Voyager Scholarship FAQs
What is the Voyager Scholarship?
The Voyager Scholarship helps students pursuing careers in public service by providing access to travel and education.
Who is funding and administering the Voyager Scholarship?
The Voyager Scholarship is administered by the Obama Foundation. Airbnb will provide accommodations and other support to participants. Application and scholarship disbursement is administered by Scholarship America. The program is funded by a $100 million personal contribution from Brian Chesky, Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO.
What is covered by the Voyager Scholarship?
Voyagers will receive the following:
- Financial aid up to $50,000: Students will receive up to $25,000 per year in “last dollar” financial aid to cover remaining tuition and/or living costs for their junior and senior years of college. This last-dollar approach builds on other financial aid programs and helps ensure the students can pursue a career in public service and are not constrained by crushing student debt.
- Summer Voyage: President Obama and Brian have different backgrounds, but share the fundamental belief and lived experience that exposure to new places and experiences broaden our horizons and redefine what we believe is possible. With a budget of $10,000, students will design their own summer voyage between their junior and senior year of college. The experience will allow students to pursue internships or mentorship opportunities anywhere in the world that will broaden their horizons and prepare them for careers in public service. Students will also be able to stay in homes on Airbnb using credits provided by Airbnb.
- 10-year travel stipend: After graduation, Airbnb will provide the students with a $2,000 travel credit every year for 10 years, totaling $20,000. This will allow students to continue to broaden their horizons and forge new connections throughout their public service careers.
- Fall Summit: Fall Summit: Each fall, students will be invited to a summit to help define and inspire their public service journey.
- A network of leaders: Throughout the program, students will be invited to an ongoing speaker series, giving them access to a network of leaders. This network of leaders will expose them to new areas of service and innovations happening in their fields. After graduation, they will join the Obama Foundation’s global community, providing them with Foundation resources and programming.
Who is eligible to apply for this scholarship?
Applicants must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:
- Plan to enroll full-time in their junior year of study at an accredited four-year college or university in the United States in Fall 2023. Eligible students are:
- Finishing sophomore year in Spring 2023. Applicants should be considered “juniors” based on the total number of earned credits at their institution by Fall 2023
- Or transferring from a two-year to a four-year college for their 2023-2024 junior academic year
- Have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or equivalent
- Have demonstrated a commitment to public service
- Plan to pursue a future career in public service upon graduation
- Be United States (US) citizens, US permanent residents (holders of a Permanent Resident Card), or individuals granted deferred action status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA)
Are there other selection criteria that will be taken into consideration?
Preference may be given to applicants with no or limited prior engagement with other leadership programs in their undergraduate experience. Students must demonstrate financial need to be considered for the program.
How do you determine financial need?
Scholarship America, which is administering the application and disbursing scholarships to selected students, uses a formula similar to that used by college financial aid offices (Federal Methodology), using information provided in the Financial Data section of the application.
Why are only juniors and seniors eligible for the scholarship?
We want to engage students who already have been exposed to learnings that have piqued their interest in public service, but for whom the financial burden of tuition might prevent them from pursuing those dreams in their final years. Juniors and seniors will have had an opportunity to demonstrate this interest in public service through their studies and activities to date and be able to articulate how this scholarship will solidify their commitment to pursue a career that contributes to the public good.
How many students will receive a scholarship?
We anticipate that 100 Juniors will receive a scholarship, with the option to renew as Seniors, and we aim to scale up to add greater numbers of Juniors in later years.
How do you define public service?
Public service can include careers in government, non-profit, or the private sector, ranging from school teachers, community organizers, social workers, entrepreneurs with ideas for socially impactful businesses, journalism, arts, and design — a range of fields through which people are committed to creating a more connected, just, and equitable world.
Is eligibility limited to certain areas of study or specific degrees?
No. Public service is broadly defined, and eligibility is not limited to specific areas of study or degree programs.
How does the application process work?
The application for the 2023-2024 Voyager Scholarship is now closed. Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee. Accepted students will be notified in July.
If I’m selected, when does the scholarship program start?
The program begins in September 2023.
When will students receive scholarship funds?
For the 2023-2024 academic year, students will receive scholarship funds in September.
Are Voyagers able to graduate early?
No. Applicants must have 4 semesters or 6 quarters of full-time academic coursework remaining.
What are the requirements to stay in the program?
To be eligible to renew their scholarship for their senior year, students must maintain a 2.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale or equivalent.
What happens at the Fall Summit?
Students will have the chance to build community with their fellow Voyagers from across the country, engage with leaders in the public service sphere, learn about program components and supports, and participate in a workshop focused on designing their junior Summer Voyage.
When and where is the Summit?
Additional details will be shared with selected applicants. Round trip economy airfare (or ground transportation equivalent) and accommodations will be booked for and provided to scholarship participants for travel to the Summit.
What happens if a student cannot attend the Summit?
Attendance at the Summit is expected but not mandatory.
What is the Summer Voyage?
During the summer between their junior and senior years, students will participate in an immersive summer experience where they’ll gain hands-on experience within their chosen path of service. Students can pursue a traditional internship or design their own experience. Internships or other experiences are generally at least six weeks long, and each participant’s Summer Voyage must be reviewed and approved as part of the planning process taking place from September-December. The Voyager Scholarship provides $10,000 to support students’ travel and living expenses associated with the Summer Voyage. Additionally, Airbnb will cover up to $4,200 towards accommodations on Airbnb for each student during their Summer Voyage.
How long is the Summer Voyage?
The Summer Voyage takes place during the summer between a student’s junior and senior year. Students will design the Summer Voyage that best suits their needs and public service career aspirations so experience length may vary, but we anticipate at least 6 weeks.
How will students pay for living expenses during their Summer Voyage?
Students will receive a $10,000 stipend to cover travel and living expenses during their Summer Voyage. Students will also have access to up to $4,200 in Airbnb credit to cover stays on Airbnb. The stipend will be released to students upon approval of their Summer Voyage.
How does a student plan their Summer Voyage?
Students will identify a potential Summer Voyage theme as part of their scholarship application. Students own this very important part of their own public service journey by defining the shape of this experience and articulating how and why they’d like to further explore their own public service purpose in this way.
During the Summit, students will begin designing possible opportunities. Between October and December of their junior year, through a series of program workshops, students will refine their design for their Summer Voyage, which they will submit for approval. Students will be responsible for executing on this plan but the program will provide support, which may include connecting students to leaders and experts in their public service fields of interest.
Are students guaranteed an internship as part of their Summer Voyage?
No. Students are not guaranteed an internship as part of this experience. Students will be responsible for developing and implementing their own Summer Voyage, with the Foundation offering support for shaping and executing their plan.
Where do students stay during their Summer Voyage?
Airbnb will cover accommodations in Airbnb listings, up to $4,200 for each student, during their Summer Voyage. Stays outside of Airbnb listings or exceeding $4,200 will be paid for by the student out of their Summer Voyage stipend.
Does the program coordinate travel for the Summer Voyage?
No. Students are responsible for coordinating their own travel arrangements as part of this experience and funding their travel out of their summer stipend.
Are students able to travel internationally for their Summer Voyage?
Yes, students are able to travel internationally, but travel must be approved by program staff as part of their Summer Voyage design process. Students will not receive additional funds for international travel and are responsible for securing their own passport and/or visa.
Do I need to maintain any particular political affiliation to be selected for the scholarship?
No. The Voyager Scholarship is a non-partisan, non-political program that is not affiliated with any political party or entity. We are looking for participants who will bring a diverse set of perspectives to the program.
I am running for public office, can I apply?
No. Applicants who are running campaigns for public office during the program term do not meet the eligibility criteria to apply for the program, due to the Obama Foundation’s status as a 501(c)(3) organization registered in the United States. We encourage you to apply again in the future.
Are students guaranteed a job post-graduation?
No, however during their two years in the program students will receive valuable professional connections and experience that will support their pursuit of a career in public service.
What can I expect in the application?
Voyagers are selected on the basis of academic performance; current and past public service experiences; work experience; school and community activities; access to other leadership development programs; a video answer submission; and essay submissions focused on a vision for their public service path; their approach to working with others to bring this vision to life; and the ways in which this program can help them accomplish these goals. All applicants must demonstrate financial need (as calculated by Scholarship America) to be considered. The application will include sections related to each of these components.
I’m studying abroad during my junior year, am I eligible to apply?
If a Voyager Scholarship recipient participates in a study abroad program at any time during their junior or senior year, they are eligible to receive scholarship funds only if:
- The study abroad program is offered through an accredited U.S. 4-year college or university
- The student will be earning credits toward their degree
- Scholarship funds will be paid directly to the U.S. college or university for the study abroad program
- The Obama Foundation approves the student’s participation in the study abroad program
The Obama Foundation reserves the right to deny scholarship funding to any Voyager Scholarship recipient if a study abroad program interferes with the student’s ability to be satisfactorily involved in the Voyager Scholarship program.