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Gates Cambridge Scholarship

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What is the Gates Cambridge?

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in October 2000 by a donation of US$210m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge. The first class of scholars came into residence in October 2001. Since then, the Trust has awarded over 2,000 scholarships to scholars from more than 100 countries.

Each year Gates Cambridge offers around 80 full-cost scholarships to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. Approximately two-thirds of these awards will be offered to PhD students, with approximately 25 awards available in the US round and 55 available in the International round. 

The selection criteria are: 

  • Outstanding intellectual ability
  • Reasons for choice of course
  • Commitment to improving the lives of others
  • Leadership potential
  • Good fit between the applicant's qualifications and aspirations and the postgraduate program at Cambridge for which they are applying 

There are approximately 250 Scholars from about 50 countries studying in Cambridge at any one time who pursue the full range of subjects available at the University and are spread across its departments and Colleges, as well as forming their own distinctive community.

There is also a community of more than 1,700 Gates Cambridge Alumni spread across the world.

The Gates Cambridge mission is to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others. It aims to achieve this mission by selecting outstanding scholars, providing them with financial and non-financial support at one of the world’s leading universities and facilitating community building at and beyond Cambridge.

Since the beginning of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship 50 Stanford students and alumni have been successful as Gates Cambridge scholars.

Application Process

Unlike the Rhodes and the Marshall Scholarships, the Gates Cambridge requires no endorsement from Stanford, and therefore, there is no campus application process. Regardless, the Gates Cambridge  takes commitment to develop a well written and  convincing application.  You need to make a strong case for admission to your program of choice and to convince the Gates Cambridge that you have the broader qualities deemed important and that you have carefully selected your references.

The Gates Cambridge requires you to be accepted to the academic program first. Only after acceptance to the program will they review your materials. It is important to have a strong recommendation from your department to the Gates Cambridge. 

There are two application deadlines for the Gates Cambridge:

  • US citizens living in the USA only - Mid-October
  • All other eligible applicants - either December or January, depending on your course.

Application Materials: (please review the Gates Cambridge website will have more details on these materials):

  • Gates Cambridge Statement (approximately 500 words)
  • CV/Resume
  • Research proposal (PhD applicants only)
  • 3 references In addition to two academic references for admission, Gates Cambridge applicants submit a reference about their fit with the scholarship. The two academic references must be from faculty who can advocate for your admission to the program you have chosen and should, therefore, be from faculty in the same field.

Final interviews for the Gates Cambridge are usually in late January following the application.

Considerations in Applying 

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is largely  interested in applicants who wish to study for the Ph.D. Those applying for taught Masters should pay special attention to explaining why this is the optimal course for them and how it is critical to their future academic or professional training plans. 

If you are interested in a Ph.D. or, even, a one or two year research degree, then we strongly encourage you to focus on a possible research supervisor at Cambridge and make contact with this faculty member. 

Field of Interest 

The Gates Cambridge has no preferred list of subjects. Gates Cambridge applicants should be able to persuade the Gates Trust that their qualifications and aspirations align with what Cambridge has to offer in its postgraduate program. It is important that candidates can make a convincing argument for doing a particular postgraduate degree at Cambridge. Therefore, researching the degree is important. The Gates Cambridge website has further information on which degree programs are supported by the award.

The University of Cambridge also has detailed information of graduate programs (called Postgraduate Study):

Academic and Career Goals

Be aware of how your proposed study relates to your future goals and aspirations, both personal and academic. Examine the way in which your proposed course of study will enhance your plans to pursue a particular subject or degree..

Scholarships like to give their awards to candidates who are most likely to put their proposed studies to use in their future careers. Therefore, it is essential that you have thought through how you see your proposed studies connecting to the course of your life. In other words, what you have accomplished so far, what you are doing now, what you wish to do with the award, and what you will do later must follow a logical trajectory. We recommend that you discuss your interest to study at Cambridge with your academic advisor at Stanford.

Next Steps 

Please let us know if you decide to apply by completing the Gates Cambridge Intent to Apply form (even if you may have filled it out previously). We would like to have an idea of who is actually submitting an application this cycle, since there is no campus process. If you are invited for a final interview, please be in touch with our office as we are happy to help you prepare for a Gates Cambridge interview. We can also, where appropriate, put you in touch with current and former Gates Cambridge Scholars from Stanford.

Make an appointment with an OGS advisor. This is your opportunity to ask more in-depth questions regarding the Gates Cambridge and to consider the following issues in determining whether to apply:

Do I have the time and energy to commit to this process? Participating in these scholarship competitions demands considerable time and energy. Most people who have participated in the process through its final stages have compared it to five units of coursework. For those applicants who plan ahead, the process won’t be quite as daunting! 

Am I prepared to meet national deadlines and complete applications on time? During the scholarship process, there will be deadlines that need to be met where no exceptions will be made. Keep in mind that no matter how much work is done during the spring and summer, there are always last-minute details to complete around the time of the deadline and interviews. Applications that look rushed, unpolished, and are incomplete will not be impressive and will not advance far in the selection process.

Is my GPA competitive enough? You have to be able to be accepted into the graduate program at Cambridge. An excellent GPA is a requirement; we recommend a 3.8 or higher. If your GPA is less than 3.7, or if in a particular quarter(s) your grades lowered your average, you should have a reasonable explanation (i.e., family or personal trauma) for this. If you are concerned about your grades, please consult with the OGS advisors. 

Have I been involved in extracurricular activities outside of the academic area? All awards look for significant contributions outside academics. Your extracurricular involvement and achievements can be in any area (i.e., volunteer activities, student organizations, work, sports), but they should be substantive. Depth of involvement is more important than breadth of activities or titles held.

Do I know enough faculty members or advisors well enough to ask for the number of references required? Students who are successful receive very detailed references from faculty, supervisors, advisors, etc. These references provide the selection committee with an in-depth evaluation of a student based on a close and often long-term relationship. References from faculty who have taught you in one large class often do not convey the kind of information a selection committee needs. It is important that all applicants for the Gates Cambridge understand the need for very strong references. 

Do I take advice well? Applying for the Gates Cambridge can involve many people giving you advice, much of it based on their own experiences.

Can I move from the “micro” of college work to the “macro” of world events by drawing comparisons? In the past, a number of very qualified applicants have had difficult interviews because they have not been able to relate the specifics of their academic and personal interests to more national or worldly considerations. For example, if you are a student who is somehow involved in medical research, can you discuss the need for a national healthcare system? Successful applicants are aware of current events, both related to their field and more generally.

Can I defend and articulate my views? We have never noticed any trends for “right” or “wrong” opinions in these scholarships. We have, however, seen many examples where committees have strongly questioned applicants on their views. All awards look, to some degree or other, for students who have strong beliefs and can defend them. Your aim is not to please a committee, but to gain its respect.

Do I see similarities between myself and previous winners? Consult the profiles of recent and past winners online, both from Stanford and elsewhere. These profiles will give you a good idea of what the past winners are like, what they were involved in, what they studied at Stanford, and what they studied (or are studying) at Cambridge. As you look through the materials, don’t compare yourself in terms of having the same interests, but rather ask if you have the same commitment to interests that the winners appear to have. Gates Cambridge Scholars are listed here

We are available to assist you during the application process throughout the spring, summer, and early fall. If you have specific questions at any point during the application process, please do not hesitate to contact us.

In addition to the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, you should also consider the Cambridge Trust Scholarship and other options to help fund your graduate studies at Cambridge. Here is the website.