The Thiel Fellowship: Win $100k for College
Are you a college-bound or college-age student with entrepreneurial dreams and believe that you can accomplish more outside of the classroom than in it? Is the next Facebook, GoPro, or Uber rattling around inside your head and you just need the opportunity, and financing, to make it a reality? If so, the Thiel Fellowship could be just what you’ve been looking for.
About the Thiel Fellowship
Founded by Silicon Valley celebrity, entrepreneur, and investor Peter Thiel in 2011, the Thiel Fellowship is a two-year program requiring fellows to skip or stop attending college—providing them $100,000 and the incredible opportunity to build new things, rather than sit in a classroom.
Operating under the belief that learning about the past can discourage people from doing something new, the Thiel Fellowship encourages fellows to break free of the typical degree paths and career tracks in favor of charting their own unique course. With the backing of the Thiel Fellowship network, Thiel Fellows are given access to investors, partners, and customers—and thanks to the fellowship’s monetary support, they’re able to take big risks while avoiding the crippling debt that stalls many new, innovative business.
Thiel Fellowship Applicant Requirements
There are two major requirements to be considered for a Thiel Fellowship. First, an applicant must be 22 years old or younger. Secondly, applicants must have a concrete vision for what they are trying to create and be in the process of making meaningful progress toward the completion of their vision. In fact, because the Thiel Fellowship doesn’t have a dealine—they accept submissions all year—they encourage applicants working on something cool to share it with them. Applications can be updated even after submission.
Cleaning Up Misconceptions of Thiel Fellowship Applicants
A common misconception about the Thiel Fellowship is that it’s only for programmers; however, Thiel Fellows have also created consumer products, launched media companies, and built hardware. Another fallacy is that a recipient of a Thiel Fellowship must be based in the Bay Area. In actuality, Thiel Fellows are located across the globe.
Thiel Fellowship Application Requirements
Applicants for a Thiel Fellowship should have a clear idea of what they’re working to create and have taken purposeful steps from moving their idea to a final product. While a pitch deck—a brief, persuasive presentation—isn’t required, a brief pitch or prospectus helps demonstrate what an applicant is working on. The Thiel Fellowship is for individuals, not teams, although many fellows build teams after receiving the award.
Notable Theil Fellowship Facts
Thiel Fellows receive $100,000 over the course of two years to build their company (the Thiel Fellowship doesn’t take any equity in fellows’ businesses). As mentioned earlier, the Thiel Fellowship has no application deadline—so if you have a great idea, a business plan, and an attention-grabbing pitch, apply today! Just keep in mind that in order to receive a Thiel Fellowship, a student must drop out of school.
Tips for Winning Awards and Scholarships
Whether you’re applying for a prestigious award such as the Thiel Fellowship or a local scholarship, there are a handful of best practices that will serve you well in your quest.
Know the Requirements: There is no sense in applying for a Thiel Fellowship if you’re unwilling to drop out of school and there is no sense in applying for a scholarship if you don’t meet their criteria. Don’t waste your time, or theirs—know the requirements and make sure you meet them before applying.
Follow the Instructions: The Dalai Lama said: “know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” While awards like the Thiel Fellowship are looking for vanguards willing to break with norms and explore new paths, it’s still in an applicant’s best interest to know what the awardee is looking for. In the case of the Thiel Fellowship, have a clear idea and a pitch deck prepared. In the case of scholarships, make sure you answer all the questions on the application, use the correct formatting, and stay within work limits.
Build a Profile: Whether you’re pitching angel investors or a scholarship committee, you want to make sure you put your best foot forward. Create a resume of achievements, awards, and other aspects of your life you want to highlight and use it to make sure your applications put the spotlight on your most notable accomplishments.
Maximize Your Digital Profile: It’s not just the people from Silicon Valley who are going to investigate your digital profile, it’s now common for scholarship committees and boards to audit potential winners’ Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Clean up your profile and remove any posts, photos, or videos that could hurt your odds of winning an award. Also, if you’re using a novelty email, now is the time to start using a professional-sounding email address.
Get Organized: Potential business partners, investors, and scholarship committees want to invest their resources in someone who is put together. Keep a calendar to make sure you meet all necessary deadlines and any follow-up dates. Submit all material in a neat and ordered manner.
Proofread Everything: Nothing sinks a presentation or a scholarship faster than a silly mistake. Double check all submitted material for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and flow. After that, have a grammatically skilled teacher, advisor, or parent give it a second look.
Ask the Experts: If you’re stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Teachers, advisors, and CollegeVine can help you fill out applications and win scholarships. Trying to build the perfect pitch? Ask a local business leader for help—almost anyone who has had any success in business benefited from the assistance of a more experienced individual, and many are happy to repay that act of kindness.
Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!