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The Voyager Scholarship: Everything You Need to Know
The Voyager Scholarship is an exciting opportunity offered as a joint effort by former President Obama and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. The scholarship offers up to $50,000 in financial aid to help finish out your last two years of college, plus exciting travel benefits. If you are planning on enrolling full-time as a junior in college in Fall 2023, read on to find out how you might benefit from this scholarship.
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What is the Voyager Scholarship?
The Voyager Scholarship is one of the Obama Foundation’s efforts, in conjunction with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, to help fund students’ college education. The scholarship is unique in that it does not only help pay for your education – it also offers you funds to travel and expand your studies beyond the classroom setting. Any student would be very lucky to receive this scholarship, as it helps lighten the load on your wallet and encourages you to travel the world for many years to come.
Who can apply for the Voyager Scholarship?
The application period for the 2022-2023 scholarship is now closed, and the foundation has not yet announced its requirements for the 2023-2024 school year. However, we have included last year’s requirements below. By all indications, they will remain similar or entirely the same next year.
- Applicants must be sophomores in a four-year college. (The scholarship will only apply to their junior and senior years of school)
- This includes students who are transferring from two-year to four-year institutions; if this describes your situation, you are eligible to apply!
- Applicants must have demonstrated interest and be pursuing a career in public service. This can have a wide range of applications, including teachers, medical professionals, politicians, environmental protection workers, social workers, firefighters, public policy-makers, and many more
- Applicants must demonstrate financial need. They use a formula similar to the federal methodology for determining your need; they’ll collect their own financial data from you in the application and then it’ll undergo a similar analysis as your CSS Profile or FAFSA.
- Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
- Applicants must be US Citizens, Permanent Residents, or DACA holders
What benefits does the Voyager Scholarship include?
First and foremost, the Voyager Scholarship offers up to $25,000 per year for your two remaining years of college, totalling a whopping $50,000 in financial aid. Depending on the school you’re attending and your other financial aid, this could cover the majority of your costs.
But it doesn’t stop there. The scholarship sets up recipients for success with a few other benefits, namely the Summer Voyage, the Fall Summit, a 10-year travel stipend, and access to the Obama Foundation professional network. Let’s get into what each of these benefits entails.
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What is the Summer Voyage?
Perhaps the most exciting of the additional benefits is the Summer Voyage. The summer between your junior and senior year, you will receive a $10,000 stipend, plus free housing through Airbnb, to pursue a work-travel experience of your own design. This gives you the freedom to broaden your worldview, meet new people, and explore new corners of the globe, entirely on the scholarship’s dime. Since it’s all up to you, you can really do whatever you’d like with the time and indulge any interest you may have.
You could take the opportunity to strengthen your proficiency in a foreign language, get hands-on experience in a context entirely separate from what you’d see in the United States, and more. At the end of the day, you’ll face few limitations with what you can do with the time; $10,000 on top of free housing is no small sum for a summer’s worth of exploration! Odds are, you’ll return a new person when your senior year comes around.
What will occur at the Fall Summit?
During the autumn of your junior and senior years, you’ll attend a leadership summit organized by the foundation, and meet your fellow Voyage Scholarship recipients. In 2022, both former President Obama and Brian Chesky were present at this summit. This is a great opportunity to meet peers with similar interests from across the country, and gain inspiration on how to pursue your career in public service.
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How can I use my 10-year travel stipend?
As if the other benefits from the scholarship weren’t enough, they also throw in a $2,000 annual travel credit for the 10 years after graduation. That means you’ll receive $2,000 from Airbnb every year for 10 years, totaling $20,000 in benefits. As the scholarship is built around the importance of traveling the world to provide quality public service, they want to keep you mobile after you enter the professional world.
So, the benefits from this scholarship will end up lasting much longer than your college years. For an entire decade after you finish school, you’ll benefit from the ability to travel the globe on the dime of the Obama Foundation and Brian Chesky.
Additional networking opportunities
In addition to everything listed above, the scholarship provides lasting connections in the Obama Foundation network. Throughout your time in the program, you’ll receive invitations to a variety of summits and talks to help network and improve your leadership skills. And upon graduation, you’ll enter the worldwide foundation network and have the resources to communicate to prestigious professionals around the world.
How do I apply?
Although the Voyager Scholarship is designed and funded by the Obama Foundation and Brian Chesky, it is officially administered by Scholarship America. When it reopens for the 2023-2024 school year, you’ll be able to find the full application there.
In 2022, they required a relatively comprehensive application, including transcripts, detailed financial information including tax forms for verification, and essays. To get updates on when applications open, you can sign up for the scholarship newsletter.
When are applications due?
Although application dates have not yet been announced for the 2023-2024 school year, we can use last year’s dates as a general guide as to when they will be. In 2022, the applications were open from May 16 – June 15. This is a relatively short application window, so make sure to start checking back in April of 2023 to get a head start on your application and maximize your chances of earning the scholarship.
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Application tips for the Voyager Scholarship
So, now that we’ve told you how great the Voyager Scholarship is, let’s get into the best ways to earn it. Since the essay prompts are not out yet for 2023-2024, we can’t break down the individual prompts, but we can offer you a guide to what you should emphasize in your application. The scholarship is driven by a very strong mission which they describe on their website:
“An increasingly globalized world needs young leaders who can bridge divides and help solve our biggest challenges together… Exposure to new places and experiences generates understanding, empathy, and cooperation which equips the next generation to create meaningful change.”
As you can see here, the mission of the scholarship is to better-equip a generation of public service leaders by offering them the resources to travel the world and gain new perspectives, empathy, and expertise. So, there are a few angles from which you can approach this. One great method would be to describe meaningful travel experiences you’ve had in the past, and connect them with your desire to work in public service.
What to describe in your essays
One possibility for students is to describe a travel experience to a country where you found that they did something differently than we do in America. Perhaps you went to Sweden and were impressed by the state of their welfare system. Or maybe you visited the Netherlands and noticed their use of bicycles instead of cars. You could write about how these experiences inspired you to push for similar change in the United States. On the flipside, you could write about a service trip you took to a country experiencing economic hardship, and the things you learned in working with people from other nations.
You don’t need to have traveled already
And if you haven’t spent much time out of the country, don’t worry! This scholarship is meant to send people on journeys who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to go. There are many different ways to show your passion for making international discoveries.
You may have been inspired by a visit to the bodega down the block or a neighborhood that serves as a cultural enclave in your city. Maybe you have friends who are first or second generation immigrants, or there’s a book or a movie from another country that inspired you. You could have watched a documentary about something that took place in another country and been inspired by an aspect of their lifestyle. In our increasingly globalized world, there are countless ways to glean inspiration from other cultures, so be creative with it, and seek out these opportunities whenever you can.
Either way, make sure to emphasize your desire to help the world, and the ways in which travel can help you accomplish this goal. This isn’t just a scholarship for those who hope to make a positive change; it’s for those who know how to translate travel experiences into meaningful growth opportunities, and use what they learned to help people.
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