Oprah Winfrey launched a new scholarship program that will support students who have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership within their communities. Now students are wondering how, where and when to apply for this amazing opportunity.

The program is part of The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, a charity developed by Oprah “that provides education, donates money and serves meals to communities in need,” according to its website.

What is the Oprah Winfrey Leaders Scholarship?

The program inducted its inaugural class Tuesday, awarding 15 college freshmen and sophomores with a full ride to the school of their dreams. According to a post on the Oprah Daily Instagram post, “The Oprah Winfrey Leaders Scholarship” is a “four-year [program] dedicated to high-achieving students so they could attend the college of their dreams.”

Oprah Winfrey appeared on Zoom today to congratulate the inaugural class of her new educational program.
Oprah Winfrey appeared on Zoom today to congratulate the inaugural class of her new educational program. Photo Credit: Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com

Reports claimed that the inaugural class of 15 students met over Zoom for the first time Tuesday “for what they thought was the last step of their interview process.” Instead, “Oprah dropped by” and welcomed them to the program. A video posted on Instagram showed the students’ hilarious and over-the-top reactions.

How to Apply For the Oprah Winfrey Leaders Scholarship

Prospective high school students can apply for the Oprah Winfrey Leaders Scholarship in the coming months, according to its website. At the moment, application submissions are closed. However, submissions will reopen in time to induct next year’s class ahead of the 2022-2023 school year. The program “supports academically gifted students who demonstrate leadership in their communities.”

Beyond monetary assistance, the program also introduces inducted students to a network of speakers, leaders, and mentors in a variety of fields. “This network is designed to offer insight, inspiration, and mentor support to encourage the OWLS throughout their academic journeys and beyond,” according to the website.

Oprah’s Words of Wisdom

“Welcome to our new network of Oprah Winfrey Scholars,” Oprah said to the Zoom room filled with surprised students from this year’s inaugural class. The 15 students were the first group to receive the scholarship. “I’m thrilled that there are young people like you in the world. You are claiming your stake in the future and have done the work to prepare for a better life for yourself and everybody else.” 

The students were in their Sunday’s best and many had their parents and caretakers by their sides. “You are the future,” Oprah continued. “You are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

According to reports, Oprah was on the selection committee and hand-picked the inaugural class. She told the students that she “read all your stories” and admitted that “it’s an honor to get to know you, and to see all the great work that you’re going to do in the world.”

“The fact that you’re here means you’ve been preparing for a long time,” Oprah said, referencing the application process. “You were willing to be the stand-out even though other people didn’t understand what you were standing for.”

The application process for the Oprah Winfrey’s Leaders Scholarship is a multi-step process that begun at the start of the summer. “This didn’t happen to you because you were lucky,” Oprah explained to the final 15. “You earned it. Everybody’s here because you prepared for this moment, which is my definition of luck. You’ve had people helping you get to this place, but you had to do the work.”

Why Oprah Launched Her New Scholarship Program

Oprah explained why she launched her new program. She told the leaders that “I am where I am today because of education and the support of teachers throughout my life. I am honored to support these students who have shown high achievement in their academic studies, but more importantly a commitment to their communities.”

The 15 students will receive a four-year scholarship to the university of their choice. Many of the students are attending notable schools such as Harvard, Howard University, Columbia, Washington University, Purdue, U.C. Berkeley, New York University, Tennessee State University, Loyola Marymount University, University of Alabama, and Charles Drew University.

“Everything that you’ve done up until this moment has made you worthy of this scholarship and everything else that you have earned and will continue to earn,” Oprah said during her speech.

She concluded, saying that “you are more than interested but determined to use the fullness of yourself, the expression of yourself as a human being for the highest good — not just for yourself but to also do that for other people. You’re the one that we have been waiting for, and I am so proud of you. And congratulations!”

According to the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation website, the foundation has given more than $400 million in grants and donations since 1993. The foundation has over $226.9 million in assets and accrues $12.03 million in income each year.