davidson Fellows has various categories for submission when applying, you can only apply to one. If you are stuck, AdmissionSight can assist in guiding you in the right direction through the Academic Guidance Option. This option provides a personalized path to not only boost your academic profile but to figure out your strong suit and whether you should submit a project in STEM, Humanities, or Outside the Box.

AdmissionSight has some great resources for music competitions, programs, festivals, and resources. Not only can these programs be other outlets for music practice, but they may spark an idea for your project for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship. Read more here.

Here are some other Humanities contests, competitions, and awards that can get you thinking for topics, as well as get you more experience in the humanities realm before applying to school.

As well as, here are Math and Science competitions provided by us at AdmissionSight, again to keep you thinking about topics and gain you more experience.

Group of students hanging out and sitting at the campus grounds.

Scholarship Prizes

There are three monetary awards for the Davidson Fellows Scholarships. The highest tier is the Davidson Fellows Laureates who are awarded $50,000 scholarships, and next, a group of Davidson Fellows is awarded $25,000 and the last tier of Davidson Fellows are awarded a $10,000 scholarship. There is an honorable mention category, but those recipients do not earn any monetary awards.

There are six regions where the Davidson Fellows scholarships can be used, those regions are:

  • MSA-Middle States Association
  • NASC-Northwest Association of Schools & Colleges
  • NCA-North Central Association of Colleges & Schools
  • NEASC-New England Association of Schools & Colleges
  • SACS-Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • WASC-Western Association of Schools & Colleges

To find out the accredited colleges and universities in these six regions use this link or this link.

Am I Eligible for the Davidson Fellows?

To be eligible for the Davidson Fellows, you must be 18 or younger and you must be a U.S. citizen and you must be able to attend the awards reception and events. (This award is meant for those in high school, but to see how it can help your undergraduate degree click here.) The point of the Davidson Fellows is to hone in on one topic of study and to prove you have a college graduate-level knowledge of the topic.

Female student typing in a table.

It is really difficult to get into top tier schools, but with a college graduate level project, it might give you the upper hand needed.

Project Criteria for Applying

Here are the criteria checklists provided by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development for each category.

Unfortunately, community service projects aren’t eligible projects for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship, but the Davidson Institute for Talent Development provides an article on other community service scholarships, grants, and more that can be helpful.

And although community service can’t be a topic, there are always ways to weave in your work into your topic. Plus, community service plays a huge role in college admissions. If you’re interested in weaving a passion for community service with a Davidson Fellows project, see if AdmissionSight can help with your path here.

Awards are given based on work that can make a difference. The submissions are judged by judges who are experts in their field, they are aware of what these submissions have the power to accomplish. This work can be:

  • Exceptionally creative use of an existing idea
  • A new concept with the opportunity for high impact
  • An innovative solution
  • An important advancement that can be replicated and built upon
  • An interdisciplinary discovery
  • An impressive performance
  • Another different portrayal of extraordinary accomplishment

Unfortunately, athletic accomplishment is not a specific category for the Davidson Fellows, but there are other outlets for competitive athletics, getting recruited and making it a part of your college search. Explore here to find out more about sports and athletics in the college world, and to set up a consultation.

How do I apply?

In order to apply, first, ensure you are eligible. Next, use the application on the Davidson Fellows website. Your project will be reviewed and a next step is a Nominating Form. The Nominating Form is required to be filled out by two non-family members who can qualify that you are accurate and a notable contender. Check out the sample Nominating Form here. There is also a Parent Form that will be sent to parents or guardians based on approval.

What are the rules?

In order to be eligible to win the Davidson Fellows, all applicants must:

  • Submit their project on time
  • Work individually, there is no option for group projects
  • Have a complete application
  • Submit no more than one application (this is per year, if you have never won a Davidson Fellows, you can continue to apply until you become ineligible)
  • Properly apply through the application site, no materials sent through fax or e-mail

Science Specifics

You can not submit a project that contained or involved:

  • Human subjects
  • Live vertebrates or invertebrates
  • Pathogenic or maybe pathogenic substances
  • Controlled substances
  • Non-exempt recombinant DNA

But, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development will examine tissue projects depending on if that applicant can prove these three things:

  • The materials were gathered for other reasons besides the Davidson Fellows
  • The student worked with a lead scientist
  • The scientist gives the Davidson Institute for Talent Development documented allowance from an Institutional Review Board or Scientific Review Committee.

Read more about the science considerations here.

If your science project idea breaks some specifics, use this link to see if any other competitions, contests, or fairs support your ideas.

Davidson Fellows Scholarship Conditions and Rules

The project that Davidson Fellows submit stays the property of the applicant, no matter if they become Davidson Fellow Laureate, or do not place at all.

Female student explaining something to her classmate.

The scholarship provided by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development for the Davidson Fellows can only be used for college tuition and similar costs. Davidson Institute for Talent Development has full control over the payment and specification of scholarships and can terminate the scholarship based on the Davidson Fellows course of study.

Read more about disqualification and policies here.

If you have any questions on rules, what to submit or advice, AdmissionSight can also help.


How the Davidson Fellow submissions are judged

What is the Davidson Fellows scholarship selection based upon?

The submissions are each judged for its completeness and correctness. Entries are divided by category and are analyzed by judges who are actual professionals in the category they are judging. The judges can work with more experts to ensure the validity of the projects.

The Davidson Fellows are selected based on the following judging criteria:

  • 50 points: quality and scope of the entry
  • 30 points: level of significance of the work
  • 20 points: applicant’s depth of knowledge and understanding of the work and the related domain area

Examples of Past Fellows Work

Explore the 2017 Davidson Fellows below to understand the topics that are covered by the Davidson Fellows, ranging from the STEM topics to Humanities and Outside the Box.

Also explore the 2019 winners and honorable mentions, their in-depth interviews, and projects here.

There were two 2017 Davidson Fellows Laureates. Carissa Chen submitted a project in the Outside the Box category titled, “Humanizing the Self and the State.” Rishab Gargeya submitted a project in the Technology category titles, “Eyelogic: All-Purpose Vision Disease Detection in Clinic-Sourced and Low-Cost Smartphone-Based Retinal Images”

Here are some titles of work that won the $25,000 scholarship based on the categories.


  • Benjy Firester: “Modeling the Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Phytophthora infestans at a Regional Scale”
  • Alexander Kirov: “Exosomes in Amyloid Aggregates Promote Neuronal Damage: A Mechanism of Alzheimer’s Pathology”


  • Manan Shah: “Deep Learning Assessment of Tumor Proliferation in Histopathological Images for Categorical and Molecular Breast Cancer Severity Diagnosis”


  • William Yin: “Portable, Low-Cost Tattoo-Based Biosensor for the Non-Invasive Self-Diagnosis and Quantification of Atherosclerosis”
  • Arvind Sridhar: “Engineering Injectable, Conductive Hydrogels Doped with Graphene and Graphene Oxide Nanoparticles for Post-MI Cardiac Tissue Engineering and Robust Drug Discovery: A Computationally-Aided Investigation for Enhancing Therapeutic Efficacy”


  • Arjun Ramani: “Fast Sampling of Stochastic Kronecker Graphs”
  • Felix Wang: “Functional Equations in


  • Irene Vaquez: “Ebb and Flow: Translating Lives and Transition”


  • Zlatomir Fung: “Folk Music Influence in the Classical Tradition”

Here are some titles of work that won the $10,000 scholarship based on the categories.


  • Anthony Kang: “New Antibacterials: Conjugation-Mediated Transmission of Cytotoxic Genes for Targeted Bacterial Cell Elimination”
  • Pranav Sivakumar: “Searches for Almost Dark Galaxies in Blank Sky Fields with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey”
  • Mary Zhu: “Impact of Carbon Tax Policies on the Global Agricultural Economy: A Computational Spatial Partial Equilibrium Modeling Approach”
  • Davey Huang: “A Noninvasive Morphokinetic Model For Aneuploidy Screening of Human Preimplantation Embryos”
  • Kathy Liu: “Nature-Based Solid Polymer Electrolytes for Improved Safety, Sustainability and Efficiency in High-Performance Rechargeable Batteries”
  • Nishita Sinha: “Reprogramming of Metabolism in Cancer Cells Through Lysine Succinylation”


  • Vera Zarubin: “A Novel Methodology to Build Organic Thermoelectric Materials For Sustainable and Renewable Energy Applications”


  • Allisan Huang: “Personal Culture: Voicing the Experiences of Postcolonial Youth Navigating Identity in a Globalized World”


  • J.P. Redmond: “ Literature and Landscape: Receiving and Giving Inspiration as a Composer”

The Davidson Fellows is an incredible opportunity to get your work judged, shared, and awarded, all while boosting your college admissions chances and learning more. If you plan to apply for the Davidson Fellows, it’s better to start preparing earlier than later, just like the college admissions process.

The Davidson Fellows is the ideal project to boost your leadership, Common Application (which is the most important piece of paper during college admissions), and to go in-depth about a category or topic you might decide to turn into a career. It’s important to be well rounded, and the Davidson Fellows is a chance to prove you are a gifted student. Get discovering, and if you need any help planning your path, discussing your topic, contact AdmissionSight and we may be able to help.



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