Rhodes Scholarship

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

History and Purpose

The Rhodes Trust is a British charity established in 1903 to honor the will and bequest of Cecil J. Rhodes, an English-born South African businessman, mining magnate, and politician (1853-1902). The Scholarships are postgraduate awards supporting outstanding all-round students at the University of Oxford, and providing transformative opportunities for exceptional individuals.  The Rhodes Trust provides the Scholarships in partnership with Second Century Founder, John McCall MacBain and other generous benefactors. Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.

Each year 32 young Americans are selected as Rhodes Scholars through a decentralized process representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. These candidates must be endorsed by their undergraduate institutions. Rhodes Scholars are also offered to 51 citizens/permanent residents of the following countries: Australia, Bermuda, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica & the Commonwealth Caribbean, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (including South Africa , Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Candidates from these countries apply through the Rhodes offices in their homelands. For all countries except Pakistan and the UAE, candidates may have attended US colleges/universities. To learn more.

Description of Rhodes Scholarship

The U.S. Rhodes Scholarship fully funds (fees, stipend, and travel) 2-3 years of graduate study in any field at Oxford University in the UK. Students may pursue a master’s degree, a doctorate, a second B.A., or a combination of degrees (such as two one-year master’s). Applicants are strongly encouraged to plan for at least two years of study. Details about program options and other important considerations are provided in the Frequently Asked Questions document on the U.S. Rhodes Trust website. Applicants who hope to attend Oxford with or without the Scholarship must apply independently to Oxford.  Applicants who will only attend if they win proceed with the Oxford application following notification from Rhodes.

Eligibility Requirements & Rules for Nomination

Applicants for the American Rhodes Scholarship must have/be:

  • Seniors or recent alumnae (age 18-23 on October 1 of the year of application)
  • U.S. citizens or permanent residents (admitted no later than 5 yrs prior to deadline)
  • Rhodes does not stipulate a minimum GPA, but applicants are advised to apply only if they have a GPA of at least a 3.75 with rigorous course selection, and recognition in their major
Mr. Rhodes’ will stipulated the criteria by which applicants to the Scholarship would be selected:
  • literary and scholastic attainments;
  • energy to use talents to the full, as exemplified by fondness for/success in sports or service involvement;
  • truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, and unselfishness;
  • moral force of character with instincts to lead and to take an interest in one's fellow beings.

Nominations are unlimited, but endorsement is at the discretion of the Committee on Fellowships.

How to apply

US applicants complete an online application form which becomes available through the Rhodes website in early July.  They submit a pdf version to the National Fellowships Advisor by the internal deadline indicated below. Recommenders are asked to send their letters via email to the National Fellowships Advisor by this deadline as well. The National Fellowships Advisor distributes the application packet to the Committee on Fellowships, chaired by the Dean of Studies, and the candidate is interviewed. If the Committee endorses the candidate, she then submits her application online, the recommenders upload their letters to the Rhodes site, and the National Fellowships Advisor enters the College endorsement letter. Students should consult the campus process chart below for instructions on application steps, and also carefully read all the information provided on the Rhodes Trust site, as well as the US Rhodes Trust brochure on the website of the Office of the American Secretary. (Note that there is a Rhodes main site and a separate site for each country.) Applicants will receive guidance from the National Fellowships Advisor on the application process, selecting programs at Oxford, and on their candidacy for the Rhodes. The Rhodes Trust requires, however, that the essay be written, reviewed, and revised solely by the applicant.  The endorsement application process outlined here pertains only to the US Rhodes. International students should consult with Rhodes country websites and the National Fellowships Advisor about process and guidance for application in their home countries.

Application components

  • A completed online application form which becomes available in early July and is accessed via the main Rhodes website; form includes choice of state from which you will apply; biographical information; proposed course of study; list of referees; name of endorser (Endorser is the Dean of the College).
  •  Personal Essay (1,000 words or less, no smaller than 10 pt typeface) describing candidate’s academic and other interests. It should describe the specific area of proposed study and your reasons for wishing to study at Oxford. It must conclude with an attestation that the essay is your own work. No one should be consulted on revisions to the essay itself. The essay and all materials below are uploaded by the applicant to the online form.  Watch the video that features Rhodes Scholars speaking about the personal essay.
  • Five to Eight recommendationsat least four MUST be from faculty. At least three must be from the United States. Recommenders' names are entered in ranked order. The first “Preferred Recommender” must have supervised your education (someone who has advised you most closely on thesis or other work). The fifth should address character.
  • Official Transcripts – from all undergraduate study sources; have sent directly to the National Fellowships Advisor who will provide pdf
  • A List of Activities – (CV/resume, can be two pages)
  • A Photograph
  • Proof of US Citizenship or Permanent Residency – passport or birth certificate/residency proof

Recommendation Letters

Rhodes advises applicants to seek recommenders who can “attest in confidential references to the character and intellect of the applicant, including academic, personal, extra-curricular and leadership achievements (and who should never include people to whom you are related).”  Rhodes provides detailed guidance for “letters of appraisal” (recommendation), within the application portal, to which recommenders are sent a link.  Please also read further suggestions for writing fellowship recommendation letters.

Format and submission: Letters of recommendation for the U.S. Rhodes Scholarship (no word limit) should be typed on institutional letterhead and signed. They are then scanned and uploaded into an online system by the recommender, who will receive an email invitation from Rhodes once the applicant enters the recommenders’ contact information into her application (in early August).  The Rhodes deadline for uploading letters is October 5th, however, recommenders for MHC candidates are asked to also send their letters to the National Fellowships Advisor via email by Aug 29th. (The National Fellowships Advisor cannot access letters in the Rhodes site, and the internal review process happens in September.)

Campus Process and Checklist

For all deadlines, submission time is 12:00 noon

Timeframe Task(s) to Complete
June/July Attend UK Fellowships info session/abroad students Skype with National Fellowships Advisor; meet individually with National Fellowships Advisor to discuss eligibility; discuss the following with National Fellowships Advisor and faculty advisors:  possible degree programs at Oxford, the fit between your goals and study there, criteria of the Rhodes and your experiences, achievements and academic work
June/July Continue advising conversations with National Fellowships Advisor on Oxford, the Rhodes, and you; solicit at least five recommendation letters (will not be needed until late August)
By August 1 Confirm with National Fellowships Advisor intention to apply
July-August Write, reflect on, and revise your Personal Statement; begin the online application on the Rhodes Trust site
By August 10 Send reminder to recommenders to send letters to National Fellowships Advisor via email; register recommenders and endorser in site

Sept 10

All application materials due to National Fellowships Advisor (pdf of application; resume; essay; transcripts; proof/ID; recommendations)
Sept 16-18 Rhodes candidates interview with Committee on Fellowships; endorsement decisions made; National Fellowships Advisor notifies applicants; endorsed candidates notify recommenders to upload letters to Rhodes site
By Sept 30 Endorsed candidates submit online applications; send final version to National Fellowships Advisor; recommendations MUST be uploaded; National Fellowships Advisor submits application with endorsement to Rhodes by Oct. 5
Early Nov Finalists notified; interviews conducted on Friday and Saturday preceding Thanksgiving; awards announced soon after interviews