How to Become a Rhodes Scholar

Happy students at graduation
November 29, 2022
What is the Rhodes Scholarship?Rhodes Scholarship ApplicationRhodes Scholarship RequirementsHow Hard is it to Get a Rhodes Scholarship?How to Become a Rhodes ScholarFAQs: How to Become a Rhodes Scholar

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Interested in the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship? Read on to learn the steps needed to take in order to become a Rhodes Scholar.

What do Rachel Maddow, American television host and liberal political commentator, Myron Rolle, former NFL Safety/current neurosurgeon, and Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, have in common? They are all Rhodes Scholars, alumni of the prestigious scholarship awarded by the University of Oxford.

If you consider yourself a strong, selfless leader capable of obtaining academic excellence and a passion for making a difference, the Rhodes Scholarship may be for you. Read on to learn how you can become a Rhodes Scholar.

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What is the Rhodes Scholarship?

The Rhodes Scholarship is an international scholarship that invites eligible candidates to complete a postgraduate study at the iconic University of Oxford. It is considered one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious scholarships, drawing thousands of applicants from all over the globe. 

Those that receive the exclusive Rhodes Scholarship can study almost every post-graduate subject offered at Oxford University. The average Rhodes Scholar spends two to three years of study at Oxford and can obtain a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree once they finish their studies.

It was first introduced in 1904 by Cecil John Rhodes, who had established the creation of it in Rhodes Trust in his will, which began the funding for the scholarship as we know it today. 

Its purpose, which is still relevant today, was to “identify young leaders from around the world, who, through the pursuit of education together at Oxford, would forge bonds of mutual understanding and fellowship for the betterment of mankind.” 

These qualities still stand today, and for over 100 years, the Rhodes Scholarship has paved the way for intelligent, selfless leaders who are passionate about making a difference.

Rhodes Scholarship Application

The whole application process for the Rhodes Scholarship takes around five months, from start to finish. Applications open every July, with scholarship winners announced around the end of November.

Your application should include the following:

We will break down each requirement below, as well as what to expect after you submit your application.

University Transcript 

While no minimum GPA is required, the Rhodes Trust website states that those with a minimum GPA between 3.7 and 4.0 will have a higher chance of being accepted. 

If your GPA is lower than a 3.7, you may be able to have a university president or another high-ranking university official submit a special GPA request on your behalf.

Valid Identification

To apply, you must include proof of age and nationality through any form of government-issued ID. If you’re not a citizen of the country you reside in, you must upload proof that you are a lawful resident.

Official Institutional Endorsement

An endorsement from your college or university is different from your references - you will need to provide an official institutional endorsement from your school’s president, dean, or designated officer (i.e. the representative responsible for graduate fellowships).

CV/Resume

You’ll be required to submit a two-page CV containing all your relevant experiences - leadership and employment opportunities, academic accomplishments, and volunteer experiences. Remember that you are limited to two pages and a 10 pt font. 

Headshot

Your headshot should be a head and shoulders professional picture. Keep in mind that the admissions council will only see this after the shortlist of candidates has been created.

Academic Statement

Your Academic Statement of Study should be a detailed write-up that explains the following:

Personal Statement

For your personal statement, you will have the option of answering one of the following three prompts:

If there’s any part of the application that will give you a chance to differentiate yourself from other candidates, it’s the personal statement. Oxford praises individuality, so the more you show off what makes you unique, the higher your chance of standing out. 

Consider the personal statement an opportunity to be as authentic as possible and introduce yourself, your accomplishments, goals, and intentions to the admissions committee. 

Regardless of the prompt you choose, highlight why you want to be a Rhodes Scholar and what being a Rhodes Scholar will allow you to do - and keep it to a maximum of 750 words.

References

Ideally, you’ll want to have between five to eight references. The more you have, the better. The references you choose should vouch for your intelligence, character, morals, and values. At least four of these references must be academic.

The Next Steps

Once the admissions committee has received your application, they will spend time reviewing it. Here’s what you can expect after you’ve submitted your application.

The Shortlist

Those they deem a good fit on paper will make the shortlist. Shortlisted students will be invited to a social engagement in their area, where attendees usually include other applicants, panelists, and even past Rhodes scholars. 

This event is an opportunity to network and make a lasting impression on the panelists by mingling and asking important, thought-provoking questions. It may be a good idea to think of some talking points beforehand.

The Interview

The last and final step of the admissions process will occur if you’ve made a good impression during the social event. You will be contacted for a final interview, where six to nine panelists will interview you for 30-45 minutes. 

The interview is another opportunity to expand on your personal statement and show the panel who you are, what makes you tick, what your motivations and ambitions are, and how the Rhodes Scholarship will help you accomplish your goals. 

Remember to prepare as much as possible, and present yourself professionally to make a great impression! 

Getting the Acceptance

If you’ve wow-ed the panelists from start to finish, you should expect to receive an acceptance to the Rhodes Scholarship. The winners are announced the day after American Thanksgiving.

The process of applying for the Rhodes Scholarship may seem long, harrowing, and daunting, but remember to take it one step at a time and be as authentic as possible.

Rhodes Scholarship Requirements

If you’re interested in becoming a Rhodes Scholar, the technical requirements are as follows:

The Rhodes Scholarship welcomes applicants from an array of cultural and educational backgrounds who meet the technical guidelines listed above. Successful applicants are selected regardless of gender, race, culture, or sexual orientation. 

The only common thread linking applicants is their exceptional intellect, leadership, and their willingness and commitment to service.

Oxford welcomes Rhodes Scholars from universities around the world. As a matter of fact, the outreach for Rhodes Scholars focuses on universities on a global scale–so where you attend university has no impact on your potential to become a Rhodes Scholar!

How Hard is it to Get a Rhodes Scholarship?

While you may take comfort in the fact that becoming a Rhodes Scholar relies solely on your intellect, character, and willingness to serve, it’s clear that receiving a Rhodes scholarship is no easy feat. Only 103 scholarships are given out worldwide per year, with 32 of these scholarships awarded to U.S. citizens. 

Even though many applicants apply within the senior year of their undergraduate degree, obtaining a Rhodes Scholarship should be top of mind when an individual begins their undergraduate education. 

For many reasons, aspiring Rhodes Scholars should start preparing as soon as their first year. It’s essential to form close relationships with their professors while making a positive impact at their college. 

If you don’t receive a Rhodes Scholarship after the first time that you apply and want to give it another shot, keep in mind that you are only permitted to apply one additional time. You must also apply within the same constituency as your previous application.

While it may be hard to obtain a Rhodes Scholarship, it’s not impossible. If you’re a natural-born leader with stellar academics, an immense passion for the subject you’re studying, and an individual willing to make a difference in the world, you may be a great fit!

How to Become a Rhodes Scholar

A lot of hard work and determination goes into being a Rhodes Scholar. It is highly regarded for a reason, with only a select few receiving the scholarship annually. 

To become a Rhodes Scholar, you must have achieved academic excellence reflected through your post-secondary GPA. You must also be passionate about your subject of study while having a natural aptitude to lead and help others. 

Make sure you find ways to make your application stand out from the rest to maximize your chances of being a Rhodes Scholar.

FAQs: How to Become a Rhodes Scholar

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to become a Rhodes Scholar. 

1. What Qualifies a Rhodes Scholar?

According to Oxford University, a Rhodes Scholar, by definition, is:

2. How Much Does it Cost to Be a Rhodes Scholar?

Rhodes Scholars will not have to pay any out-of-pocket fees or expenses to attend Oxford University. The Rhodes Trust at Oxford will cover all fees and provide students with an annual stipend. To put it into perspective, the stipend for the 2021/2022 year was 17,310 pounds per year, which works out to around 1442 pounds per month. 

It’s important to note that the stipend is only enough to support one person. If you have any dependents, they must be supported through other means.

On average, a scholar can expect to spend two years studying at Oxford; however, some circumstances allow a scholar to study for three years. The Rhodes Trust will also cover the fees required to apply to Oxford, and the fee for a student visa, if required. 

When it comes to being a Rhodes Scholar, the cost is not significant - it’s the process of getting there that may be more costly. Not only does it include the financial cost of your undergraduate education, but it also includes all of the hard work, dedication, time and sacrifice that goes into making someone eligible for the Rhodes Scholarship.

3. What GPA Do You Need for the Rhodes Scholarship?

While there is technically no set GPA requirement, the minimum GPA to be a competitive applicant is 3.70. Keep in mind that Oxford is notoriously difficult to get into, so the higher your GPA is, the better.

4. Where Do Rhodes Scholars Go?

For those that complete the Rhodes Scholarship, the sky's the limit. Many Oxford alums have contributed to various government positions, education, commerce, research, and journalism roles. 

You can expect to find Nobel, PEN/Faulkner Prize winners, university presidents and vice chancellors, high court judges, and leaders of major organizations among graduates.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that the process of becoming a Rhodes Scholar is challenging. However, the privilege of being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship can change your life and career trajectory forever. It boasts an iconic and historic prestige that is sure to influence your life in whichever field you choose to pursue. 

Remember that if you’re coming from a U.S. school, keep in mind that colleges in the U.K. work differently, so make sure you understand how they differ. Although some may find the requirements strict and the application process nerve-wracking, the value of being a Rhodes Scholar is something that cannot be replicated.  

Best of luck!

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