Rhodes Scholarship

Rhodes Scholarships are named for Briton Cecil Rhodes, who established 32 annual scholarships for Americans to pursue education in the United Kingdom – the British Empire at that time – and harbor good will between Brits and Americans in his will. The scholarships were originally only awarded to men since Rhodes died in 1902, far before women were generally admitted to higher education.

In 1977, an Act of Parliament opened the scholarships to women, too. Rhodes Scholars, as recipients of the scholarships are known, include President Bill Clinton, MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow, social critic Naomi Wolf, former Presidential speechwriter and current host of ABC’s This Week George Stephanopoulos, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Presidential candidates Bill Bradley and General Wesley Clark and Supreme Court Justices Byron White and David Souter, and singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson.

The Rhodes Scholarship is considered the most competitive and prestigious scholarship. The Rhodes scholarships are awarded to 32 American citizen students between the ages of 18 and 24 who are required to complete their undergraduate education by the time the scholarship commences (in October of the year following the American academic year).

Each Rhodes Scholar studies at Oxford University for one to three years with all tuition and fees covered by the Rhodes Trust, and attends one of the residential colleges of the University to pursue a second Bachelor’s, or a Master’s or further advanced degree. Each scholar also receives a monthly stipend to cover his or her living expenses. The application process for the Rhodes Scholarship is rigorous.

Rhodes Scholarship for Outstanding American Undergraduates

An applicant must receive the endorsement of his college or university to apply, and many colleges only endorse a small number of graduating seniors to the scholarship to avoid flooding – and potentially alienating – the selection committee.Applicants are usually at the very top of their classes academically, but the Rhodes Trust selects scholars based on character traits as exemplified by pursuits outside of the classroom, too.

Those who apply for the Rhodes scholarship have to provide at least five letters of recommendation, at least four of which must be from college or graduate school instructors, along with a short form (1000 word) personal statement. In 2011, more than 800 applications were submitted for the scholarships. Of those applicants, a small subset of students are selected for interviews with selection committees, and those interviews are used to narrow the group of applicants down to the 32 awarded the Rhodes Scholarship.

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