Your Guide To Applying For The A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholars Program At Columbia

April 4, 2024

By Kymani Hayden

Applications for the next cohort of A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholars are open and we have answers to your questions about the program and application process. 

Every year since 2013, members of the Uptown community have applied and been chosen to become A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholars at Columbia University. The Bundles Scholars program provides local individuals with access to Columbia’s academic resources for three years, in order to help them as they work on a project or develop a specific skill. 

Originally the Columbia Community Scholars program, it was renamed for journalist, historian, and Columbia University trustee emeritus A’Lelia Bundles in 2020. In 2024, the program announced it had partnered with the university’s Incite Institute to offer program participants several new opportunities and enhancements, including greater funding, mentorship, skill-building, and networking.


The application period for the A’Lelia Bundles Scholars program is now open and will close on May 13, 2024, at 11:59 pm. Below, we run through the most commonly asked questions about the program and share how you can get involved. 

What kind of projects do people work on as Bundles Scholars?

Many Bundles Scholars work on developing nonprofit organizations, expanding existing organizations, curating exhibitions through art collecting and archiving, and some work on written projects. Other scholars use the library’s audiovisual resources, conduct research, and audit classes to expand their knowledge about a specific topic, usually with a connection to the community.

Who is eligible to be a Bundles Scholar?

Bundles Scholars must live in Manhattan north of 96th Street. Here’s the list of eligible zip codes: 10025, 10026, 10027, 10029, 10030, 10031, 10032, 10033, 10034, 10035 (including Randall’s Island), 10037, 10039, 10040. You also need a high school diploma, GED/TASC high school equivalency, or work experience equivalent to a high school degree.


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What kind of things will I have access to as a Bundles Scholar?

As a Bundles Scholar, you’ll be able to audit classes around the university. Auditing typically involves sitting in the classroom without participating in the discussions, but also doesn’t involve taking exams or completing assignments. You’ll also have access to Columbia’s numerous libraries, including check-out privileges and access to online resources. Bundles Scholars are also given Columbia email addresses and ID cardsl.

Additional benefits as part of the Bundles Scholars program partnership with Incite:

  • Access to enhanced financial and administrative support to grow projects, including potential fiscal sponsorship.
  • Funding opportunities for developing joint projects with other Bundles Scholars (past and present) as well as with other members of the Columbia community.
  • Co-creation and development of skill-building short courses and seminars.
  • Participation in the Incite community, which is composed of academics, artists, activists, and other area specialists.
  • Dedicated mentorship in the development of a project.

How do I apply?

You can get all the details about applying from the application information page, but here are the highlights:

  • Your application will include an online form, a résumé or CV, a high school or college transcript, a personal narrative, a project description, and two letters of recommendation.
  • An unofficial transcript is fine for your application. If you didn’t finish high school, a written explanation of work experience equivalent to a high school degree is also acceptable.
  • Use your résumé or CV to highlight your professional accomplishments.
  • Your personal narrative (1-2 pages) provides space for you to explain any experience, connections, interest, and accomplishments that you think are relevant to your application and aren’t covered by your resume.
  • With your project proposal (1-2 pages), you can lay out your goals for your time as a Bundles Scholar, identify resources that you think will be particularly helpful, and explain any community connections or benefits your project might have. The most important thing for your project proposal is to research and identify that Columbia has the specific kind of resources that will help you along the way.
  • Your two letters of recommendation should come from people who know you and can speak to your commitment, expertise, or enthusiasm for your project. 
  • Feel free to submit additional materials that you think will strengthen your application.

Use this web form to submit your application before 11:59 pm on May 13, 2024. 

What happens if I get accepted?

If you’re accepted into the Bundles Scholars program, you’ll need to provide documentation of your residency in Upper Manhattan in the form of a current residential lease, utility bill, or another official document with your name on it. You’ll also need to submit a sealed, official transcript from your high school or college if you submitted an unofficial transcript with your application.

Related: Interview: A’lelia Bundles Great-Great-Grand Daughter Of Madam C. J. Walker.

Then it’ll be time for onboarding! You’ll meet with program staff to walk you through what you’ll need to do to audit classes and use the library, and we’ll help you get set up to succeed. Part of that is making sure you’re able to comply with Columbia’s immunization requirements, as well as completing online training required of all members of the university community. But then you’ll be all set to audit classes, check books out from the library, go to university events, and more.

Scholar, HWM Editor and small business owner, Lil Nickelson stated, “I was a cohort in The A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholars program at Columbia University from 2016 through 2018 that concluded with a Wellness Dialogue with another cohort, Vivian Williams-Kurutz, director of the Harlem Wellness Center. It was a life-changing experience that helped me grow as a person in the 21st century striving to lead a healthier lifestyle. I am now teaching other people how to shop and cook fresh ingredients to make healthy meals at home.”

Where can I learn more?

Head to the Bundles Scholars information page. Reach out to BundlesScholars@columbia.edu with any additional specific questions.

What if this doesn’t feel like the right fit? Are there other programs I can check out?

Absolutely! If you’re interested in auditing classes, but not working on a project, check out the Community Auditing Program. There are also tons of events on and around campus that are open to the public. Head to the Neighbors event listings to see just some of them.


Know someone who would be a great fit for the Bundles Scholars, or interested in applying yourself? Now’s your chance: applications for the 12th cohort are open until the end of the day on May 13, 2024.

Photo credit: Lil Nickelson (second from left) Source.


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