Primary Criterion: Academic Excellence
Above all, Coolidge scholars must possess a distinguished academic record. Competitive candidates will have pursued and succeeded in the most rigorous course of study available to them. Awardees will demonstrate an uncommon academic depth and intellectual curiosity. In the case of the Coolidge Scholarship, depth matters as much as breadth. Coolidge winners’ interest in scholarly and intellectual pursuits goes beyond the classroom. Mere credential collection is not a defining trait of a Coolidge Scholar. Jonas Salk, the father of the polio vaccine, provides a good example. Salk so excelled in school that he skipped grades. However, he was also intellectually curious, writing: “As a child I was not interested in science. I was merely interested in things human.”
Secondary Criterion: Interest in Public Policy and Appreciation for Coolidge Values
From his boyhood days in Plymouth Notch through his years in the White House, Coolidge studied public policy. This scholarship therefore seeks young citizens who exhibit an interest in policy. Candidates also should demonstrate an awareness of and appreciation for the values President Coolidge championed throughout his life. Some such values include: civility, respect for enterprise, government thrift, federalism, and respect for constitutional government. The award is not restricted to candidates planning to pursue degrees in fields such as public policy or government. To the contrary, all academic disciplines are valued by this award. Like the president, Coolidge Scholars will engage in the pressing issues of their time. Like Coolidge, Coolidge Scholars are at all times civil, valuing respectful debate over partisan attack.
Secondary Criterion: Humility and Service
Humility is a hallmark quality of leaders in the Coolidge tradition. In his autobiography, Coolidge wrote: “It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.”
The Coolidge Scholarship seeks young people who display a sense of service and care for the well-being of others. Coolidge placed high value on Americans helping their own communities and fellow citizens. The Coolidge Scholarship seeks young people who demonstrate a commitment to improving their communities in meaningful ways. For the Coolidge Scholarship, genuine service that makes a difference is valued over ambitious efforts that a young person may not be well-positioned to undertake. Often a young person can best contribute by taking part in existing efforts rather than by starting their own organization.
Other prizes are awarded to young people for accumulating leadership credentials in high school. This prize focuses rather on high school achievement that gives young people the potential to lead later in life. A young person who tends to work alone, but demonstrates potential to conduct breakthrough research, for example, is a strong candidate. Introverts can win this prize.
The Coolidge Scholarship is non-partisan and is awarded on merit regardless of race, gender, or background.