How to Become a Rhodes Scholar

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Updated:
September 19, 2023
9 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 9/19/23

Interested in the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship? Read on to learn the steps needed to take 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.

What Is a Rhodes Scholar?

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Rhodes Scholars are recipients of the exclusive international Rhodes 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. 

Rhodes Scholars 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.

This scholarship was first introduced in 1904 by Cecil John Rhodes. Its purpose is 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.” 

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

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As you embark on this exciting journey, It’s essential you understand the extensive process of how to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship. The whole application process for the Rhodes Scholarship takes around five months. Applications open every July, with the winners announced around the end of November.

Your application should include the following:

  • University Transcript
  • Identification
  • Institutional Endorsement
  • CV/Resume
  • Headshot
  • Academic Statement
  • Personal Statement
  • References

We’ve gone over the what and why of this scholarship, so now we’ll break down the how. To get a Rhodes scholarship, your application materials must meet these rigorous expectations: 

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. You are limited to two pages and a 10 pt font. 

Headshot

A man smiling

Your headshot should be a head and shoulders professional picture.

Academic Statement

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

  • Your reasons for wanting to study at Oxford and what you wish to study.
  • The qualifications that permit you to study the subject you desire at Oxford.
  • If you’re applying to the DPhil program, you should highlight which area of research you would like to partake in, how it would contribute to your career, and the department and the faculty that you would like to work with at Oxford.

Personal Statement

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

1. Which Rhodes Scholar quality do you display most strongly, and how are different contexts and people helping you to develop the other qualities?
2. What would you like to learn from and contribute to the Rhodes community in Oxford? 
3. From your place in the world, how will you use your energy and talents to address humanity’s pressing challenges?

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

Two people shaking hands

Those they deem a good fit on paper will make the shortlist and be invited to a social engagement in their area. 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’s a good idea to think of some talking points beforehand.

The Interview

If you’ve made a good impression during the social event, you’ll 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 beforehand 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 daunting but remember to take it one step at a time and be as authentic as possible.

Rhodes Scholarship Requirements

The technical Rhodes Scholarship eligibility criteria is as follows:

  • You must be 18 years or older and no older than 27. The age range is typically between 19-25.
  • You must have completed an undergraduate degree by the time of application.
  • You must meet all citizenship and residency requirements from the country that you’re applying from.
  • You must have achieved high academic standing in your undergraduate degree; your GPA must be high enough to compete with applicants within Oxford University. 

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-–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?

The acceptance rate for the Rhodes Scholarship proves just how difficult it is to obtain. Out of thousands of applicants, only 103 scholarships are given out worldwide per year, with 32 of these scholarships awarded to U.S. citizens. 

For many reasons, aspiring Rhodes Scholars should start preparing as soon as their first year. It’s essential to form close relationships with 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 eager to make a difference in the world, you may be a great fit!

How to Become a Rhodes Scholar

A graduation cap and diploma

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 becoming a Rhodes Scholar. 

1. What Qualifies a Rhodes Scholar?

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

  • Someone with literary and scholastic attainments.
  • Energy to use one’s talent in full as demonstrated by mastery in areas such as sports, music, debate, theatre, and artistic pursuits, particularly where teamwork is involved.
  • Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy and protection for the weak, kindliness, and unselfishness.
  • The moral force of character and instincts to lead.

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 2022/2023 year was £18,180 per year, which works out to around £1,515 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. 

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 who 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. 

5. What Is the Age Limit for the Rhodes Scholarship?

Students must be between the age of 18-27 to be eligible for the Rhodes Scholarship.

6. What Is the Rhodes Scholarship’s Acceptance Rate?

The Rhode’s Scholarship acceptance percentage is estimated to be 0.7%

7. Do Rhodes Scholars Get Paid?

Rhodes scholars are not paid per se, but they receive an annual stipend of around £18,180 to cover living and personal expenses. 

8. Should I Apply For a Rhodes Scholarship?

Look at your achievements and qualities to determine if you’re a competitive applicant. If you have a GPA close to 4.0, have demonstrated your academic excellence, have talents outside the classroom, are selfless, and are willing to commit to bettering the world, you should absolutely apply for this life-changing scholarship!

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 cannot be replicated!  

Best of luck!

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