Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment?
George Mason University, along with its partners, National Geographic and the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (the National Zoo), are excited to welcome students attending the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment (WYSE) to Washington, D.C.

The Summit is a hands-on, interactive program that provides America’s highest achieving high school students with an interest in the environment, conservation and sustainability, and with the desire to explore careers in the fields of environmental science, conservation, policy, law and engineering, with a remarkable opportunity.

Students take an active role in the curriculum through exclusive behind-the-scenes explorations of facilities and laboratories of the Smithsonian and National Zoo, and through exclusive field visits, special access to, and activities with, researches, scientists, directors and staff. Students are led in small groups by faculty advisors who are local experts in these fields and have extensive experience in conservation and the environment.

The Washington Youth Summit on the Environment is held on George Mason University’s state-of-the-art campus, enabling attending students to experience life as a typical college student and reside in comfortable, modern, fully air-conditioned dorm rooms with wireless internet connections. Students will receive one college credit for their successful completion of the Summit, with transcripts from George Mason University that can be sent to any college or university where the Delegate seeks admission.

Who is “Our Partner?”

The National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization committed to exploring and protecting our planet. The Society fund hundreds of research and conservation projects around the world each year and inspire new generations through our education initiatives and resources. For more information, visit

The National Zoo
Always free of charge and open 364 days a year, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is one of Washington D.C.’s, and the Smithsonian’s, most popular tourist destinations, with more than 2 million visitors from all over the world each year. The Zoo instills a lifelong commitment to conservation through engaging experiences with animals and the people working to save them.

Founded in 1889, the Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum and research complex. Today, the Zoo sits on 163 acres in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park and is home to more than 1,500 animals across 300 different species.

The Zoo’s commitment to conservation, research, and education extends to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, located in nearby Front Royal, Virginia. SCBI scientists and animal care experts conduct veterinary and reproductive research to save wildlife and habitats for some of the world’s most endangered animals on the sprawling 3,200-acre campus.

How are students selected for the summit?
Students must be nominated or invited to represent their school as a National Youth Delegate. Nominations may be made by high school educators and selected by George Mason University through information we receive about students interests and/or academic ability from college entrance exams such as SAT or ACT, or through data from NRCCUA (National Research Center for College and University Administrators), which conduct high school interest/career surveys. Educators are invited to fill out a nomination form and students will be contacted to confirm their nomination. Students must be in good academic standing, with a minimum 3.5 GPA, have a demonstrated interest in environmental conservation, and be willing to represent their school and state as a National Youth Delegate.

What does tuition cover?
Tuition to attend the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment includes the following:

  • Six days of environmental conservation and leadership skills development, including hands-on activities, unique and special access to facilities and laboratories, and experts and leaders, and distinguished speakers
  • A dedicated Faculty Advisor/Mentor for the week
  • On-campus residence in state-of-the-art college dorms and facilities
  • Transportation to and from airport
  • Transportation in private motor coaches to all off-site events and activities
  • Breakfasts, some lunches, and dinners during the Summit (students should bring approximately $15/day for two lunches during the Summit)
  • National Youth Delegates Dinner and Gala with distinguished speakers and guests
  • All ticket and entrance fees for activities, admissions and fees
  • Certificate of completion
  • One college credit issued upon successful completion
  • Night chaperone staff who are present on-site throughout the night at student dormitories
  • 24-hour staff to address any unexpected emergencies
  • 24-hour conference hotline available to parents and students for questions and emergency situations

Tuition to attend the Conference is $2150. A minimum deposit of $250 is due when students register for the conference, and a tuition payment plan is also available. There is no cost for students to accept their nomination and partial need-based scholarships are available.

*College credit will be issued by George Mason University. Credit is issued on a pass/fail basis, and its transferability is dependent upon the policy and discretion of the college to be attended.

Can a student apply if they are not nominated or invited?
The Washington Youth Summit on the Environment will accept applications directly from students for a select number of spots. Students must demonstrate academic excellence; leadership, experience and interest in conservation or the sciences; and submit additional support materials. Applications will be reviewed by George Mason University Admissions staff and conference faculty. For students to self-select, click here.

How many students will participate in the summit?
Only 250 National Youth Delegates will be selected to represent their schools and states at the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment. Students must register early to secure their position at the summit as more students are nominated than spots available.

What will students do during the summit?
National Youth Delegates will participate in hands-on, experiential learning through decision-making simulations that challenge them to solve problems and explore the creative, practical, and ethical tensions inherent in conservation and the environment.

The experiential portion of the program is complemented by speakers who are themselves leaders in the field. These presenters range from prominent scientists to directors of programs and from researchers to recent college graduates already successful in the field. Speakers will engage participants in discussions on the topics explored in an energy-charged role-playing experiences, taking the National Youth Delegates far beyond a traditional classroom experience. The conference will also offer a handful of opportunities to take advantage of visiting the nation’s capital, with select tours of historic sites, as well as the chance to network with other outstanding future leaders.

During these intensive educational programs, students will be led in small groups by faculty advisors who are themselves experts in the field and have extensive experience in conservation and the environment. In addition, the program is supervised by our resident faculty of esteemed professors in environmental sciences. The conference will culminate in an evening with our distinguished speakers and special guests during the National Youth Delegates Dinner. Students will have an opportunity to network with the nation’s top professionals in this special event. Students will receive one college credit for their successful completion of the conference.

Where will students reside during the conference?
All students will reside in state-of-the-art residence hall rooms on the campus of George Mason University. All rooms are air-conditioned, have a wireless internet connection, and residence halls are staffed by conference faculty and monitored by adult, campus staff 24 hours a day.

How safe and secure is the program?
The safety of our students is at the forefront of all Summit activities. National Youth Delegates will be led in small groups, and the resident staff/faculty (adult) to student ratio will be approximately 1:10. Students will be supervised both on campus and during all excursions and off-site activities. While National Youth Delegates do have opportunities for independent time, all students will remain in small groups with adult staff at designated meeting spots. The conference faculty is comprised of two Program Directors and a team of trained educators both at the secondary and collegiate level. All National Youth Delegates must reside in Mason’s secure residence halls that are monitored at all times by adult faculty members. Parents and guardians can reach a member of our team at any time during the conference.

How do students travel to the conference?
WYSE staff members will be stationed at Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA) and Washington Dulles International (IAD) airports from noon to 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Sunday- the arrival day- to meet students when they arrive in Washington, D.C. All students should schedule their flight to arrive within this window at DCA or IAD. Once students arrive they will be shuttled to George Mason University’s Fairfax campus.

If you are coming directly to campus, please plan to arrive between noon and 4 p.m.

The Summit concludes by 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday. Shuttles will transport students to both Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) with ample time to make their departing flights. These flights should be scheduled to depart after 2 p.m.

Attending the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment is an amazing opportunity, and it requires a commitment of your time and resources. Many families are unable to pay for the entire conference themselves, and fundraising is an excellent way to make up the difference. To be a successful fundraiser, you will need to be resourceful. This will require you to sacrifice your free time and to plan in advance.

To help you, we have put together the National Youth Delegate Fundraising Guide  designed to assist students is raising the necessary funds for the conference. This guide will help you be a more successful leader and will ultimately yield a greater sense of satisfaction in the end.

Remember, start early, plan ahead and use all of your resources. Good luck and have fun!

The deadline for the 2020 Scholarship Application is December 7, 2019. Notification of scholarship awards will be sent out December 13, 2019 via email.

There are a limited number of partial, need-based scholarships available for qualified students. Scholarship applicants must submit a High School transcript, must demonstrate financial need, and all applicants will be required to submit a copy of the most recent 1040 Federal Income Tax Form from the individual who claimed them as a dependent. Scholarship amounts are $500, $1000, $1400, and $1700, and are applied as partial tuition waivers. No full scholarships are available for the summit.

Students wishing to apply for scholarships should upload the following information by using our online form:

  • Statement on why the student would like to attend WYSE, including why he/she is deserving of a scholarship
  • An unofficial copy of your high school transcript
  • Your most recently filed Federal Income Tax Return, Form 1040

*Federal income tax return, Form 1040, filed by the individual by whom the student was claimed as a dependent.  Please obscure or remove any Social Security Numbers.

If you cannot upload the documents for any reason, please fax them to (703)-993-2631.

Is there a payment plan?
Yes, we do offer a payment plan.

Cancellation Policy
Since the hosting and operation of the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment requires extensive advanced planning, costs are incurred by the Summit long before the start of the program. Accordingly the following Cancellation and Refund Policy will apply:

For cancellations prior to February 1, 2020, you may receive a full refund. For cancellations after February 1 through April 1, 2020 there is a $250.00 cancellation fee. There are no refunds issued after April 1, 2020. Students must submit all refund requests in writing to:

George Mason University
The Washington Youth Summit on the Environment
4400 University Drive
MS 3A4
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444

The full registration fee is due by May 15, 2020.

By registering for the WYSE, the student and his/her parent/guardian agree to abide by the Code of Conduct. Further, should the Contract be violated, you understand that the student will be sent home immediately at the student’s expense.