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The Alumni Distinguished Scholarship (ADS) Competition is one of the oldest of its kind in the nation. For 69 years, the ADS tradition has helped thousands of high-achieving students find a home at Michigan State University.

Scholarship awards

Approximately 120 scholarships will be awarded following the competition, and ADS participants will also be considered for additional scholarships that will be awarded to hundreds of students later in the spring. The Alumni Distinguished Scholarship itself is awarded to the top 15 candidates based on all parts of the competition as well as a holistic review of the application. Renewable over eight semesters, the scholarships include tuition, fees, room and board, and $1,000 annually.

Competition dates and deadlines

Invitations to compete in the examination were sent to the most high-achieving admitted students who applied for admission by Nov. 1, 2023. The competition includes multiple components (short online essays, in-person exam and Zoom interviews for the finalists) to be considered for the scholarships.

Registration and payment deadline: Jan. 8, 2024 

Online essay completion: Jan. 10, 2024, from 6-9 p.m. ET  

You must submit your online essays between 6 and 9 p.m. ET through the submission link that will be emailed to registrants on January 10, 2024. The two required essays will have a word count of no more than 200 words. The essay prompts will not be given in advance and will be available upon login. Online essay submission is required to advance in the competition. If you do not submit your online essays during the submission window, your registration will be canceled. Participants should plan for one hour to complete this task.

The two in-person exam dates are: 

  • Jan. 26, 2024
  • Feb. 2, 2024

In-person activities will include the exam, academic presentations, campus tours, several scholarship drawings and opportunities to meet with faculty, staff and future classmates.

Check-in will be held in the lobby of the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on MSU's beautiful campus. Visitors to campus can also choose to stay at a variety of local hotels.

Participation cost and registration

ADS participants must submit a $30 nonrefundable competition fee. This fee includes the cost of the examination, as well as lunch for the registrant and guest(s). Please note that there is limited space for this invitation-only event, and registrations are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Register for ADS

In-person schedule of activities

Two dates to choose from:
  • Jan. 26, 2024
  • Feb. 2, 2024
Activities (all in Eastern Time)
  • 8:30-9:15 a.m. — Check-in at the lobby of the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
  • 9:30-10:45 a.m. — ADS exam
  • 9:30-10:45 a.m. — Parent/supporter program
  • 11 a.m. — Lunch and residence hall tour
  • 1 p.m. — Attend academic session 1
  • 2:15 p.m. — Attend academic session 2
  • 3:30 p.m. — Honors College presentation for students only (scholarship drawings will take place during this session, and you must be present to win)
  • 3:30-4:15 p.m. — Parent/supporter coffee hour
  • 4:15 p.m. — Resource Fair and College Ave

Exam instructions

The ADS exam is a 1-hour, multiple-choice test covering a wide range of knowledge. It is unlikely that anyone will be completely familiar with all of the questions asked, and it will draw on knowledge accumulated over all years of schooling. There is no study guide for the test and no particular way to prepare for it (although students who are invited to participate are already prepared for it, as demonstrated through their educational excellence thus far).

What to expect
  • ADS examination reporting time is no later than 9:30 a.m.
  • Please use the restroom before you get in line. Once you have been admitted to the room, you may not leave without permission.
  • In addition to your photo ID, your ADS name tag is your admittance pass to the testing room. You must wear it prominently throughout the test.
  • If testing accommodations (i.e., extra time, separate testing room, reader, etc.) are required, please email no later than Jan. 5, 2024. The approval process can take up to 14 days, so please plan accordingly.
What to bring
  • To be admitted to the test, you are required to present a photo ID (in addition to your ADS name tag). Acceptable forms of ID are an original, current (valid) ID issued by a city/state/federal government (like a driver's license or state ID) or your school ID.
  • Items not permitted in the testing room include purses, bags, food, drinks, calculators, smartwatches, scratch paper, pens and pencils, digital watches and printed material.
  • Pencils will be provided and tissues will be available if needed.
  • Coats will be stored in the back of the testing room.
  • Please note that MSU is not responsible for any lost, stolen or damaged items.
Accommodations and scheduling issues
  • All testing accommodations must be coordinated through the Office of Admissions at no later than Jan. 5, 2024. The process can take up to 14 days to complete, so please plan accordingly.
  • Scheduling issues must be coordinated through the Office of Admissions at or (517) 355-8332.

Competition timeline

Jan. 8, 2024
Deadline to register and pay the $30 nonrefundable competition fee 

Jan. 10, 2024
ADS short essays — participants will write and submit their online essays through the submission link that will be provided to registrants 

Jan. 26 or Feb. 2, 2024
ADS examination and event; activities include academic presentations, a resource fair, residence hall tours and scholarship drawings 

Late February
All ADS participants are notified of their status; virtual interviews are scheduled and conducted with finalists 

Early March
Scholarship recipients are selected and notified about their awards


If you have any additional questions, please reach out to us at or (517) 355-8332.