Rhodes, Marshall, and Mitchell Application Information
Application deadline: Last Monday in August
Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell Scholarships are the most prestigious awards available for recent recipients of undergraduate degrees. They provide funding for one, two or sometimes three years of study in the United Kingdom. Rhodes Scholarships are tenable at the University of Oxford only. Marshall Scholarships may be held at almost any university in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Mitchell Scholarships (established only in 1999, hence less known) will support study at an extensive list of colleges and universities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Because British universities offer more specialized undergraduate programs than those in comparable fields in American universities, some Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell Scholars pursue a second undergraduate degree; others enroll in various masters programs, and a few enroll directly in doctoral programs. Each year thirty-two Rhodes Scholars, about forty Marshall Scholars and about twelve Mitchell Scholars are selected nationwide.
Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year college or university in the U.S. before the period of the scholarship. For Marshall and Mitchell, applicants must be US citizens. To apply for the Rhodes in the US, applicants must be US citizens, but citizens of some other countries may apply to other jurisdictions.
Each scholarship has age or graduation date requirements. You can find them on the websites of the individual awards.
Academic excellence is one obviously important qualification; so are other factors such as intellectual distinction, wide-ranging interests, and distinguished preparation in a specific field. Other criteria that are heavily weighed are leadership (both actual and potential), service, and fitness. Selectors will also evaluate applicants' personal development, their capacity to play an active role in a British university, and their potential to make future significant contributions to their fields and communities. As indications of these wider interests students should demonstrate artistic accomplishment, leadership in student groups or other venues, membership in service-oriented activities or organizations, ongoing participation in athletic, musical, or theatrical groups and/or other activities that demonstrate commitment and leadership.
Application and selection procedures
The Personal Statement
The personal statement is the one part of the application over which the candidate has complete control. It should be interesting, straightforward, and well written. Errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation can destroy the power of good ideas and convince the committee that the student is not really serious about the application. There are web sites that contain sample essays by former scholarship winners. While it is often helpful to read them to see what kind of essay is competitive, each statement should be an original expression of the ideas and plans of its author, not something fit into a template essentially created by someone else.
When deciding whom to ask for letters of recommendation, there are a number of points that should be kept in mind. Applicants need at least three academic letters (letters from faculty who have either taught them or supervised their research). Applicants should choose people who know them well, faculty with whom they have studied in recent semesters and professors with considerable standing in the academic community. If all of these criteria cannot be met in each letter, one should try to achieve at least one of them. Some people would argue that only full professors should be asked to write recommendations. At a school like Michigan, this is not only unreasonable but also counterproductive. Students expect to have fairly senior faculty in advanced courses who may be Associate or Assistant Professors, and they often make excellent references. Visiting faculty or faculty with whom one has studied at other institutions are perfectly appropriate as well. The support of GSIs is most effective when the professor of a large class who knows the student and the quality of the student's participation in the course, but has not previously examined the written work, is willing to draw on a GSI's knowledge to put together a strong letter which goes out over the professor's signature or those of both the professor and the GSI. It is wise to avoid the "form" letter, even if it is from someone with a high degree of name-recognition. Senators, vice presidents, congress members, university presidents and others encountered in the course of an internship or other endeavor are asked to write a huge number of recommendations which all too often are written by others and say very little which is specific and telling about the candidate. They are of almost no value to the applicant: the scholarship committees will have seen and discounted streams of them. It is essential that recommendations be written by someone who knows the candidate well and can speak personally to specific strengths and promise. Recommendation packets from Career Planning and Placement cannot be used for these competitions.
Questions? More information?
Visit the website of the Provost's Council on Student Honors: http://www.provost.umich.edu/scholars/. Contact Dr. Henry Dyson at the Honors Office (734.764.6274 or firstname.lastname@example.org). There is more information and there are links to all the scholarship foundations at http://www.lsa.umich.edu/honors/currentstudents/scholarshipinformation. There is useful information about graduate programs in Great Britain on the web. Honors is happy to provide input on early drafts of the personal statement.