FAQ for Applicants

FAQ for Applicants

TASP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here, you can find answers to questions we commonly encounter, and a few that we wish would be asked more. This page will be updated periodically during the application cycle. If your question isn’t answered here, you can email it to the TASP office at tasp-queries@tellurideassociation.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

General questions

Where can I find more information about TASP?

Telluride Association publishes official information about TASP only on this website and in our program brochure. We are constantly trying to improve the availability of accurate and up-to-date information about our programs. Please contact tasp-queries if there is any additional information you think should be included on our website. There is also an Ask a TASPer page where you can submit questions for recent alumni to answer. While many books and websites have sections devoted to TASP, only our official publications are written and reviewed by people with ongoing first-hand knowledge of Telluride Association and its programs. Thus, other sources of information often contain inaccurate or out-of-date information and should be treated with caution.

Why does the number of TASPs change from year to year?

Each TASP seminar is a collaboration between Telluride Association, our program faculty, and our institutional partners. Seminars are added or discontinued based on the ability of each of these groups to maintain or expand their commitments to the program. We take pride in our efforts to offer the highest quality program to as many talented students as possible.

Do you have a policy on online networking?

Yes, we do. There are two parts to our policy. The first pertains to how we will interact with you. Out of fairness to all potential candidates, everyone who is actively involved in the running of TASP has agreed only to share online information about TASP through the Telluride Association website. Anyone claiming to be a program alum or sharing insider information on other websites may not have complete, accurate, or up-to-date information. In addition, we encourage our program alumni to share their enthusiasm for TASP, but also to be sure to let future TASPers discover and shape the program for themselves. Part of what makes TASP unique is the ability of each group of participants to shape their own experience, regardless of what has happened in past seminars. On this website, we have focused on giving you useful information without constraining your ability to make the most of your own summer.

The second part of our policy is a recommendation regarding your interactions with each other. We believe TASPs are at their best when everyone comes to the program with a clean slate and an open mind. We understand the temptation to discuss your essays, your hopes, and your fears with your online peers. But we say from experience that if you are selected for TASP, the program will likely be more valuable for you if your first encounters with your fellow TASP community members are on the first day of the program.

What’s the catch?

Telluride Association is an independent not-for-profit with a one hundred year history of providing challenging educational opportunities for young people. We are driven by our belief in the value of our programs, and are not affiliated with any political or religious organizations.

Completing the Application

What time and day is the online application due?

The online application for the 2020 TASPs is due on Monday, January 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern U.S. time. If you apply by mail, January 13, 2020 is the postmark deadline.

Who is eligible to apply?

All current high school juniors (eleventh grade) are eligible to apply for the program. You do not need to be a United States citizen to apply, nor do you need to go to an American high school. If you do not attend an American high school, and if your school’s academic year ends in the spring or early summer in the Northern Hemisphere, you should apply during your next-to-last year of secondary school. Similarly, if you are home schooled, you should apply for the TASPs that will be offered a year before your expected graduation. We are happy to advise you on whether you are eligible to apply, especially if if your academic calendar is substantially different from that of the United States, if you are in an unconventional academic program, or if other unusual circumstances cause you to be unsure of your eligibility. Please contact tasp-queries for clarification.

Why should I apply?

A summer spent at TASP represents an extraordinary opportunity, one that has transformed the lives of more than 3,400 high school juniors since the program’s founding in 1954. Yes, admission is very competitive, but our close attention to your essays helps us select talented individuals who might not stand out by traditional measures of academic achievement. Even the process of completing our essays can be valuable practice for future college and scholarship applications. We promise a careful reading of whatever you send us. Plus, TASP is and always has been free to its participants, so you have nothing to lose!

Do you prefer a particular method of applying?

Glad you asked! We encourage applicants to use the online application if possible. This makes it easier for us to process your application once it is submitted and helps ensure your information is accurately entered into our system. Of course, if it is not possible for you to apply online it is still acceptable to submit a paper application, and you will not be penalized for doing so.

Do I need to be nominated to apply?

No. Students receive applications in a variety of ways, including receiving a high score on the PSAT/NMSQT, being nominated by a teacher, and downloading the application from our website. Nominations help us identify promising candidates, but they play no role in our process once program brochures have been sent to nominees.

Do I need a transcript or recommendation letter?

No. Up to the 2009 TASP, we required every applicant to include a transcript and a recommendation letter. In 2010, we decided that selection for interviews would be done entirely on the basis of what you put on your application form and in your essays (though these have always been the main factors, part of what makes TASP unique). If you are selected for an interview, you will be given more information about sending transcripts and a recommendation letter at that time. In the meantime, you should make sure there is a teacher, counselor, or mentor who you would be comfortable asking for a letter if granted an interview.

How do I submit my essays online?

If you apply online, you will need to copy and paste your essays and short answers into text boxes. Please insert an extra blank line between paragraphs and be aware that any special characters or formatting will not be preserved. We recommend that you write and proofread your work on a word processor before you print or submit your application online.

What if I don’t have space for all my awards, activities, interests, jobs,…?

In the Short Answer Questions of Part II of the application, we would like answers in the form of concise lists with a small discussion of each item. You do not need to provide the level of detail required on, for instance, a resumé for a job application. Your answers to these questions tell us about you and help your interviewer to ask about your experiences; they are not meant to be exhaustive. If there is not enough space to list every single item that qualifies for the prompt, then choose the items you find most significant.

What counts as a relevant honor or award?

We have deliberately left the definition of “relevant” open-ended. It is up to you to determine which awards you find most significant and relevant to who you are today. You should not list every award you have ever won. Your most significant honors will stand out more if they are not drowned out by a long list of older or less relevant awards.

Why are there so many questions about my school, family, and community?

The questions in Part I help us to put your application in context. Nobody grows up in a vacuum, and we think it is important to try to see your thinking and accomplishments in light of the forces that have helped to shape you as a person. Your essays will always be our primary means of evaluation, but the questions in Part I help us to get a slightly fuller picture of what unique perspectives you would bring to the program if selected.

What counts as a community activity for my parent or guardian?

Community activities are any activites in which your parents or guardians participate for which they are not compensated, such as youth sports coach, church treasurer, Habitat volunteer, or PTA member.

What should I put for level of education if my sibling, parent, or guardian is currently pursuing a degree?

For your parent or guardian, you should put the highest degree that person has completed. You may indicate that your parent or guardian is currently pursuing a further degree by using the “other” field (on the paper or online form) while checking that person’s current highest degree (on paper) or selecting it from the drop-down box (online). If your parents or guardians have two degrees they consider at the same level, such as an MD and a PhD, please indicate the degree most related to their current or recent work and put the other degree(s) in the “other” write-in field.

For siblings, we ask for the current level of education being pursued. If your sibling is not currently in school, please put the highest degree she or he has completed.

The Essays

Can I get help with my essays?

You should feel free to discuss your ideas with teachers and classmates, but when it comes time to write your essay, it should be entirely your own work. Telluride Association takes academic integrity very seriously. Academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, will result in your application being immediately removed from consideration, and is grounds for revoking your scholarship. Be sure to cite all of your sources and clearly indicate where you are quoting other authors.

Can I submit an essay for TASP that I have submitted elsewhere?

We require you to submit essays which have not been submitted for another purpose. You are strongly encouraged to write entirely new essays for your application. This will help you answer the prompt more specifically and effectively, and provides a good opportunity to write about something you wouldn’t usually have a chance to write about. We discourage applicants from basing their essays on writing done for extracurricular activities or other scholarship competitions.

Do the essay questions change from year to year?

Yes, the essay questions are revised and refined every year. However, the changes are usually fairly small. If you want to start thinking about your essays before the application is officially released, questions from past forms are available online here and are likely to be similar to questions in future years. Make sure you read the current year’s questions carefully once they are released so that your essay addresses the prompt as well as possible.

Which prompts require full essays?

We ask for complete but concise answers to all of the prompts, and you should choose a format for each prompt which allows you to provide this. As a guideline, the essay questions are usually answered with a more traditional essay format; the short answer questions should be answered in a list format with a small discussion of each item.

How long should my essays be?

We ask that you answer each question as completely and concisely as you can within the word limit of 1,500 words (approximately 3 single-spaced pages or 9,000 characters) per essay. You may find that you need close to 1,500 words for some essays and substantially less than that for others, depending on what you choose to write about and your approach to the essay. As long as you answer the questions completely and concisely and stay within the word limit on each essay you will not be penalized based on how long your responses are.

Any field of interest? Really?

Yep! For your second essay, we want to see your thoughts about something you find really interesting. You can pick any subject as long as it allows you to fully answer the essay prompt. Please don’t just try to predict what your readers will find interesting. It is unlikely that you would guess correctly, and your essay will be much stronger if you care deeply about your topic.

What is the point of the favorite book, films, etc. list?

Your favorite book, films, etc. list (Short Answer Question B) tells us a little bit more about your interests. More importantly, if you are interviewed it will give your interviewers a wider range of topics that they know you are prepared to discuss. You should not list every book, film, etc. you have read/seen/heard in the past, nor should you only list books, films, etc. that you think will impress us. Please list only those things that you have actually read/seen/heard and would be prepared to discuss if asked.

Do you prefer a particular citation format for the essays?

None of the prompts ask for research papers, so the main outside source you will need to cite is your text for the second essay. We recommend that you use a citation format with which you are comfortable; you do not need to use a formal system (MLA, Chicago, etc.) for these purposes. The most important factor for citations is that your reader should be able to easily locate your source material if necessary.

In general, you should acknowledge any time you are borrowing another person’s words or ideas, whether in a quote or in paraphrase. This can be as simple as mentioning the author’s name and the title of the work in passing at the beginning of a paragraph.

Should I title my essays?

Titles are optional for your essays. They should be included in your word count.


When do I find out whether I will be interviewed?

You will be contacted about your interview status in mid-March, and interviews will take place through the beginning of April. Applicants will be notified at this time whether or not they have been selected for an interview. As soon as you are selected for an interview, you will need to request a transcript and a letter of recommendation. Further instructions will be provided to you at that time.

What does the interview involve?

TASP interviews are meant to be intellectually challenging. There will typically be one to three interviewers asking you questions, and interviews generally last around an hour. They usually start with questions from your essays and then proceed at the direction of the interviewers. You may want to review your submitted application before your interview. Each interviewer has her or his own particular style and approach, and your interviewer will let you know in advance of the interview if you need to do anything special to prepare.

Where does the interview take place?

Telluride Association relies on our network of program alumni to conduct interviews, and we try to find interviewers from as close to your local area as possible. Your interviewer will contact you to determine a suitable location for your interview, and you may be asked to help arrange a place in your school or community. If we are unable to arrange for our interviewers to come to your area, your interview may be contucted over the phone or an internet voice connection. We want you to be at your best in your interview, and we understand that some interview settings (and some interviewers!) are more comfortable than others. Our interviewers write extensive reports that help us account for as many factors as possible, so you do not need to worry if you end up being interviewed over the phone or in a less-than-ideal setting. If you are selected for an interview, it will be important to inform the Telluride Association office of any travel plans you have during the interview period.

Selection and placement

When will final decisions be available?

The final meeting for selecting TASPers will take place near the end of April. You will likely be notified of our decision early in the following week. If you have not heard from us by the beginning of May, please contact our Ithaca office.

Who will be reading my application?

Your application will be read by at least two experienced and trained associates of the Telluride Association. Every reader is a past or current participant in one of our programs for high school or university students, and alumni from the most recent summer program are not eligible to read. If you are selected for an interview, your application will also be read by your interviewers and the members of the Telluride Association committee responsible for making the final selection and placement. If you are selected, your factotums will also be given your application and essays, and these may also be shared with your seminar faculty.

Is it possible to get feedback from Telluride Association about my application?

Due to the volume of applications received, it is not possible for us to give you feedback on your application or to provide you with an explanation for our decisions. We hope, nonetheless, that the process of preparing your application is a valuable one for you. After you have submitted your application, we encourage you to use it as an extra opportunity to seek feedback from teachers and counselors to help you prepare for future college and scholarship applications.

What qualities are you looking for?

There is no one set of traits distinguishing successful applicants. As the application states, we look for students with the maturity and creativity needed to thrive in a TASP community, but these qualities take many forms and are demonstrated in many ways. Your accomplishments and ideas will be evaluated in light of your circumstances and opportunities: students who have made the most of what they have been given are more likely to make the most of our scholarship as well.

What are my chances of being accepted?

Admission to TASP is highly competitive. We will offer scholarships to 60 students this year. Last year, there were over 1,500 applicants for 60 positions. Even if you have been successful with other competitions or scholarship opportunities, you should not expect to get in automatically. With that said, we encourage you to submit an application. If you give your best effort and think hard about your essays, you may be pleasantly surprised with your results!

Are certain seminars more selective than others?

No. Applicants have the same chance of being admitted regardless of the order of their seminar preferences. Therefore, it is in your best interest to give an honest ranking of the seminars.

How are seminar placements determined?

Many factors go into placing accepted students in a seminar. Some applicants get their first choice, but many do not. The selection committee works very hard to select groups of seminar participants who we think will interact well with each other and have a successful summer together. Thus, getting your first choice seminar is not a reward for having a better application. Your seminar placement will depend on your preferences, the opinions of your interviewers and application readers, and the balance of other accepted students.

What if I live outside of the United States?

As far as applications are concerned, we treat international students exactly the same as domestic students. We do not limit the number of international applicants we accept, nor do we require additional application materials from them. There are, however, some things you should keep in mind when applying. If accepted, you will have to plan in advance to make appropriate travel arrangements and secure any visas or travel permissions required before the program. We are unable to provide official advice about what travel documents are necessary for individual applicants. Many countries do not use the US’s grade level system, and you do not need to go to an American or International school in order to apply. If you have doubts as to whether you qualify as a “high school junior,” please contact tasp-queries for clarification.

What if nobody from my school has heard of TASP? If someone else from my school is also applying?

Some schools are more proactive about nominating their students than others, and we encourage your teachers and counselors to visit our website and suggest students they think might be successful at TASP. But when it comes to evaluating your application, it does not make a difference whether a friend, classmate, sibling, parent, or other relation is applying or has applied or participated in the past. All applications are evaluated on an individual basis, and it is our policy to make no special considerations, positive or negative, with respect to other people you may know who are applying or have applied to TASP. Once you have been selected, however, we may try to place you and others from your school in different seminars in order to give you the best opportunity to meet new people during the summer.

How much do grades matter?

Grades play only a very small part in our overall evaluation of your application. They play no role at all in our selection of interviewees, and we do not even request a transcript from you until you have been granted an interview.

What if I come from a non-traditional educational background?

We have had successful TASPers from an extremely wide variety of educational backgrounds. What matters most is not what courses you’ve taken or how many extracurricular activities your school offers, but how you think and share your creativity with others.

Does it make a difference whether I was nominated for the program?

No. Once your application is submitted, we make no distinction based on how you received it.

Is it possible to get early notification of acceptance?

All students who receive an interview will know their final status as soon as it has been determined. It is thus not possible to provide earlier notification.

Is there a waiting list?

A small number of students who were interviewed but not selected for the program will be offered spots on our waiting list. The number of students from our waiting list ultimately offered spots in the program varies widely from year to year. You will be given further information about the waiting list if you have been placed on it.

What is your non-discrimination policy and what role does it play in your selection process?

Telluride Association has a policy of not discriminating on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. This means that we take affirmative steps in our selection process to identify possible bias and to correct for it. We do not maintain quotas of any kind, and we make every effort to judge individual applications on their own merits.

Does applying obligate me to attend the program if accepted?

While we hope that all of our accepted students can attend the program, you are not required to participate if accepted. There are no fines or fees for withdrawing from the program. We maintain a waiting list for the few cases each year where admitted students are unable to attend.

The Program

What are the program costs?

TASP is a free summer program. There are no fees for applications, books, or tuition. All meals are provided. You are only responsible for the costs of getting to and from the program site. Most students also bring with them a small amount of pocket money. In cases of demonstrated financial need, you may apply for assistance in paying for travel as well. It is the policy of Telluride Association that no student be prevented from attending the program for financial reasons.

Can you accommodate students with disabilities, severe allergies, dietary restrictions, or other special needs?

We make every effort to work with students to make the TASP as safe, comfortable, and successful as possible, and have had recent participants with a wide variety of special circumstances.

Will I fit in?

TASPers come from all over the United States and beyond, from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances. For many, TASP is their first chance to meet such a diverse group of talented peers. Whatever your background, the odds are good that you will be in a minority at TASP, and that can take some adjustment regardless of what kind of community you come from. Students are selected for TASP because we believe they have something unique to share with their fellow participants, and it will be up to you to be open to sharing your experiences and learning from others.

Can I come late or leave early from the program?

We expect our scholarship recipients to attend the entire six weeks of the program.

Can friends or family visit me at the program?

We encourage students to stay in contact with their families during the summer. However, because of the close inward-looking `semi-monastic’ community created at each TASP, visits must be planned so as not to interfere with other parts of the TASP schedule and must be arranged in consultation with the factotums well in advance.

Will I be able to go to religious services, practice the piano, go to a gym to lift weights,…?

TASP is a serious time commitment, and you should not expect to carry on major side projects while at the program. However, most students find little problem managing to maintain serious religious, athletic, musical, or other commitments at some level. If selected, you should talk with your factotum about how to manage these commitments around the TASP schedule.

What takes place on a typical day?

You have a lot of freedom (and therefore a lot of responsibility!) to plan your activities as a group during the TASP. A typical day will start with your three hour seminar in the morning, followed by lunch. The afternoon might be spent on a group outing, doing homework, or attending an academic lecture. After dinner, you might hear ‘pubspeaks’ (short formal speeches followed by discussion) from two or three of your fellow TASPers, and then spend the rest of the evening finishing your reading or essays for the next day’s class and having wide-ranging conversations with your peers.

Are all activities mandatory?

Seminars, lectures, pubspeaks (speeches by your fellow TASPers), community meetings, and a wide range of other group activities depend on the full participation of every member of the TASP. Your factotums will make the final determination about which activities you are required to attend, often with community input. Most TASPers find that the company of their peers makes almost any activity worthwhile.

Will we be supervised outside of seminar?

TASPers are expected to be independent and capable of behaving responsibly and taking care of themselves without extensive supervision. Two college students (your program’s “factotums”) will be on hand at all times to help you coordinate activities and make the program run as smoothly as possible.

How are the living arrangements?

Your housing will vary from site to site. TASPers typically live in a student house near to the University’s campus, but separate from other summer students at the University. All students will live with one or more roommate(s), assigned by the factotums.

Are there any opportunities for students to pursue other intellectual interests while at TASP?

While TASPers spend a great deal of time in both seminar and in-house activities, there is still time for them to engage with their other passions. In fact, as part of TASP, students and factotums will deliver a 20-25 minute presentation on a topic of their choice to the community. Students can present on any topic they wish, but, in keeping with the Telluride Association’s focus on intellectual passion and lifelong learning, it should be a topic that they pursue outside of their regular schoolwork. In the past TASPers have presented on topics as diverse as the Beatles, tort reform, arranged marriage and Wendell Berry.

Can you help with visa paperwork for international students?

Students and their families are solely responsible for the successful completion of any paperwork required for program attendance. For legal reasons, we cannot offer specific guidance on visa and immigration matters. However, we will make every effort to supply documentation that may be required for your visa applications, and we encourage you to communicate with our office if you encounter any difficulties.