Financial Aid

About Applying For Financial Assistance

Families seeking financial assistance must submit two separate applications — a student application for admissions and, if accepted, a parent Statement of Financial Circumstances. We ask that you please review the information on this page carefully. This will ensure that you don’t waste unnecessary time applying for aid.

Tiered Tuition

Just in case you missed it, Sustainable Summer operates on a tiered tuition model. If your family simply needs a little bit of extra help, our tuition assistance option (typically about 20% discounted tuition) is available to all families – no questions asked. You don’t need to complete any additional scholarship application forms, provide tax returns, or do anything outside of our normal application process. To take advantage of this option, students should submit a completed application for admissions and then, if accepted, parents indicate the tuition assistance tier at enrollment.

That’s it. Super easy.

Financial Assistance Application Components

If your family requires additional support to participate in a program, please review the information below that outlines the scholarship application process.

How? To apply for scholarship funding, you will first need to earn acceptance into a program. We make admission decisions “need-blind.” If you are accepted, and your family has determined that you need additional funding beyond the 20% tuition assistance to participate, then a parent will need to complete a detailed statement of financial status and provide documentation including tax returns.

About the Parent Statement of Financial Circumstances

  • A parent/guardian will provide a recent tax return, asset and household expense information, special financial circumstances, etc.
  • Note To Parents: In general, we require a US tax return from the previous or current tax year. For example, if you are completing this application in January, you probably have not yet completed your return for the year that ended in December. So provide a tax return from the previous year, which you should have completed. We understand that every household’s financial circumstances are unique, but our committee is going to be very skeptical of an application that does not include a recent tax return. For 99.9% of heads of household, you are either legally required to file a tax return with the IRS or would miss out on a tax refund by not filing. So, if you can’t provide recent tax information to help us verify income and establish an appropriate award amount, you will need to provide a thorough explanation why this information is absent or we will be unable to evaluate your family’s application. If your financial circumstances have changed significantly since your most recent return, please clarify any changes in income or assets.
  • We only require the “first page” of your return, which includes the Adjusted Gross Income line. Please block out social security numbers before uploading your return.
  • We are sometimes willing to consider proof of participation in Free or Reduced Lunch program or financial aid determination letter from an independent school in lieu of a tax return. Please email to request an exception. This does not guarantee that we will accept such a document in lieu of a return or that we will match the amount or percentage of an award from another institution, however we will consider your request to do so.

Financial assistance is available to the public-at-large provided applicants are 15 – 17 and in high school at the time of participation (note: graduated high school seniors are not eligible); are listed as a dependent on a recent US income tax return; and can demonstrate financial need, a keen interest in sustainability, and the ability to integrate well with a group and handle the challenges associated with participation appropriately. In general, families making less than $87,000 per year (adjusted gross income) are eligible for financial assistance up to 85 – 100% of the program tuition. Families with adjusted gross incomes higher than $87,000 may be eligible for awards depending on their unique financial circumstances, but, in general, need-based eligibility will phase out around $154K AGI. (NOTE: AGI can be substantially less than gross income, and we also take regional costs of living into consideration, so families earning gross incomes in the low six figures are often still eligible for aid.)

Non-US Citizens/Residents

We cap award amounts at 50% if a family is not able to provide a recent US tax return. We will accept tax returns (translated into English) from other countries, but the 50% cap is still applicable. The tax return must state the applicant as a dependent. We encourage international students to take advantage of our “tuition assistance” option instead.


We do our best to provide sufficient funding to all deserving candidates. In general, motivated students that can clearly articulate a passion for environmentalism and the potential to become an environmental leader and innovator will receive a funding award. As part of our decision-making process our scholarship committee will review your admission application. We want to see nuance and an understanding of important environmental concepts communicated in your application. Most of all, we want you to draw a clear line between the Sustainable Summer program and your goals. Be specific and be sure your reference can back up your ambitions and potential. If your application is strong and your financial need isn’t “extreme” relative to your household’s income and stated assets, it is likely that you will receive the requested funding. It is helpful if you are flexible in your session preferences. We aren’t always able to place students on their first choice program, but it is rare that a strong applicant is denied a scholarship outright. For students seeking larger amounts of aid, applying during one of our early admission rounds and being flexible with program preferences will increase the likelihood that we can meet your family’s requested assistance. Some programs have more funding available than others. Our Sc3 program, for instance, receives more support from corporate donors and government sources, so we usually have more funding available for students needing full scholarships.

Our best advice to students seeking a scholarship is:

  • Be sure to articulate clearly and concisely how Sustainable Summer will benefit you keeping in mind that competitive candidates for scholarships will possess all of the following:
  • A demonstrated personal commitment to and interest in achieving environmental sustainability
  • Outstanding academic and extracurricular achievement (or unique experience related to environmental sustainability)
  • An application that articulates how Sustainable Summer will benefit the participant and help him or her become a future sustainability leader
  • A Letters of recommendation that underscore all of the above
  • Clear financial need

Preference for our financial assistance awards is given to students who have a clear financial need that can be met by the limitations of our financial assistance program. Scholarships are not granted on merit alone; only those students who could not attend a program without financial assistance will be awarded scholarship funds.

Award Amounts and Notifications

Notification: Accepted families are informed of the timetable upon notification of their acceptance into a program.

Amounts: In general, our scholarship program is designed for both “low-income” and “middle-income” families and is intended to bridge the gap between a family’s expected financial contribution and/or their own fundraising efforts, and that of the total cost of participation. The amount of expected family contribution is calculated using an independent metric based on each family’s unique financial circumstances. Award amounts between 60 – 85% of the total cost of tuition are most common. Award amounts do not include airfare or other travel costs associated with getting to or from the program. These costs can be significant. Please budget accordingly by researching airfare costs before applying for a scholarship.

Applications for full scholarships (100% of tuition) are more competitive than those seeking 50% scholarships. These former grants are quite competitive and only awarded to students of exceptional caliber or that can demonstrate perseverance in the face of hardship.

We simply do not have the internal financial resources to support the financial need of all applicants, and have instead established relations with a number of foundations that work with families requiring significant financial assistance beyond which our internal funding can support.

We know that every family’s situation is unique and we do not have a definitive threshold on family income for the purpose of determining scholarship eligibility, although families with an adjusted gross income of less than $154,000 will generally be considered eligible. However, we consider cost of living in your area, your financial commitments, and a number of other factors in determining eligibility.

Sustainable Summer scholarships can be combined with outside grant support (from a foundation, school, etc) to reduce the total participation costs of the program. Sustainable Summer scholarship award decisions are applied after outside grants. Please include all sources of funding when filling out a Parent Statement of Financial Circumstances.

Our Expectations

We expect that many families will rely on a variety of resources to fund their participation, including their own financial contribution and fundraising efforts, Sustainable Summer’s scholarship program, and third-party institutional support from a school or other funding source. Additionally, award recipients are expected to contribute an essay about their experience after the program.