Mitchell Scholarship

History   |   Description   |   Eligibility   |    How to   |   Application   |    Recommendation   |   Checklist

History and Purpose

The Mitchell Scholars Program is named in honor of the former United States Senator who served as Chairman of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland.  In 1995, he served as a Special Advisor to President Clinton on Ireland, and from 1996 to 2000 he served as the Independent Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks.  Under his leadership the Good Friday Agreement, an historic accord ending decades of conflict, was agreed to by the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland.

The George J. Mitchell Scholarship is organized under the auspices of the US-Ireland Alliance, a non-profit non-partisan organization based in Arlington, VA. The program began in 1998, created by US-Ireland Alliance president Trina Vargo, with early support from the Irish and British governments. Over the last decade, the program has been largely funded by the US Department of State with additional support from the Northern Ireland Government and others. In 2012, the Irish Parliament passed legislation whereby it will match any contributions up to 20 million euros to an endowment for the Scholarship.

The Mitchell Scholars Program is designed to introduce and connect generations of future American leaders to the island of Ireland, while recognizing and fostering intellectual achievement, leadership, and a commitment to community and public service.

Description of Mitchell Scholarships

Up to twelve Mitchell Scholars between the ages of 18 and 30 are chosen annually for one year of postgraduate study in any discipline offered by institutions of higher learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Mitchell Scholars Program provides tuition, accommodations, a living expenses stipend, and an international travel stipend.

Eligibility requirements & Rules for Nomination

Applicants must be/have:

  • Seniors who will have obtained a bachelor’s degree before the time of the grant, or alumnae, up to age 30
  • U.S. citizens (those in the process of applying for citizenship are not eligible); Irish heritage not required
  • High academic achievement and intellectual distinction; although no GPA minimum is stipulated, scholars usually have a 3.8 or higher
  • Demonstrated leadership record and a sustained commitment to community and public service; activities in these categories may have taken place on or off campus, domestically or internationally
  • Unlimited nominations, but endorsement is at the discretion of the Committee on Fellowships

How to apply

All enrolled applicants (seniors) must apply through a campus process, facilitated by Fellowships Advisor Christine Overstreet, and be endorsed by the College (Committee on Fellowships, chaired by the Dean of Studies). Candidates should attend an information session, thoroughly read the Mitchell website, and consult with Christine to discuss their candidacy and graduate program selection, as well as strategies for writing a strong personal statement. Applicants’ essays, however, must be solely theirs, without input from faculty or any advisors. Applicant materials are reviewed and applicants are interviewed by the Committee on Fellowships. Endorsed candidates’ applications are submitted to Mitchell by the Fellowships Advisor. Applicants do not need to apply separately to Irish universities. Mitchell will submit Scholarship winners’ applications to the universities. Alumnae applicants do not need MHC endorsement, but are encouraged to seek support and guidance from the Fellowships Advisor.

Application components

  • A completed online application form in which the candidate enters biographical data; education background; proposed programme(s) of study (3-5 choices of universities/programs); names of recommenders; academic achievements, awards, leadership activities, community service, and miscellaneous awards/activities.
  • A Personal Statement (1,000 words or less) describing candidate’s “personality, passion and drive.” Prompt: This essay is your opportunity to share your personality, interests, experiences, and goals with the selection committee. It should briefly convey why you want to be a Mitchell Scholar and how you will advance your personal objectives through study on the island of Ireland. It should not simply re-state your list of activities.
  • Four recommendations – for full-time students, at least two must be from persons with whom the student has done academic work; the others may be from internship/work/community service supervisors. Students should consult with the fellowships advisor when considering recommenders; letters are cut and pasted into Mitchell site in response to automated email invitation
  • Official Transcripts – from all undergraduate study sources; fellowships office will scan these (for enrolled students) and convert to a pdf to be uploaded to the online application; finalists will send hard copies to Mitchell
  • A passport-style photo – pdf
  • Proof of US citizenship (required of finalists)
  • Video interview in which you give recorded responses to questions written as text (not a live interview) – video interview link is sent to you after your (endorsed) application is submitted on October 1; must be completed by October 4th

Recommendation Letters

Mitchell does not stipulate what they seek in a recommendation letter, but they note that “successful applicants have documented evidence of significant achievement in academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to community and public service.”  If you are a faculty member, you may feel equipped to address academic excellence, but not commitment to community and public service. If you are a staff or community member who has supervised the applicant in an organization, the reverse may be true.  Your letter will be most effective if you discuss the qualities you have witnessed firsthand (not what the student has said about herself in regard to areas of her life unfamiliar to you). Trust that if she is a strong applicant, she will have asked an array of recommenders who can collectively discuss what the foundation wants to know.  Note that since the Mitchell funds graduate study, a faculty recommendation letter that addresses the student’s specific choice of graduate program and her potential to succeed in that program/at that institution will be valuable to the selection committee. Please read further suggestions for writing fellowship recommendation letters.

Format and submission: Letters of recommendation for the Mitchell Scholarship (750 word limit) are cut and pasted into an online system by the recommender, who will receive an email invitation from Mitchell once the applicant enters the recommenders’ contact information into her application (in early August). Recommenders for MHC enrolled candidates are asked to submit their letters by August 25th. The MHC Fellowships Advisor will be able to collect your letter from the Mitchell system. There is no special formatting (such as bold or underline) allowed in the long text fields. If you are cutting and pasting a recommendation you have already written in a word processing program, please use the keyboard shortcuts for copy (Control-C or Command-C) and paste (Control-V or Command-V).

Campus Process and Checklist

For all deadlines, submission time is 12:00 noon

Checklist
Timeframe Task(s) to Complete
Spring semester/early summer Attend UK Fellowships info session/abroad students Skype with Christine; meet individually with Christine to discuss eligibility; discuss with Christine and faculty advisors degree programs in Ireland, the fit between your goals and study there, criteria of the Mitchell and your experiences/achievements/academic work; online application opens in April
May/early June Confirm with Christine intention to apply; open online application (Mitchell website) and enter Christine Overstreet as Fellowship Advisor
June Solicit four recommendation letters (will not be submitted until late August); request transcripts from all undergraduate study to be sent to Christine
June - July Write, reflect on, and revise your Personal Essay; continue working on online application; enrolled candidates enter Institutional Endorser:  Dr. Cerri Banks, Dean of the College, cbanks@mtholyoke.edu, 50 College Street, South Hadley, MA  01075 (do not send request until indicated)
By August 1st Enter recommender names in online application - an automated email will be sent inviting them to cut and paste letters of recommendation infields in online system
August 25th All application materials due, including online application completed with supplementary materials; recommendation letters must be in system by this date
September 8-12 Mitchell candidates interview with Committee on Fellowships, endorsement decisions are made and Christine notifies students; endorsed candidates finalize applications and immediately send Endorsement Request (online)
By September 24th Endorsed (enrolled) candidates submit online applications (print copy); Christine submits applications with endorsement to Mitchell by or before October 1st
Oct./Nov. Semi-finalist Skype interviews - week of October 27th; finalists are interviewed in Washington DC in person on November 21 & 22 (Mitchell provides hotel accommodation only, but some support may be available for travel to Washington in situations of financial need); candidates notified on/by November 23rd