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.
Visit the Marshall Scholarship website.
The Mitchell Scholarship is named to honor the former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell, who served as Chairman of peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. The scholarship funds one year of graduate study at an Irish university and is awarded to approximately 12 students per year. The scholarship provides airfare, tuition, fees, housing, and a stipend for living expenses. The Mitchell Scholarship Selection Committee interviews 20 scholarship finalists in Washington, DC.
The Mitchell Scholarship Selection Criteria
The Mitchell website notes the criteria used to select Mitchell Scholars:
- Academic excellence and intellectual distinction;
- An outstanding record of leadership;
- A sustained commitment to service and community.
No minimum GPA is required and no GRE scores are used in the selection process, but high academic achievement is a necessity in a Mitchell Scholar. Also, a student’s past experience in Ireland or previous acceptance into an Irish university program does not serve as an advantage, in that part of the scholarship’s mission is to introduce new future leaders to Ireland. Nevertheless, one of the necessities of the scholarship is that the student has a concrete plan and commitment to study at an Irish university
Preparing the Mitchell Scholarship Application
The Mitchell application process takes place completely on-line, even for the applicant’s recommenders. Thus, a good deal of time must be spent on familiarizing yourself with the on-line system. Note that much of what you input in the application is the sort of material one lists in a curriculum vitae or resume, and this material will be balanced with your personal statement by the committee as part of the selection process. The application also invites you to list at least three preferences for schools, and the website notes that failure to do so can seriously weaken an application, in that institutional balance is a factor in placing students at universities.
In relation to the personal statement, the FAQ section of the Mitchell website notes this advice:
The personal essay is extremely important. Members of the Selection Committee examine the essay for clues to the character, commitment, and interests of each candidate. This is the only opportunity for the applicant to convey a sense of his/her passions, personality, and intellectual drive. In addition, a well-written essay should provide the Committee with valuable insight into the applicant’s motivation and rationale for the proposed graduate study program that is not otherwise communicated in the rest of the application materials.
In composing the personal statement, which is about two pages (no more than 1,000 words) in length, the basic goal is to present a rationale for the proposed study program and provide concrete evidence of your readiness. Some students detail their achievements in academics, leadership, and service, while others focus heavily on the study program of their first school preference, trusting that their application as a whole will provide a balanced picture of their background. Still other students match themselves to Ireland or Northern Ireland as directly as they can, including travel abroad when relevant, and noting any Irish professors whom they have met or with whom they have had contact.
Evaluation of Two Sample Mitchell Scholarship Personal Statements
The two sample personal statements in the pdf link below are an interesting study in contrasts, in that the first focuses heavily on music performance and the second on political advocacy. While both are strong personal statements, it should be noted that neither student landed a Mitchell Scholarship, underscoring the competitiveness of the application pool.
The first sample statement opens with a narrative discussion of Irish dance performance, after which the writer fleshes out her background in dance and music performance extensively. Indeed, this student has already studied for a semester abroad at University College Dublin and received private lessons in performing Irish “trad” music. Thus, her goal of extended study in this area is well-grounded in experience, and after she discusses her three target programs, making it clear why the University of Limerick is her first choice, she forcefully notes: “I must study in Ireland if I plan to pursue my passion.”
The second sample statement—written by a woman born of Peruvian parents and raised partly in Japan—opens with the writer defining her unique ethnic background and cultural diversity. As we learn throughout the essay, this background has informed her distinctive and deep involvement as an advocate for marginalized voices. She directly links this passion to her three academic programs of choice, and ends by artfully defining herself as a “world student and future political activist,” making a brief reference to Senator Mitchell’s work, and citing her commitment to ultimately helping US Latino citizens.
Click here to download a pdf of two sets of Mitchell Scholarship application essays by former students.
The Mitchell Scholarship website allows you to view a sample online application, offers a printable brochure about the scholarship, and gives profiles of past scholarship winners.
Visit the Mitchell Scholarship website.