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Tips to Prepare a Rhodes Scholarship Application

Start Early

  • Applying for the Rhodes Scholarship involves numerous steps and an extensive time commitment. To help you decide to begin the process, ensure that you have read the application criteria specific to Canada for the year in which you are applying.  
  • 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 endorsement, ordering 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, has many resources available to assist you throughout the application process including coaching to help you write your personal statement and curriculum vitae (CV).
  • Students who meet the Rhodes criteria, and are interested in applying for institutional endorsement, can book an appointment with Elizabeth (Liz) Parsons at  parsonse@queensu.ca   to discuss the process. 

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 2015 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 their personal statements including a Career Information Area with resources such as "Perfect Personal Statements" and "Graduate Admissions Essays."

  • Sample 1: Rhodes Scholarship personal statements

  • Sample 2: Rhodes Scholarship personal statements

Curriculum Vitae

  • A curriculum vitae is a resume which highlights your university educational and academic history. Ensure that you are highlighting all of your academic accomplishments (awards, research, teaching experience), a global perspective (languages, study/research abroad, international course work, internships), leadership skills and experiences, things that make you unique, etc...

  • Career Services has a variety of resources available to assist students with developing their curriculum vitae including a Career Information Area with resources such as "How to Prepare your Curriculum Vitae".

  • Make an appointment for a career consultation to have a career counsellor review your curriculum vitae.

Letters of Reference

  • 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? 

  • Aside from professors, applicants have a number of referee choices open to them based on their individual circumstances. For example: 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 in order to ensure that 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 the letters have been, or will be sent. 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. Interviews for the Canadian Rhodes Scholarships are held in Toronto.

  • 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 FAQ's.