Frequently Asked Questions Old

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, researchers, 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. Students will receive one college credit for their successful completion of the Summit, and may order their official  George Mason University transcript to be sent to any college or university in which the Delegate may enroll.

Who are our Partners?

The National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization committed to exploring and protecting our planet. The Society funds hundreds of research and conservation projects around the world each year and inspires 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 (SCBI), 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. Nominations may be made by high school educators or alumni of WYSE. Students are invited by George Mason University through information we receive about students’ interests and academic ability via college entrance exams such as SAT or ACT, or through data from NRCCUA (National Research Center for College and University Administrators), which conducts high school interest/career surveys. The student will be notified and given the opportunity to accept his/her invitation. Students must be in good academic standing: a minimum 3.5 GPA; a demonstrated interest in environmental science; and be willing to represent their school and state as a National Youth Delegate.

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 spaces. Students must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, experience and interest in conservation or the sciences. Applications will be reviewed by George Mason University Admissions staff and WYSE faculty. To self-nominate, click here.

How many students will participate in the Summit?
250 National Youth Delegates will be selected to represent their schools and states at the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment.

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.

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

What is the tuition cost and what does it cover?

Tuition to attend the Summit is $2,150. The online payment plan divides the tuition into equal monthly installments beginning with the day you register for WYSE.

The full tuition is due by the end of May.

Tuition covers:

  • 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 facilities
  • Transportation to/from Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Reagan National Airport (DCA)
  • Deluxe motor coach transportation between program locations
  • Breakfasts, most lunches, and dinners during the Summit. Students need to bring ~$30 to cover two out-of-pocket lunches.
  • WYSE Dinner and Gala with distinguished speakers and guests
  • Full-time conference counselor to assist students with sensitive issues, away from home adjustments, or private matters
  • Night chaperone staff to monitor residence halls during the night
  • 24-hour staff to address emergencies
  • 24-hour telephone hotline available to parents and students for emergencies
  • Certificate of completion
  • One college credit*

*College credit is issued by George Mason University. Upon successful completion of WYE, student will earn one general elective, college credit. This credit is issued on a pass/fail basis. The transferability of this credit is the determination of the college/university to be attended.

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 6, 2019. Notification of scholarship awards will be sent out prior to December 13, 2019 via email.

A limited number of partial, need-based scholarships are available for qualified students. Scholarship amounts are $500, $1000, $1400, and $1700, and are applied as partial tuition waivers. No full scholarships are available for the Summit.

To apply for a scholarship, students must upload the following information via our online form:

  • Statement explaining your desire to attend the Summit and the reason a scholarship is necessary
  • An unofficial copy of your high school transcript
  • The most recently filed Federal Income Tax Return (Form 1040) filed by the individual by whom the student is claimed as a dependent.  Please obscure or remove any Social Security Numbers.

The safety of our students is our staff and faulty’s highest priority. National Youth Delegates will be led in small groups, and the resident staff/faculty (professional) to student ratio will be approximately 1:10. Students will be supervised 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 Summit 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.

Students are required to submit health and emergency information prior to attending the Summit.

How do students travel to the Conference?
WYSE staff members will meet students at Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Dulles International Airport (IAD) from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on arrival day. Each student should schedule their flight to arrive at DCA or IAD between 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., ET. Students arriving within this time frame will be shuttled to George Mason University’s Fairfax, VA campus.

If you are coming directly to campus, plan to arrive between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m., ET.

WYSE concludes by 11 a.m., ET on the final day of the Summit. Shuttles will transport students to Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Dulles International Airport (IAD) with ample time to make their departing flights. The last shuttle leaves campus at 11:30 a.m., ET. All flights should be scheduled to depart after 2 p.m., ET.

Cancellation Policy
The Washington Youth Summit on the Environment requires extensive planning and costs are incurred well before the start of the program. All cancellations and refund requests must be submitted in writing to:

Accordingly, the following Cancellation and Refund Policy applies:

  • For cancellations prior to February 3, 2020, you will receive a full refund
  • For cancellations after February 3 – April 1, 2020 there is a $250.00 cancellation fee*
    • *This deadline has been extended to April 15, 2020
  • There are no refunds issued after April 1, 2020

If you have additional questions/concerns, please contact the WYSE program staff at telephone (703) 993-5010 (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., ET) or email

By registering for WYSE, the student and their 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.