A Rhodes scholar must exhibit academic excellence, leadership and a commitment to service. To become a Rhodes scholar, students are typically encouraged to apply during their junior year of college.(Getty Images) The Rhodes scholarship draws thousands of applicants each year with its prestigious reputation. Becoming a Rhodes scholar can feel like winning the lottery; it requires not only academic excellence but also a host of character qualities ranging from courage and kindliness to possessing a commitment to others. But Christian Nattiel, a Rhodes scholar studying for an MBA at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and a graduate of the United States Military Academy, says the value of the Rhodes scholarship goes beyond the doors it will open. «Imagine Rhodes scholars come here in their own snow globe, a snow globe of values. Most of us are pretty well-read, we know there is a world outside of our own. But when you get here, you permeate through the glass,» Nattiel says. «It expanded my mind in terms of how I view my job, how I view the world and how I view America.» The Rhodes scholarship supports students around the world in attending Oxford. Each year, 32 American Rhodes scholars are selected through an intensive application and interview process. The scholarship covers tuition, fees, living expenses, flights to and from the U.K., and the fee for health care coverage for at least two years at Oxford, where scholars can earn a second bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in a variety of subjects. The total amount varies, but can reach about $250,000, says Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust. Scholarships are managed by the Rhodes Trust, a British charity created to honor the wishes of the scholarship’s namesake, Cecil Rhodes, a British businessman and politician who established the scholarship in his will. The first scholars arrived at Oxford in 1903, making it the oldest international scholarship. Students should see the scholarship as more than just a springboard, advises Gregory A. Llacer, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships at Harvard College, the undergraduate school within Harvard University. «If you are applying to become a Rhodes scholar because you are interested in the prestige a Rhodes scholarship brings, that’s not a very good place to start,» says Llacer, who is the designated institutional representative for the Rhodes scholarship. «What we’re looking for are students who have concrete ideas about what it is they want to do and why, and they can articulate that well in a narrative that would resonate with a Rhodes scholar selection committee.» The scholarship has continued to promote largely the same values and qualities over the course of its existence, including leadership and public service. But the scholars themselves have changed: In recent years, scholars have increasingly come from varying backgrounds and institutions, Gerson says, and some eligibility criteria have been modified. The process can be intimidating for the thousands of students beginning their applications, but Gerson says, «We know there are qualified Rhodes applicants and applicants who can win this scholarship from hundreds of American universities, including ones that are not famous. We are very eager to see their applications.» While no category of applicants is given preference, the majority of current U.S. Rhodes scholars represent minority groups, and there are more female scholars than male, Gerson notes. In recent years the scholarship’s eligibility requirements have been expanded to include legal permanent residents and DACA recipients, which refers to an immigration program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And internationally, the addition of more countries, jurisdictions and global scholarships have increased access to these awards.
Rhodes Scholarship Application Procedures
To become a Rhodes scholar, students are typically encouraged to apply during their junior year of college, Llacer says. The online application opens in early July each year and closes in early October. States and U.S. territories are grouped into 16 districts. Shortlisted candidates must attend a district reception and interview in November, after which each district committee selects a maximum of two winners. Students should seek to receive an endorsement letter from their institution’s president, dean or other official responsible for graduate fellowships. This endorsement should include a confirmation that the student has satisfied or will satisfy the requirements to receive a bachelor’s degree in the year following the submission of the application, if the student is an undergraduate. Students must be at least 18 years old and not have passed their 24th birthday on Oct. 1 in the year in which they are applying. Applicants must also have completed or will have completed an undergraduate degree from a college or university with a GPA of 3.70 or higher. As part of their application, students must supply an official transcript, a full CV, five to eight letters of reference and a personal statement of no more than 1,000 words. The personal statement often presents the greatest challenge to students going through the intensive application process, Llacer says. Colleges cannot help students with their personal statements, and some institutions, like Harvard, decline to even read them. The statement is a chance for students to stand out, but the stakes are high. «This has to be the best writing sample you’ve ever done,» Llacer says. He advises students to consider, «How do you make yourself as three-dimensional as possible? What is going to be memorable about your story?» He says students should work to link the threads of their life experiences, academic work, research, interests and beyond so that attending Oxford seems like «a logical trajectory.» «The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts,» Llacer advises. Nattiel says his letters of reference strengthened his application. He advises prospective Rhodes scholars to collect letters that each speak to a different element of the selection criteria, so that when presented as a series, the letters create a cohesive application that demonstrates a range of academic and character strengths. «To anybody else wanting to apply to the scholarship, I think they should really look at the criteria. And that sounds obvious. But what I’m really focusing on is, it’s not mechanical. It’s not who’s got the highest GPA and who’s done the coolest research project,» Nattiel says. These things are valuable, he says, but the heart of the Rhodes scholarship is about finding individuals with patience and courage, and qualities like «their self-awareness, their conscientiousness and their ability to listen to other people.» Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations. The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and one of the most highly regarded international scholarships available. First awarded in 1902, these go out to students across the world for postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Education is important regardless of what level you’ve completed or where you’ve completed it. But some institutions and positions carry more clout than others. A Rhodes Scholarship is one of them. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about applying to become a Rhodes Scholar.
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What Is a Rhodes Scholar?
Named after Cecil J. Rhodes, the award dates back to 1902. The scholarship provides financial support for students as they complete degrees, whether that’s a second bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a doctorate degree. Students get their tuition, fees, flights, living expenses and healthcare paid for. While a strong history of academic achievement is important, Rhodes Scholars are also chosen based on their character, leadership skills and how they plan to work for the common good. Some famous Rhodes Scholars from the U.S. include:
- Cory Booker
- Bill Clinton
- Ronan Farrow
- Rachel Maddow
- Susan Rice
- George Stephanopoulos
- Bonnie St. John
The award was only open to male students until 1977. Most U.S. Rhodes Scholars pursue master’s degrees, according to the Rhodes Trust.
Rhodes Scholarship Application Requirements
Applications for the Rhodes Scholarship open every July, with winners announced the Saturday before Thanksgiving. There are six major components of the application process.
You’ll need to live in a country or region that accepts Rhodes Scholars. If you live in the U.S. or a U.S. territory, you can apply. You’ll need to be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. You’ll need to be at least 18 years old and no older than 27 years of age. You must have either completed a degree by the time you apply or you’re on track to complete your degree before entering Oxford. Your GPA must be at least a 3.70 and you must provide an official transcript from your college or university. You’ll also need to show proof of age and nationality, including a birth certificate, passport or other government-issued identification. Your college or university will need to provide an endorsement of your application. This means you can’t apply without your school knowing your intentions. A two-page CV is also required, along with a headshot, academic statement of study, a personal statement and five to eight references.
2. Choice of Oxford Course
The scholarship covers two or sometimes three years of study at Oxford. Your choice depends on what you want to do after your time at Oxford. So you’ll need to choose the course that best fits your career trajectory. These degree combinations depend on your course of study, so choose the one that works for your studies.
3. Personal Statement
How you craft a personal statement depends on your overall goals. Try playing with different formats to find one that best fits your personality. The more you write your truth, the easier time you’ll have writing this. Share your experiences and the “why.” For instance, why did you start studying a specific course? Why did you take specific education routes—not just in college, but before that? Why did you head to a particular college or university? All of these matter to your decision-making, especially as you reflect on them while applying for a Rhodes Scholarship.
4. Reference Letters
When you’re in school, it’s hard to think of professionals that can vouch for you. But you have more resources than you think. Write down anyone who isn’t a friend or family member that you know through school or work. Teachers and professors who have worked with you on projects or courses and know you in a direct setting—not just as a student in class—are a good place to start. Remember you need at least five, but no more than eight, reference letters. Your references should speak not only about your work but your character. You should always ask people if they’re comfortable serving as a reference before assuming they’ll vouch for you. Give your references ample time to complete their letters. Since applications open July 1, you know that’s the soonest you can start. Avoid waiting until early October—the deadline—to call your references about submitting letters. Have a few backups lined up just in case your top picks can’t make it.
5. Social Engagement
If you’re shortlisted as a Rhodes Scholar, you’ll get invited to the social engagement event. This is a reception and a meal in your region. You’ll meet other applicants, panelists and even past Rhodes Scholars. If you’re introverted, this might not be a comfortable time, but having important conversations is a critical part of this step. You may decide to prepare potential conversation topics and how you’ll present yourself in advance, especially if this isn’t a familiar setting.
6. Final Interview
The final interview comes shortly after the social engagement event. You’ll be interviewed by six to nine panelists for 30 to 45 minutes. The panel will ask various questions about what it would mean for you to become a Rhodes Scholar. The answers will be different for every person, so you shouldn’t say merely what you believe they want to hear. Instead, share honestly what this scholarship would mean for you. The panel responds well to authenticity. If you can, prepare by getting a friend, roommate or family member to ask questions based on your personal statement and CV.
How to Know If a Rhodes Scholarship is Right for You
In the United States—including the District of Columbia and U.S. territories—32 students are selected every year as Rhodes Scholars. The incoming class that starts in October 2021 came from nearly 1,000 applicants from almost 300 different colleges. The application process is daunting for anyone applying for the Rhodes Scholarship. So if you don’t have the time and resources to devote to applying, you may decide to skip it. But if you have the experiences, references and future goals that could get you shortlisted, you should consider applying. Being a Rhodes Scholar means you’re exceptionally serious about your education and where you want to go after you graduate. Give it a try if you believe you can see yourself at Oxford and think your career and future will be better for it.
About the Scholarship
The Rhodes Scholarship supports an international cohort of students for at least two years in a degree program at Oxford University. Thirty-two Rhodes Scholars come from the United States each year with other Rhodes scholars coming from countries around the world. Due to a recent expansion of the scholarship, applicants from countries not represented in existing Rhodes constituencies are eligible to apply to the Rhodes Global Scholarship. US, Canadian, and Global Rhodes Scholarship applicants must be nominated by Dartmouth College. The Rhodes Scholarship criteria, set forth in the will of Cecil Rhodes, include academic excellence as the first criteria. Beyond academic achievement, Rhodes Scholars are expected to have «great personal energy, ambition for impact, and an ability to work with others and to achieve one’s goals. In addition, a Rhodes Scholar should be committed to make a strong difference for good in the world, be concerned for the welfare of others, and be conscious of inequities. And finally, a Rhodes Scholar should show great promise of leadership.» The criteria can be summarized as «intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service.» (Quotes taken from the Rhodes Trust, 2015). Please note that Rhodes applicants do not need to be athletes.
All Rhodes applicants should be aware of the Rhodes policy concerning the Personal Statement.
- You are prohibited from receiving any assistance with the content, writing, editing, or review of the Rhodes Personal Statement.
- All applicants are required to read the Personal Statement guidelines on the Rhodes website.
- Applicants from one of the Rhodes eligible countries must apply for the Rhodes Scholarship for that country; all other applicants may apply for the Global Rhodes Scholarship.
The following information primarily applies to applicants from the United States, Canada, and those eligible for a Global Rhodes Scholarship. These individuals must seek a nomination from Dartmouth. Candidates for the United States, Canada, and the Global Rhodes Scholarship must:
- be a U.S. or Canadian citizen or lawful permanent resident, DACA recipient, or citizen of a country not covered by an existing Rhodes Scholarship
- be age 18, but not yet 24, by October 1 of application year or be up to a maximum age of 28 if the first undergraduate degree was earned within the last 2 years
- have academic standing sufficiently advanced to assure completion of a bachelor’s degree before October 1 of year following application
Dartmouth’s UK Awards process is designed to provide applicants with feedback throughout the process. As a first step, read the Rhodes website carefully, including guidance on the types of programs funded and eligibility. Dartmouth endorses students each year for the US, Canadian, and Global Rhodes Scholarships. To learn how to apply for endorsement and see relevant deadlines, including for Early Feedback, read about Dartmouth’s Rhodes Application Process on the Canvas site.
- Sarah Walther ’16
- Miriam Agriculture ’14
- Ridwan Hassen ’15
- Colin Walmsley ’15
- Jonathan Pedde ’14 — M. Phil. in Economics, Oxford
- Joseph Singh ’14 — M. Phil. in International Relations, Oxford
First Steps Interested students are expected to be familiar with the eligibility and selection criteria for these awards. Although the specific criteria vary from program to program, in general, a competitive applicant for these awards should…
- Demonstrate a high esteem for scholarship, potential for leadership, and commitment to public or community service through significant involvement;
- Be able to present a compelling and well-constructed case for their academic program of choice in the UK or Ireland;
- Have high academic achievement (above 3.8 cumulative, unweighted GPA);
- Be able to articulate a clear vision for their academic and professional future (and its benefit to society);
- Be able to secure three to eight in-depth letters of recommendation from credible individuals (e.g. tenure-track professors or research supervisors, public figures, high-ranking university administrators).
Application Procedures The application process for awards that require nomination is long, beginning in April and ending in October. Given the high level of competition for these awards, the ASU nominating committee has high standards and expectations for ASU nominees. The application processes for these scholarships are quite similar, and many students simultaneously apply for multiple British and Irish Scholarships. The final application processes differ as follows:
- The Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, and Churchill Scholarships require University endorsement for application. The application for endorsement follows a strict process, detailed below.
- The Gates-Cambridge scholarship does not require University endorsement. However, applicants should seek guidance and support from ONSA.
- Students or alumni who wish to apply to the Fulbright US Student Program for study in the UK or Ireland should apply through the normal campus process (refer to the ONSA Fulbright Application Guide).
Step 1: Meet with ONSA to Discuss the Application Process Email your resume and unofficial transcript to Dr. Kyle Mox ([email protected]). If you are eligible and competitive, you will be invited to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the application process. If you decide to proceed, you should apply to the Applicant Development Program. Step 2: Identify Prospective Graduate Programs Begin researching graduate programs in the UK or Ireland that both meet the requirements of the award and fit sensibly into your educational trajectory. A good source of information on prospective programs would be your faculty mentors and the Marshall Scholarship site, which lists several useful links. Once you have narrowed down potential graduate programs, begin researching the programs and their faculty in detail. Find recent publications by the faculty on these programs, find recent graduates of the programs, and reach out to the faculty members if you have questions about how your academic and research interests fit their programs. Seeking out ASU graduates who have applied for these awards or attended these programs is insightful. Step 3: Identify Potential Recommenders As early as possible, you should identify potential recommenders. Prior to the April 1 deadline below, you should meet with your potential recommenders to ask them if they would be willing to write a letter on your behalf, should you progress in the application process (NB: the letters need not be submitted by April 15). The Marshall and Mitchell require four letters each and the Rhodes requires five to eight. At least four of the Rhodes and two of the Marshall letters must be from people who taught you as an undergraduate. You may secure more than the minimum number of referees and then ask the campus committee’s guidance for final selection of letters. Step 4: Apply to the ONSA Applicant Development Program Students who intend to apply for nominated awards are expected to participate in the ONSA Applicant Development Program (ADP), which has an application deadline of April 15. This application is available via the ONSA website. Within a week of the deadline, selected candidates will be invited to join the program. Step 5: Prepare Application Materials In preparation for the final selection of the ASU nominees in mid-August, you will draft, revise, and edit your application materials under the guidance of ONSA advisors and your faculty mentors. Participants in the ADP will receive structured, in-depth guidance from April through August. Step 6: Submit ‘Intent to Apply;’ Secure Letters of Recommendations Approximately four weeks before the nomination deadline, applicants will need to formally ask for letters of recommendation and work with their referees to ensure that their letters of recommendation are submitted. By August 1, you will also submit an ‘Intent to Apply’ form, which includes a list of your confirmed recommenders. Step 7: Participate in Nomination Interviews In September, applicants who complete the nomination process will be invited to participate in a selection interview with the ASU nomination committee. Students who are nominated to the Rhodes, Marshall, or Mitchell Scholarships will work with ONSA to finalize and submit their applications prior to the October deadlines.
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Each year, nine Rhodes Scholarships are available for outstanding Australians to study at the University of Oxford. Of the nine scholarships available each year in Australia, each state offers one Scholarship that is awarded by a selection committee of seven members based in the state. In addition, there are three Australia-at-Large Scholarships awarded by a selection committee based in Canberra. This selection committee will consider applicants from the ACT and Northern Territory (‘the Territories’), as well as those candidates nominated by state selection committees. Please note that applicants cannot apply directly to Australia-at-Large. About 100 Rhodes Scholars are selected from around 60 nominated countries around the world every year, with two Global Scholars selected from any other country. There are now over 5,000 Rhodes Scholars worldwide, and alumni connections are growing.
Field of study
To be eligible to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship, candidates must:
- be Australian citizens or Permanent Residents;
- have completed at least two years of schooling at an Australian secondary school;
- upon 1 October 2022, be at least 18 and have not reached your 25th birthday (i.e. you must have been born after 1 October 1997 and on or before 1 October 2004) OR (for older candidates who completed their first undergraduate degree later than usual) you must have not reached your 27th birthday (i.e. have been born after 1 October 1995) AND you have met or will meet the requirements for completion of your first degree on or after 1 July 2021*;
- have completed an Australian bachelors, honours, or masters degree or international equivalent with a proficiency level of first class honours or an equivalent mark of distinction (masters or international qualification) by no later than 30 June 2023 (indicative GPA of >6.75/7 or WAM 80% or equivalent); and
- meet the entry requirements for your proposed course at Oxford (http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions); and
- have not applied for the Rhodes Scholarship more than once before (provided you were unsuccessful in the first attempt).
* A university’s policy determines the date a degree is considered awarded. In ambiguous cases, the decision of the National Secretary is final. ANU students can apply through the Australian Territories panel to be considered for the Australia-at-Large scholarships, or can apply in the state in which they completed at least two years of secondary schooling, in which case you should contact that state panel for more information . If you meet the eligibility criteria for more than one Rhodes Constituency, you must only apply to one. You should apply to the Rhodes Constituency with which you have the greatest connection Competition for Rhodes Scholarships is extremely competitive and candidates selected for interview are of outstanding quality. Before candidates submit an application, they should realistically assess their ability to meet all of the qualification and eligibility criteria and to compete at this elite level. Entry to Oxford is also extremely competitive.
The Financial benefits range from AUD 75,000 to AUD 125,000 and includes the following
- All Oxford University and College fees
- The University application fee
- A personal stipend (2020 £15,141 per annum)
- Private health insurance
- One economy class airfare to Oxford at the start of the scholarship and one economy flight back to the student’s home country at the conclusion of the scholarship
How to apply
Applications open on Friday 1 July 2022 and close at 23:59 AEST on Friday 09 September 2022. In addition to the completed application form, you need:
- your birth certificate or passport confirming that you meet the age criterion
- any additional official documentation required to prove your Australian citizenship or permanent residency
- evidence you have completed at least two years of schooling at an Australian secondary school
- your academic record (including original academic transcripts)
- an academic statement of study
- a personal statement
- a full curriculum vitae
- details of 5 referees (of which 3 are academic)
Shortlisting and interviews will be scheduled in October and November 2022.
Candidates are required to contact their referees to confirm that they are able to submit a reference by the due date, then to enter their referees’ contact details into the on-line Application Form. Please note that once the referee details have been typed in and saved to the system, an email will be automatically sent to referees with instructions on how to submit their reference on-line. The system will then attach the referee reports to the candidate’s application for viewing by the Selection Committee members. Please note that we do not expect to receive hard copy references. The Australia-at-Large administrator does not contact referees to seek reports — it is up to each candidate to check with the administrator that all their reports have been received. All referee reports must be received by the due date. The Selection Committee may not be in a position to make use of reports received after this date.
Steps to follow to apply for an Australia-at-Large Rhodes Scholarship
- Read the attached, detailed ‘Information for Candidates’ document
- Read the information on the Rhodes House website. You’ll see that the Application Form, Guidelines for Candidates and further details on the selection criteria and how to apply is also available on that site.
- View the Oxford University Graduate Studies Prospectus or Undergraduate Prospectus and information on admissions.
- Contact the Territories Secretary to check your eligibility to apply for the Rhodes.
For information regarding applying through the Territories for an Australia-at-Large Rhodes Scholarship, please contact: Catherine Frieman and Anna Oldmeadow
Rhodes Scholarships in Australia Email: [email protected]
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