Why does Mensa issue scholarships?

Mensa is an international organization, with three specific purposes stated in their Constitution:

  • to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity;
  • to encourage research into the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence;
  • to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.

American Mensa Limited, the national organization, is a registered 501(c)(4) not-for profit social organization. Charlotte/Blue Ridge Mensa has been granted a charter to operate locally as part of AML, and as such is primarily a social group addressing the third purpose. Visit our What is CBR Mensa page for more on our local programs.

But AML (American Mensa Limited) has a wholly owned subsidiary that addresses the first two purposes. The Mensa Education and Research Foundation (MERF) is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and funds both research and scholarship programs.

How are Mensa scholarships awarded?

All awards are based on essays written by the applicants, not on prior grades or test scores. Once an essay has been submitted, it is read and rated by panel of local volunteer judges. They eliminate those that did not follow the published guidelines, and submit their recommendations to a regional panel. The regional panel rereads all submitted essays and reviews the local ratings, then submits their recommendations to a national panel that has the final decision on scholarships issued by MERF. Participating local groups can expect at least one scholarship to be issued in their area, and several are issued at the regional level.

There are exceptions to that general process: a small number of scholarships are awarded only at the national level, and are judged only at that level. And local groups such as Charlotte/Blue Ridge always have the option of directly funding a scholarship in their area.

How do I apply?

Applications are accepted annually online from September 15 to January 15. Mensa membership is not required. For more details on the program and the requirements, visit the U.S. Scholarships page.

Any advice?

Yes. Nancy Campbell, former Scholarship Chair, reminds applicants that “Scholarships are awarded solely on your essay, not on your previous grades or class standing. Essays are judged for Form (grammar and organization), Content (goal statement and supporting statements) and Impression (judges’ reaction to your essay — how probable is it that you will accomplish what you say you will). So write your essay before you go online to fill in the application form, and be sure to spell check your work. Good luck!”

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