The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program, created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, offers various scholarships funding between one and four years of study at Cambridge University in England. Areas of funded study are graduate, affiliated (a second undergraduate degree), clinical, and MBA, and the scholarships are competed for internationally. Students apply directly to Cambridge through the usual procedures, with the scholarship award decision heavily driven by the target Cambridge department. About 500 US students per year apply for the scholarships, with approximately one-fourth of them being offered a follow-up interview. Nearly 100 scholarships are awarded per year, and about one-third of those awarded scholarships typically go to US applicants.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship Selection Criteria
Gates Cambridge Scholarship applicants are evaluated by the following criteria:
- exceptional academic achievement and scholarly promise;
- aptitude for research, analysis, and a creative approach to defining and solving problems;
- appropriate fit between candidate’s plans and Cambridge offerings, as revealed through the applicant’s written application and interview.
Gates Cambridge scholars will become leaders who address such global concerns as social equity, health, and technological advances. Obviously, evidence of an applicant’s ability to have such an impact leads to a more favorable outcome.
Preparing the Gates Cambridge Scholarship Application
Gates Cambridge application questions vary slightly based on the area of funded study, but commonalities are questions related to your intended course of study and a 500-word personal statement. When answering these and other narrative questions, detail should be given about how your past activities reflect both leadership and service, and for how a particular course of study at Cambridge will serve to help you attain your goals. A useful exercise is to browse through the Gates Cambridge website link below, where you will find ample opportunities to hear from past Gates Scholars about their work and background. For instance, one Gates Scholar notes the value of her volunteer work in Ecuador. Discussing research and future plans, one scholar describes his plan to work on neuron regeneration at the Brain Repair Centre in Cambridge, while another summarizes his long-term goal to serve in Pakistan as a financial advisor. There is also a 12-minute film on the website detailing the goal to create a network of scholars through the Gates Scholar Alumni Association, and featuring recent Gates Scholars discussing their motivations and goals. Obviously, familiarizing yourself with these scholars will help you decide how to present yourself so that you can stand tall among them.
Evaluation of Two Sets of Sample Gates Scholarship Application Essays
In the pdf link below, the two sample excerpts from Gates Cambridge applications show the depth and diversity of students who apply for this scholarship. The first student, studying colon cancer, shows interests in everything from Renaissance painting to technical writing, while the second, studying speech technology, discusses interests ranging from computer security to swing dancing. Both of these students were awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
The first writer uses her short statement of research proposal to demonstrate her thorough awareness of the program at the center where she aims to conduct research at Cambridge. In her accompanying 500-word essay, she strikes a bold and creative tone by representing herself as something of a modern “Renaissance woman” (she even explores her creativity by “reproducing an intricate Renaissance painting” at the age of 13)—one who sees the study of science as an outlet for her creative mind, and one who takes the initiative to co-found and edit a health journal as well as teach science to students in state custody. Her theme of creativity as the “driving force” in her development and eventually leading her to science is both rhetorically persuasive and stylistically elegant.
The second writer discusses the specific course of study he would like to complete at Cambridge, followed by research which he hopes would make computer technology available to a wider audience, “including those suffering from physical disabilities.” His passion for working in this area becomes further articulated in his 500-word essay, where he expresses concerns about sensitivity of personal information and “the safety and stability of the global economic community.” Like the writer in the first example, he sees education as an important vehicle for change, and he has taught computer literacy classes to the elderly as well as studied abroad during his junior year at Oxford University. He ends his essay affirming his desire to “take action to improve the condition of humanity.”
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship website provides information on applying for the scholarship, profiles and quotes from recent Gates winners and alumni, and links to the bi-annual magazine The Gates Scholar.