The Rhodes rewards achievement at a very high level while providing the opportunity to study in any field at Oxford University for two to three years. The four criteria for selection of the 32 Americans each year, as specified by Cecil Rhodes in 1903:
- literary and scholastic attainments
- fondness for and success in sports
- truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness, and fellowship
- moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings.
As an academic scholarship, the most important criterion is intellectual distinction, measured in large part (but not exclusively) by grades and academic honors. Letters of recommendation can provide important supportive evidence of intellectual distinction. The criterion of success in sports: show that you have the energy to use your talents fully. Other ways to demonstrate energy, physical vigor and ambition besides participation in varsity athletics are acceptable but should be well documented. At the same time, leadership and teamwork are often well demonstrated in competitive sports. Needless to say, superior athletic distinction is a definite plus. The leadership skills can be acquired in any field, not simply political. The Rhodes Program seeks to identify and nurture those students who will advance the course of human civilization in all its manifestations. Quite a select group.
The application process requires an institutional endorsement (from a Centenary-based Rhodes Advisory Committee consisting of four members, usually faculty members, who can speak to your academic, scholastic, athletic and leadership qualities); five to eight letters of recommendation, a list of principal activities and honors in college with dates (no more than two pages, Times New Roman, no smaller than 10 pt. type; 12pt. preferred) and a 1000-word essay.
- Applications must be postmarked no later than October 1st
- Institutional endorsement and referee letters due October 9th
- District interviews November 16th and 17th
Writing the Essay
The 1000-word essay should describe 1) your academic, athletic and other interests, 2) the specific area of proposed study, and 3) why you wish to study at Oxford. The Rhodes Selection Committee (responsible for selecting the fortunate 32 scholars from literally thousands of applicants) will place special emphasis on this personal statement, so it should be the very best work of which you are capable. Since you will have already listed many of the qualifications that you believe to be most significant, the essay should describe how your talents and interests relate to one another and to your long-term goals. Particular experiences connected with these or other incidents in your life can be described to the extent that they have shaped your development and the direction of your interests. To persuade the Rhodes Selection Committee to choose you over the many other qualified candidates, you need to present yourself as a unique individual: competent, imaginative, ambitious, disciplined, with a vision for yourself and your place in the world, and with a particularly appropriate idea of how to further that vision by earning an Oxford degree.