PayPal co-founder, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager Peter Thiel has begun accepting applications for his controversial “20 under 20″ fellowship program for the 2014 class. Those students interested in participating have until December 31, 2013 to enter for a chance at the two-year program.

At first glance, the Thiel Fellowship looks to be an appealing opportunity for young adults to get funding to follow their dreams, but it comes with a big catch: abandon your education. This initiative started based on Thiel’s belief that entrepreneurs can be successful without having to pursue an educational degree.

Like previous classes, the newest one will feature 20 of the brightest students seeking funding and mentorship to help tackle hard problems and develop big ideas. Each participant will receive a grant of $100,000 as part of the fellowship, but will be asked to leave formal education to pursue their venture full-time.

To date, there have been more than 60 people who have gone through the program and pursued projects in fields such as nuclear and alternative energy, mobile health, robotics, biotechnology, 3D printing, synthetic biology, public health, education, gaming, data storage, and more. These are the entrepreneurs looking to build the next social network or a photo-sharing app. It’s all about solving complex real-world problems.

According to the program’s Vice President of Grants, Mike Gibson, this year’s process will enable applicants to specify whether they’re interested in internship opportunities within the Thiel Fellowship mentor network:

During the application review, our mentors will likewise be able to indicate whether they’d be interested in interviewing an applicant for an internship or job opportunity, whether that applicant gets a fellowship or not. Since we can only award around twenty fellowship spots each year, this will allow us to create real and lasting connections with a much broader pool of talented young people.

Besides the chance at an internship, those chosen will receive mentorship from entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, thinkers, and innovators. Thiel Fellows will spend the next two years away from academia and focused on creating “innovative startups, technologies, and nonprofits.”

As the name suggests, the program is open to any student under the age of 20. Teams of up to four can also apply for a spot, but all members must be younger than 20. The application deadline is December 31, 2013 with the selected candidates named in spring 2014.

Thiel Fellowship “20 under 20″ application

Photo credit: Ken Yeung