It's a scholarship, for $500 and will be awarded to a member of MetaFilter attending college this upcoming fall, working towards an undergraduate degree at a university anywhere in the world.
In order to maintain the current quality of the site, I've carefully considered how I'm going about this, so it doesn't disrupt things in any way. Today is April 15th, so consider any member that has joined between July 1999 and April 14, 2001 eligible to apply and get the award. You'll be judged on a combination of things, but mostly on your previous contributions to the site and an essay question. I'll take entries up until 11:59 PM PDT on Tuesday, May 15th, 2001. You must be enrolled or accepted into a college for the fall of 2001, and don't worry about typical criteria like GPA or your extra curricular activities, because they don't matter.
You can now view entries and vote on them here. Any member that joined MetaFilter between July 1999 and April 14, 2001 will get to cast a single vote for each entrant, on a scale that decides who most deserves the award (the dates are set so that people don't sign up new accounts just to vote). The person with the most votes 2 weeks later will get cut a check this summer for $800, to be used on books, supplies, and/or tuition this fall. The runner-ups will get $400 and $308.67 respectively.
How do I sign up?
If you're graduating high school this spring, or in your 1st-3rd year of undergrad, and have been a member of MetaFilter, simply fill out the entry form linked below. You won't get to edit anything after submittal, so make sure the essay is tight before you enter. Any threads or comments after April 14th won't count, so don't bother entering and posting up a storm because it won't help.
Application for the MetaFilter scholarship
(if you're not a member or if you're a recent member, you won't be able to access the application, but it contains basics about what school the applicant is attending, the major, and the following essay question.)
So far, the donations have totalled almost $1,100, and I've spent around $600 on server hardware and networking equipment. I've always wanted to endow a scholarship, since I remember applying for many $250-500 ones when I transferred to a four year college. I recall a friend at the time winning a local quilting club's art scholarship, and how much $300 meant to him back then. It's not enough to pay for school, but it's goes a long way towards buying books for a semester.
With all the recent press the site has gotten, a lot of credit for the site has been placed on me, and I'm not entirely comfortable with that. The truth is, it's a community that makes this place great, not just me. The recent donations have also prompted me to think of ways of giving the money back to the people that helped create a site worth visiting. So now I want to use the media spotlight for something good, to award at least one person here that's helped contribute to the success of the community, and help their future path.
And if you feel like donating anything specifically for this award, go to this special donation page (donations are closed), and anything submitted will be added to the scholarship fund to be given away. I'll either up the total or perhaps offer lower 2nd and 3rd place scholarships (if it's more than $500, I'll add 2nd and 3rd place awards).
(4/24) - There is currently almost $500 in paypal donations, over $600 from amazon, in addition to the original $500. So, I'm thinking that there will be at least $1500 to be given away (after fees are deducted), and the winner will definitely be getting more than $500 (maybe as high as a thousand bucks?). There haven't been too many entries, but there's still plenty of time and I'll be sure to remind everyone a week before the deadline.
(4/17) - with $500 in the new donation til, $275 in paypal donations, and the original $500, there is now $1250 to be split up (though it'll be less, due to 15% fees on the amazon money). The response has been great, thanks to everyone that chipped in.
(4/16) - With recent a recent paypal donation, the grand total is already over $500, but every little bit helps. If this keeps going, the top prize could be $1,000, and the 2nd and 3rd place applicants could get $250-500. Thanks everyone for the emails and links, the more people that know about it, the more potential donations we have.
Thanks everyone for participating in the site, and students, for taking part in this, and if you'd like to discuss any part of it, there's a thread about it here.