Scholar Selection Criteria

We are looking for 18-23 year old early stage social entrepreneurs with a bias towards action. We evaluate each application using three main criteria:

  The Person

  • Gritty Idealism: Watson scholars are idealistic in the sense that they believe they can make the world a better place, but gritty in the sense that they aren’t afraid to start and bootstrap a solution in a resource limited environment.

  • Entrepreneurial Courage: Ideal candidates protect their courage- by demonstrating they aren’t afraid to step out of their comfort zone with a bias towards action and prototyping- while also protecting the courage of their fellow scholars- through support and peer to peer mentorship.

  • Motivation: We look at applicants’ key influences and motivations behind the creation of their ventures and their interest in attending Watson U, as well as their overall character. Competitive applicants are willing and able to dedicate themselves fully to this program as well as to their venture. They are communicative, open-minded and curious.

 The Venture

  • Addressing the Root Cause: We evaluate the extent to which the idea the scholar is developing addresses the root cause of the problem they are choosing to solve – and how well have they articulated both their solution and the problem – rather than simply putting a band-aid on a problem.

  • Viability of Idea: We look at how likely it is that the applicant’s venture will succeed. Does the scholar have a solid idea and model to develop, advance, and eventually scale?

 The Stage

  • Age and Life Stage: Students can apply to Watson’s semester program before (gap year), during, or immediately after their undergraduate studies, or come to Watson U for their Bachelor’s degree, which can be completed in as little as 2.5 years. Watson scholars are between the ages of 18-23.

  • Venture Stage, Early Prototyping: The students we select are early stage in the development of their ideas, but in most cases a strong applicant has already implemented at least a prototype of their idea. This means that they are typically past idea stage.