Why Apply for the Davidson Fellows

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Students working in front of a computer.

The Davidson Fellows Explained

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

Not only does the Davidson Fellows Scholarship provide monetary assistance when it’s time for college, but it also 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.

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 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.

Acquiring a Davidson Fellows Scholarship is a challenging feat, primarily due to its high standards and specific requirements. As of 2024, the Davidson Institute is seeking young individuals whose projects are at or near the college graduate level in their field of study. This level of complexity and depth means that not only do you need to excel academically, but you also need to demonstrate innovation, creativity, and a significant impact through your work.

In the library, a female student is studying.

How Do I Acquire the Davidson Fellows Scholarship?

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship is open to students under the age of 18 who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. You MUST also have completed a significant piece of work in one of the recognized categories:

  •  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.

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 your work into your topic. Plus, community service plays a huge role in college admissions. 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

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

Scholarship Prizes

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.

Female student typing in a table.

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 the 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

However, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development will examine tissue projects depending on whether 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.

When is the Deadline to Apply?

If you’re looking to apply for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship, you should be aware that the deadline is February 14, 2024. This date is crucial because it marks the cutoff for submitting your application and all related materials to be considered for the scholarship.

When Would I Find Out About My Application?

If you apply for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship in 2024, you will be notified of the scholarship decision on or before July 15 of that year. After careful consideration based on specific criteria, the team of judges selects the most extraordinary applicants to be named Davidson Fellows and determines the level of scholarship to be awarded.

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.

What is the Davidson Fellows scholarship selection based upon?

The submissions are each judged for their 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’s Work

Explore the 2017 Davidson Fellows below to understand the topics that are covered by the Davidson Fellows, ranging from 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 titled, “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 Complex Analysis and Number Theory”


  • 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.

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

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.

Are There Special Opportunities Given to Davidson Fellows?

As a Davidson Fellow, you will gain national recognition for your work. This is a big deal because it puts you in the spotlight among your peers and professionals in your field of study. Imagine being known across the country for your achievements at such a young age!

The scholarship ceremony in Washington D.C. is another major perk. Here, you will be honored for your hard work and dedication. It’s an event where you can meet other talented individuals like yourself. Think of it as a great networking opportunity where you can make connections that could benefit your future career or academic pursuits!

Furthermore, as a Davidson Fellow, your success story and project details will be shared on the Davidson Institute’s platforms. This exposure can lead to more opportunities, such as invitations to speak at events, participate in interviews, or contribute to publications in your field.

The scholarship funds themselves are significant. They can be used to further your education, allowing you to pursue your dreams without the financial burden that often comes with higher education. This financial support can make a huge difference in your academic journey, potentially opening doors to institutions or programs that might have been out of reach.

Final Thoughts

If you’re driven by a passion for learning and a desire to make an impact, we encourage you to consider applying for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship. Join a community of like-minded individuals who are poised to become the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. The future is full of possibilities, and this scholarship could help you achieve your biggest dreams.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Davidson Fellows Scholarship?

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship is a prestigious program offered by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. It provides significant monetary awards to students under 18 who have created exceptional projects in categories such as Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), Literature, Music, and Philosophy.

2. Who is eligible for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship?

To be eligible, you must be 18 or younger, a U.S. citizen, and able to attend the awards reception and events. Applicants need to demonstrate a college graduate-level understanding of their chosen topic through their project submission.

3. What kind of projects can be submitted for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship?

Eligible projects must be innovative, impactful, and of high academic quality. Categories include Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, and an “Outside the Box” category for interdisciplinary or unique projects. Community service projects are not eligible.

4. What are the scholarship prizes for Davidson Fellows?

The scholarships are awarded in three tiers: $50,000 for Davidson Fellows Laureates, $25,000 for Davidson Fellows, and $10,000 for additional Davidson Fellows. Honorable mentions do not receive monetary awards.

5. How do I apply for the Davidson Fellows Scholarship?

To apply, make sure you meet the eligibility criteria. Complete the application on the Davidson Fellows website, submit your project, and have two non-family members complete a Nominating Form. A Parent Form must also be submitted by your parents or guardians.


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