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Tips to Prepare a Rhodes Scholarship Application

Start Early


  • Students who meet the Rhodes criteria, and are interested in applying for institutional endorsement, must contact Elizabeth (Liz) Parsons at  parsonse@queensu.ca  to express interest in applying to the Rhodes Scholarship and to discuss the process.
  • Be prepared to devote some time to developing your application. This includes: spending time researching the objectives of the Rhodes Scholarship, preparing your personal statement and curriculum vitae, applying to Queens for institutional endorsementordering your official transcripts, and contacting your references.
  • Rhodes Scholars come from many academic backgrounds and pursue a wide variety of courses at Oxford. The Scholarship is more accurately viewed as an investment in a person of remarkable promise than support for a particular course of study.  Applicants should study the University of Oxford's course offerings to determine the degree for which they would apply.
  • The Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs, in partnership with Career Services, can assist you throughout the application process. Students must contact Elizabeth (Liz) Parsons at parsonse@queensu.ca for more information about these available resources.

Statement of Purpose

  • Given the prestige of the Rhodes Scholarship and the intense competition, many applicants struggle with the statement of purpose. Excellent Rhodes personal statements are infused with concrete examples, a self-reflective tone, a showcasing of priorities and service, and an overall picture of yourself as a person of accomplishment and character.

  • Keep in mind that the personal statement is your chance to tell your story: Who are you? What matters to you? What are you hoping to do in the world? Your academic transcript, your list of activities and your reference letters will provide the substantive detail of your commitments and accomplishments, but this essay gives you the opportunity to cast the overarching narrative for the selection committee. It is crucial that you give a clear statement of what you wish to study at Oxford and why. Your statement of purpose should also be free of grammar and spelling errors. Specific requirements can be found by consulting the 2016 Memorandum.

  • For many students, the statement of purpose can be the most difficult part of the application.  Career Services has a variety of resources available to assist students with personal statements. Career Services’ website provides a tip sheet which contains general suggestions for preparing Personal Statements for scholarships and further education applications.  Appointments with a career counsellor may also be used to further self-understanding and to discuss ideas which may be relevant for a personal statement; however, in keeping with scholarship rules, no personal statements will be reviewed.  Students must first contact Liz Parsons at parsonse@queensu.ca to request a meeting with a career counsellor at Career Services to discuss their personal statement.

           Sample 1: Rhodes Scholarship personal statement

           Sample 2: Rhodes Scholarship personal statement

  • Please note the following regulation regarding your personal statement, found on p.3 of the Rhodes Canada 2016 Memorandum: The personal statement must be your own work and wholly truthful. In submitting this statement, candidates will need to attest to the following: “I attest that this personal statement is my own work and is wholly truthful. Neither it nor any earlier draft has been edited by anyone other than me, nor has any one else reviewed it to provide me with suggestions to improve it. I understand that any such editing or review would disqualify my application.”

  • Watch current Rhodes Scholars speaking about the personal statement.

Curriculum Vitae

  • The application process information provided by Rhodes indicates that candidates are to submit a “curriculum vitae/resumé or list of principal activities.” From the 2016 Rhodes Memorandum for Canada, the curriculum vitae/resumé  is further described as a “factual list of principal activities and honours while in College or University (including scholarships, prizes, awards, offices held, athletic record and extra-curricular interests and activities) with dates.”
  • Using this information as a starting point, Queen’s candidates can develop a curriculum vitae or resumé.  Counsellors at Career Services are available to support applicants in this process by considering options and providing feedback on a CV or resumé. Students must first contact Liz Parsons at parsonse@queensu.ca to request a meeting with a career counsellor at Career Services to review the C.V. they intend to use in their Rhodes application.

Letters of Reference

  • Letters of Reference are not required for the internal Rhodes application to Queen's University, but a list of names and contact information for referees that the applicant intends to use in their Canadian Rhodes application is required.

  • The Canadian Rhodes Scholarship application requires six letters of reference, to be sent directly by the referee to the Selection Committee before the deadline. Aside from the Personal Statement, your letters of reference are the most crucial component of your application. Before selecting your academic and other references, ask yourself: What is it that each person can contribute in support of my application? 

  • In addition to professors, applicants have a number of referee choices open to them based on their individual circumstances. These could include: Work supervisors; Directors/organizers of volunteer organizations, clubs, or symposiums; chairs of committees the applicant has served on; coaches/trainers of athletic activities.

  • It is strongly suggested that you give your referees ample warning of the deadline set by Rhodes (at least 1-2 months advance notice). We recommend meeting with each potential referee and providing them with a copy of your Pre-application Package to ensure they are able to write the best possible reference letters to accompany your application. Provide them with the link to the Rhodes website, the selection criteria and the deadline.

  • Contact your referees, one week before the deadline, to ensure that their letters have been, or will be uploaded by the deadline. Always let your referees know the outcome of the application and remember to thank them.

The Interview

  • Be prepared for an in-person interview, if one is requested. For candidates who apply to be considered for the Rhodes Scholarship within the Ontario region, interviews for the Canadian Rhodes Scholarships are held in Toronto, usually in late November.

  • The interview is of core importance as it is here that selection committees have the opportunity to weigh up a candidate's depth of engagement, accomplishments, and aspirations. Anticipate the type of questions that might be asked based on the criteria outlined for the scholarship. Proven intellectual and academic attainment of a high standard is the first quality required of Scholars, but they are also required to show exceptional character, leadership in extra-curricular activities, and a commitment to service in the public good. Be prepared to state why you would be a worthy candidate to represent Queen's University and Canada at Oxford. The interview will therefore be wide-ranging in nature, designed to test candidates' intellectual skills and reasoning ability, but also to reveal their character, core commitments, and potential to make a positive contribution to society.

  • Once you have been invited for an interview, Career Services offers career consultation with a career counsellor. To make best use of your appointment, the Career Information Area offers a number of resources to help you, including: "Get the Interview Edge" and "Best Answers to the 201 Most Frequently Asked Interview Questions".

Rhodes - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Still have questions? Check the Rhodes Scholarship FAQs.