The Marshall Scholarship is awarded for two years of study in any discipline, usually at the graduate level, and is tenable at any British university. Only the best students who apply make it beyond a school’s internal selection committee to the regional review panel interviews, where about 130 students are interviewed out of 800 applicants, for about 40 awarded scholarships. Of these applicants, more than half typically have a perfect GPA. Marshall Scholars receive payment of tuition and travel as well as a personal allowance to cover living expenses.
The Marshall Scholarship Selection Criteria
Criteria used by Marshall selectors in awarding scholarships include:
- evidenced distinction of intellect and character;
- strong motivation and seriousness of purpose, as represented by the proposal of a specific, rigorous academic program.
Selectors also appreciate evidence that Marshall Scholars will view themselves as US cultural ambassadors to the United Kingdom and understand the United Kingdon's role on the world stage. Specifically, Marshall selectors have noted their disappointment in past applicants who seemed unaware that Great Britain is no longer an Empire and did not seem to acknowledge that it is a modern multicultural society. Therefore, applicants should be cautious about how they characterize modern Britain and avoid historical stereotypes.
The Marshall Scholarship Application Essays
Part of the Marshall application invites short written discussions about personal interests and non-academic activities, future career aims, and foreign travel and languages. Clearly, these discussions provide a great opportunity to present examples such as athletics, set some lofty goals, and demonstrate the maturity one needs to study abroad. Choose examples that don’t require much explanation and that are not repeated in the lengthier application essays.
The most significant writings in the Marshall application are a personal statement of up to 1000 words and a one-page summary of the proposed academic programme. The personal statement typically discusses personal motivations, experience in research or teaching, academic activities, and career goals. Most writers keep this essay focused on motivations and ambitions, while some focus more on academic examples such as senior thesis work or research, and some writers introduce their target program in the final paragraph. In their personal statements, former applicants have expanded on such details as their parents’ professions, an influential teacher or course they took, important texts they have read, theories and positions they uphold, future applications of their research, and conference presentations and publications. Stressing academic achievements here is of little to no value, in that academic excellence in Marshall candidates is a given.
In the one-page proposed academic programme essay, tie your experience directly to the target school(s) and provide a clear study plan. Although students list two preferred universities elsewhere in their application, most use the one-page summary to discuss their first choice only. Clearly, the best writers evidence their suitability for the program while showcasing details to prove that they understand the program’s offerings, especially if they have chosen specific individuals at the target program with whom they would like to study.
Evaluation of Two Sets of Sample Marshall Scholarship Application Essays
The first set of Marshall essays in the pdf below takes an interestingly creative approach, with the writer describing himself as a “biological anthropologist by day” and a “philosopher by night” in the personal statement. These two unlikely partnerships, wedded in one person, are exemplified by a paper the student wrote about a “consilience between Nietzsche and the theoretical work of Amotz Zahavi.” We also find affecting narrative in the personal statement, with the writer depicting himself standing waist-deep in a Costa Rican swamp and working with human cadavers in a gross anatomy course. The accompanying academic programme essay is dominated by connections between the writer’s background and his target program, the University of Leeds.
The second set of Marshall essays is generally more formal and research-based, but ultimately equally personal, with detail including the writer growing up as the son of two Presbyterian ministers and extensive descriptions about his physical activities, which he ties directly to the personal attribute of energy. As this student clarifies, his research concern is with fundamental principles of light and the philosophy of measurement, which he intends to study with a particular professor at Cambridge. Most importantly, the writer also notes in his academic programme essay that he aims to complete a third year of undergraduate studies followed by a one-year MPhil research program at the graduate level.
Click here to download a pdf of two sets of Marshall Scholarship application essays by former students.
The Marshall Scholarship process begins online, where you can set up an account for your application as well as read about profiles of past Marshall winners.