Students apply for Rhodes scholarships because it provides a chance to study at Oxford University in England in almost any field. The all-expense-paid scholarship is awarded to 80 scholars each year, with 32 students from the United States. The criteria for a Rhodes scholar include academic excellence, energy to pursue achievement, a moral character that seeks to lead others, and devotion to the service of others. Students across the globe can learn how to become a Rhodes scholar to pursue and realize their academic dreams.
Step I: Preparing to Apply for Rhodes Scholarship
Live in a country that has been allocated Rhodes Scholarships. There are only 14 locations where citizens are eligible for the Rhodes Scholarship. The chosen countries have varied some over time. New locations are being considered for the scholarship. Currently the Rhodes Scholarship is only available for those who live in:
- Hong Kong
- Jamaica and the Commonwealth Caribbean
- New Zealand
- Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland)
- United States
Meet the age requirement. You must be a minimum of 18 years old to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship. In most countries, you cannot be older than 24 by October 1 of the year following your selection. A few countries may extend this age limit to 25 or even to 28. Check with your home country’s guidelines.
- The Rhodes Scholarship maintains a list of country-specific information here: http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/about/rhodes-countries.
Cultivate academic excellence. The Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world. Mr. Rhodes set “literary and scholastic attainments” as the first criteria for the scholarship in his will. You will be required to submit your academic transcripts, and you will want to make sure they look stellar.
- Take advanced classes.
- Double or triple up on majors.
- Get really good grades. Aim for a 4.0 GPA.
- While there is no minimum GPA to become a Rhodes scholar, the organization says that “if it is unlikely that you would be admitted to one of the very most selective U.S. graduate programs in your primary field, it is unlikely that you will win a Rhodes Scholarship.”
Develop an interest in a sport. Rhodes mentions using “one’s talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports” as one of the qualities of a Rhodes scholar.
- If you have a disability that prevents you from participating in sports, don’t worry. The idea is to demonstrate that you have extraordinary energy and drive. You can participate in other extracurricular activities, such as debate, drama, or chess club, to demonstrate that you are pursuing using your talents “to the full.”
Provide service to your community. This service element of a Rhodes scholar is crucial. Years of volunteer work, or other kinds of service to others, contribute a fundamental piece to winning applications. Padding your resume by suddenly volunteering is frowned upon
- Establish a record of service early in your high school career.
- Protection and sympathy for the weak is specifically mentioned by Mr. Rhodes in his will. Service that emphasizes community engagement for marginalized groups, such as volunteering at a homeless shelter or serving elderly shut-ins, will demonstrate your commitment in this area.
Be ready to complete your degree within the year. A person who wins the Rhodes Scholarship must have completed or be expected to complete an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution by October 1 in the year following selection. If this is not the case, you will be ineligible for the scholarship.
- Scholarship offers cannot usually be deferred.
Step II: Writing the Essay
Develop relationships with your professors. Because you will need to have five to eight letters of recommendation, developing good relationships with your professors is crucial. Take special efforts to work with your professors, teachers and mentors. They can not only help you by writing letters of recommendation, but they can also help guide your growth toward your scholastic goals.
- Visit your professor’s office hours.
- Be engaged and respectful in class.
- Get a cup of coffee with them.
Develop your work. The personal essay for the Rhodes Scholarship is no simple matter. This essay will need to be highly crafted in order to show how capable you are. Make certain that you have fully developed your essay by outlining and making many drafts of your work.
- Brainstorm ideas before you outline. By using techniques like thought webs and diagrams, you can help yourself expand your ideas.
- Make an outline. This will enable you to carefully structure your essay, before you sit down to write. It can help you to see the big picture in your personal essay.
- Write many drafts. Don’t be satisfied with just a rough draft, first draft, and final copy. That is not enough. You may need to write fifteen to twenty versions of your essay before you get it just right.
Address all necessary topics. In less than one thousand words, you must craft a personal statement which convinces the selection committee you’re worth an interview. While there are many different ways to address the personal statement, there are some points each candidate should touch on. An applicant needs to:
- Discuss your academic interests and passions.
- Show how your experiences have led you to apply, and where this experience at Oxford will take you.
- Showcase your genuine voice; topics and styles vary widely among candidates.
Tie everything together. Avoid writing a resume-essay. Don’t just list your achievements. Have an overarching theme or larger argument to center all your achievements and experiences together. This will give your essay shape and make it more engaging.
- If your essay feels like all you’re doing is saying “And then….and then….and then…”, your essay is probably not very engaging.
- Make sure to touch on what makes you unique, why you deserve the scholarship, and the larger motivations that drive your study and work.
Explain why you want to study at Oxford, and what you would do there. The application committee wants to know about you, your plans, and why you would like to study at Oxford. This essay gives you the opportunity to weave a narrative for the selection committee, demonstrating why you are such a stellar candidate. It is important that you give a clear statement of what you wish to study at Oxford and why, and to connect it to this narrative.
- Make certain that you are specific in this portion. If your essay merely reads like you wish to study at Oxford because it would be “cool” or “fun,” you are unlikely to succeed.
- Look through the websites of Oxford’s various colleges. See if you can find a faculty member with whom you would be interested in working. Referencing specific programs, courses, and faculty members will show that you have done your research and are prepared for rigorous academic study.
Conclude your essay with statement of authenticity. It must read: “I attest that this personal statement is my own work and is wholly truthful. Neither it nor any earlier draft has been edited by anyone other than me, nor has anyone else reviewed it to provide me with suggestions to improve it. I understand that any such editing or review would disqualify my application.” Follow this with your signature.
Applying for Rhodes Scholarship
Obtain a Rhodes scholarship application online at the official Rhodes Scholarship site. Each country-constituent of the Rhodes Scholarship program has its own local affiliates. Make sure to contact the proper offices in your home country once you have printed off the application. These applications can be mailed, emailed, or dropped off.
Assemble five to eight letters of recommendation from people who know you well and with whom you have worked closely, both academically and charitably. Four of the letters must be from faculty or graduate students; however, you should also include letters from employers, coaches, and people you have worked with on charitable endeavors.
- The Rhodes Scholarship accepts only digital submissions for the letters of recommendation. Hard-copies will not be considered.
- Recommenders should submit their letters online themselves, and should not go through you. There are also online services for the management of these letters and other similar documents.
Get an endorsement for becoming a Rhodes scholar from your current university. This endorsement is something you will need to contact your school about. They will provide this to you upon your request. Contact student services to see how to go about getting this endorsement. You will need to provide the contact details of the person who will supply this endorsement. Obtain a certified transcript from your university. If there are other institutions of learning that you have attended, get a transcript from these as well. These transcripts show your academic accomplishments. Make sure you leave adequate time for your school to respond to your request.
Have a photograph taken of yourself to send in with the Rhodes Scholarship application. This should be an image of just your head and shoulders. Be sure to use a well-lit space. Wear nice clothing. Take more than one photograph, and use the best one.
- Passport-style photographs would work in this situation.
- For really high quality images, hire a professional photographer.
Send your application in, and wait for the interview announcement. In the United States, more than 1,500 students apply for Rhodes Scholarships and about 200 are selected for an interview. There is no explicit time line for how long it might take to hear back regarding your application and whether or not you have been selected for an interview. It may be as little as two weeks beforehand.
Attend the interview if selected. Interviews are usually conducted very soon after the announcement is made. Applicants are responsible for travel expenses to and from the interview. These interviews are designed to reveal the character of an applicant, not just their intellect and reasoning skills. Think about the criteria for the scholarship when trying to anticipate what kinds of questions you may be asked during the interview.
- Consider the people interviewing you when giving answers. If there is a Major General interviewing you, you may not want to make an argument for reductions in military spending.
- Interviews may last between 15 to 30 minutes.
- A typical interview lasts between 20 and 25 minutes.
- Interviews must be conducted in person.
Make plans to attend Oxford University if you are one of the students chosen. Accepting the Rhodes Scholarship means that you intend to study at Oxford. If you win and accept the award, you will be moving to England. Take care of the important elements in your life in order to make this happen.
- Figure out expenses.
- Inform your family and friends.
- Thank the people who helped you.