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British Embassy Marshall Scholarship Personal Statement



This scholarship provides one to three years of study leading to a degree at any British university. Seniors, graduate or professional students, and graduates are eligible to apply within two years of their undergraduate graduation. You must be a U.S. citizen with an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.7.

Marshall Scholar Josie Chambers shares her experience in applying for the scholarship.

What They're Looking For

Candidates are evaluated on academic achievement, leadership potential, social commitment, and communication skills. In appointing scholars, the selectors will look for distinction of intellect and character as evidenced both by their scholastic attainments and by their other activities and achievements. Preference will be given to candidates who display a potential to make a significant contribution to their own society. Selectors will also look for strong motivation and seriousness of purpose, including the presentation of a specific and realistic academic program. Succinctly, Marshall Scholars are deep thinkers who are prepared for leadership in multiple sectors and get things done. The University of Illinois has had five students selected as Marshall Scholars in the last seven years! Read more about recent Illinois Marshall Scholars.

Priority Deadline

June 1, 2017

Students are encouraged to submit a priority application for the Marshall Scholarship. University faculty and staff who are familiar with the Marshall Scholarship will review materials received by this date, while only the National and International Scholarships Program directors will review materials submitted after this date. In either case, we will provide feedback on multiple drafts of your application both prior to the priority deadline, and from the priority deadline to final submission.

Please submit the following requested information to us via email or mail at 807 South Wright Street, Fifth Floor, MC-317:

  1. A signed Scholarship Waiver (either scanned or in hardcopy).
  2. Four to five letters of recommendation of 1,000 words or less (drafts acceptable). If you have been a student in the UK on a study abroad program, you should seriously consider obtaining one of your letters of recommendation from your senior tutor or from a professor who is familiar with your work. Letters should be sent as attachments directly to us at topscholars@illinois.edu.
  3. Résumé.
  4. Personal Statement of 1,000 words (personal statement should be in 12 point font and double spaced).
  5. University Statements of 500 words each naming your choices of program and universities in the UK and describing why you have selected them.
  6. Leadership Essay of 500 words describing a situation in which you recognized and responded to a need for leadership.
  7. Ambassadorial Essay of 500 words describing what the "USA-UK special relationship means" and how you might strengthen those ties.

In addition to the personal statement and résumé it is in your best interest to submit at least four letters of recommendation as four letters are ultimately required and a few "Choice of University Statements" outlining your choices of university and the coursework or research you propose, as Marshall requires more than one university choice.

Review further information about priority deadline requirements.

Required Campus Deadline

August 22, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. (noon)

Whether or not you turned in a priority application, a complete Marshall application must be submitted to us in order to be considered for University of Illinois endorsement (a requirement to move forward in the competition). Based on your submittal, including grade reports that we will provide, and an interview, a University of Illinois Scholarships Selection Committee will determine your endorsement. The university will endorse those candidates the Committee feels have the potential to be Marshall Scholars; up to a handful of applicants will receive this endorsement (there is no limit on the number of endorsements, but the committee is quite judicious). We may also offer some feedback on your application, based on comments from committee members.

Required information includes:

  1. A signed Scholarship Waiver (if not submitted since June—either scanned or in hardcopy).
  2. Four letters of recommendation (submitted online through the Marshall website and particular to the student's Marshall application—note that applicants must enter the recommender information and hit the "Send Request" button at least 2 weeks in advance of the deadline to give your letter writers time to submit their letters electronically). You should list your primary recommender first, and then your other two academic recommenders, with the fourth letter most focused on your leadership. Letters should be written to the attention of the "Marshall Scholarship Selection Committee" and may not exceed 1,000 words. As with the rest of the application, bold or italicized text will not transfer through. In addition, it is best to enter hard returns between paragraphs, as tabs do not work when printing out the letter.
  3. A complete Marshall Scholarship application (including essays) submitted electronically. You will be able to make changes to your application once you are endorsed.

Endorsed Applicant Deadline

September 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm

The Marshall Scholarship requires applications and letters of recommendation to be submitted electronically. Those students who have been endorsed need to electronically submit any final revisions by this date. Hard copies of official transcripts from all colleges (including community colleges where you may have only taken 1 course and study abroad transcripts, unless both the grades and credits of all courses appear on your Illinois transcripts) and any supplementary materials (portfolios) for students in the arts (with your Marshall-issued ID number on each) must be submitted to us by this date as well.

If any changes were requested, recommendation writers will need to resubmit their letters, specifically tailored toward your application as a Marshall Scholar, electronically by this deadline.

The Final Stages

We electronically submit your complete Marshall Application (after you electronically submit it to us) along with an official University Endorsement Letter and mail your original transcript(s) (marked with your Marshall online ID code) and portfolio (for fine arts applicants) to a regional selection panel. Short-listed candidates will be called for an interview in November. Those who are called to interview will be asked to scan and attach a photograph to their application, print the application, and sign it before bringing it to the interview. Finalists will also be asked to provide a brief biographical sketch to be used for promotional purposes if named a Marshall Scholar. Candidates must also bring with them a completed medical form along with evidence of your date of birth and U.S. citizenship (e.g., a birth certificate or passport), and marriage certificate, if married. We will coordinate mock interviews for those students called to an interview. The final selection will be announced shortly after the Marshall interview.

General Application Tips

To be eligible, an applicant must have graduated from their undergraduate institution within two academic years of applying (after April 2015 for applications submitted in fall 2017). The Selection Committee prefers awarding scholarships to help develop expertise, rather than for a person to broaden themselves before deciding to specialize.

When writing your personal statement, consider what makes you tick. Provide evidence of your research and address how U.K. study will help your future. Why is it important to pursue the degrees in the U.K.? Address how your past got you interested in what you are doing. Discuss medical or other conditions—be honest and up-front, gutsy. The statement should show the texture of the candidate. The U.K. sees the Marshall Scholarship as an investment; how will you provide future benefits? How are you an ambassador? They want students to be advocates for U.K. policies in the U.S.

Your "Proposed Academic Programme" statement should be written about ¾ in regards to your first choice institution and ¼ about your second choice institution. Your second 1-year MA (if choosing two) is less important as many students change these after arriving. You may choose two different universities for the scholarship (1 year at each). Identifying the program or person you would like to work with is important. It helps to have been in contact with professors at whatever school you are applying to go to, especially for those interested in research degrees. Focus your statement on how you fit into the program(s) rather than just the general details of the programs.

At least two of your letters of recommendation should be from academics in your field, one who is the "preferred recommender." The letters should try to humanize the candidate—it is often best if one letter is nonacademic. Ideally, senior faculty would write the other letters. Any applicant who has studied previously in the U.K. should strongly consider obtaining one of their letters of recommendation from a U.K. faculty member. Read our advice on writing letters of recommendation.

Marshall Website & Application

For official information on the Marshall Scholarship (which supersedes any information provided here) and access to the online application, please visit their website.

History   |   Description   |   Eligibility   |    How to   |   Application   |    Recommendation   |   Checklist

History and Purpose

Founded by a 1953 Act of Parliament, and named in honour of US Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Marshall Scholarships commemorate the humane ideals of the Marshall Plan and express the continuing gratitude of the British people to their American counterparts for economic assistance following World War II.

Marshall Scholarships are mainly funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and are overseen by the Marshall Commission. The Secretariat is provided by the Association of Commonwealth Universities. In the US the selection process is managed by the regional Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, and in Washington DC by the British Embassy.

By providing these scholarships, the Marshall Commission intends to develop future U.S. leaders with a lasting understanding of British societywho will strengthen the enduring relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments, and their institutions. Through their direct engagement with Britain through its best academic programmes, Scholars will enhance their intellectual and personal growth, contributing to their ultimate success.

Description of Marshall Scholarships

Marshall Scholarships finance young Americans of high ability to study for one or two one-year degrees or one two-year degree in the United Kingdom. Up to forty Scholars are selected each year. The Two Year Marshall Scholarship is tenable for two academic years (i.e. 22 months), but an extension may be granted on a limited basis for strong academic reasons, subject to the availability of funds. Funding includes university fees, cost of living expenses, annual book and thesis grants, research and daily travel grants, and fares to and from the United States. Any subject of study is welcomed except pursuit of professional degrees and some other restrictions, outlined in the Rules for Candidates.

Eligibility requirements & Rules for Nomination

Applicants must be/have:

  • Seniors who will have obtained a bachelor’s degree before the time of the grant, or alumnae, up to two years from their date of graduation from college (no age restrictions)
  • U.S. citizens (those in the process of applying for citizenship are not eligible)
  • Academic merit evidenced by a GPA of at least 3.7 with a rigorous course selection; awards, research
  • Demonstrated leadership and ambassadorial potential

Nominations are unlimited, but endorsement is at the discretion of the Committee on Fellowships.

How to apply

All applicants (seniors and alumnae) must apply through a campus process, facilitated by the National Fellowships Advisor. In the spring prior to application, interested students should attend an information session; read the Guide to Graduate Study in the UK; thoroughly read the guidelines and FAQ’s on the Marshall website; and discuss candidacy and UK program options with the National Fellowships Advisor in person or (if abroad) via Skype. Applicants will receive further guidance and instruction throughout the summer on preparing their applications. In early fall, they will be interviewed by the Committee on Fellowships, chaired by the Dean of Studies, and endorsement decisions will be made. The National Fellowships Advisor will submit the revised application and letter for endorsed candidates to Marshall by the deadline. Marshall undertakes responsibility to place selected Scholars in their chosen universities, but candidates who intend to enroll whether or not they win a Marshall should apply separately. Note that campus deadlines for submission of materials are  earlier than the Marshall Scholarship application deadline.

Application components(essays are imported into the online application form)

  • completed online application form where candidates enter biographical data; educational background; proposed programme(s) of study; employment (paid and unpaid); names of recommenders; personal information (non-academic activities); language/travel experience; awards; applicants apply in regions and may choose either the region of their permanent address or that in which they are currently studying (selection option becomes available once application is completed)
  • Personal Statement (1,000 words or less) describing candidate’s intellectual development, other interests and pursuits
  • An Academic Proposal (500 words or less) in which candidates describe their proposed academicprogramme, giving reasons for choice of course and preferred university. For research degrees, candidate should give an outline proposal of the research they wish to undertake and with whom they would like to work; candidates should also include a brief outline of why they have chosen their second choice courses and institutions
  • An Ambassadorial Potential Essay (500 words or less) describing what "the USA-UK special relationship” means and how the candidate might strengthen these ties in their field of study and through extra-curricular activities, while in the UK and upon return to the US
  • A Leadership Essay (500 words or less) describing a situation in which the candidate recognized and responded to a need for leadership; when answering this question, please consider the Commission's criteria on leadership potential:
  • Post-Scholarship Plan (300 words or less) - describing immediate plans upon completion of Marshall Scholarship and why two years spent in the UK would enhance these plans. As well as describing plans for employment or further study, candidate should indicate how they will develop ongoing connections with the UK, through the UK institution or other contacts made while in the UK. Please also include a brief statement of future (longer-term) career plans.
  • Four recommendations – at least two must be from faculty. At least three must be from the United States. The first recommender entered -- the “Preferred Recommender” -- must have supervised your education (thesis/academic advisor). The fourth recommender should discuss candidate's leadership and ambassadorial potential and need not be written by a faculty member. When the applicant enters the names of her recommenders in the online application, an email is sent with instructions on cutting and pasting letters into the online form. MHC candidates must waive their right to see each recommendation letter to be considered for endorsement.
  • Official Transcripts – from all undergraduate study sources, including abroad; have these sent directly to the National Fellowships Advisor; the Senior Administrative Assistant, Marianne Taylor will send candidates pdfs of front and back of all transcripts; candidates must upload them to site; Marianne will send originals via U.S.P.S. to Marshall Regional Committee

Note: Students applying for a Marshall Scholarship are strongly encouraged to also apply for a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant for one year master’s degree at a university in the UK.

Recommendation Letters

Marshall seeks the following in recommendation letters:Please comment on the candidate's general fitness for the course proposed and the suitability of the university chosen. Confidential observations, negative as well as positive, on the candidate's general character as well as academic standing and ability will be of great value to the selection authorities in their task of deciding which candidates should be summoned to the Regional Centre for interview. The Selectors look for candidates who have the potential to excel as scholars, as leaders and as contributors to improved UK-US understanding. Assessment will be based on academic merit, leadership potential and ambassadorial potential. They will also look for adequate preparation for the proposed course of study, particularly in the upper-level course work and real strength in the major field. Applicants will be required to present a cogent argument as to why their studies and proposed career would be best served by spending two years at a British university or one year if they are applying for the one year Marshall Scholarship. Preference will be given to candidates who combine high academic ability with the capacity to play an active part in the life of the United Kingdom university to which they go, and to those who display a potential to make a significant contribution to their own society. Read more about MHC recommendation letters for national fellowships.

Format and submission: Letters of recommendation for the Marshall Scholarship  (1,000 word limit) are cut and pasted into an online system by the recommender, who will receive an email invitation from Marshall once the applicant enters the recommenders’ contact information into her application (in early August). MHC Recommenders are asked to enter the letter by August 29th. The MHC Fellowships Advisor will be able to collect letters from the Marshall system.  If a candidate is selected by the Marshall Commission, the recommender will be sent a second e-mail with a pdf of his/her letter attached.  Marshall will ask the recommender to print the letter on institutional letterhead and to mail it to the address provided.

Campus Process and Checklist

Please note that for all deadlines, submission time is 12:00 noon

TimeframeTask(s) to Complete
Spring semesterAttend UK Fellowships & Graduate School info session/abroad students Skype with National Fellowships Advisor; meet individually with National Fellowships Advisor to discuss eligibility; discuss with National Fellowships Advisor and faculty advisors degree programs in UK; the fit between your goals and study there; criteria of the Marshall Scholarship and your experiences/achievements/academic work
JuneConfirm with National Fellowships Advisor intention to apply; begin Marshall/Embark online application (opens in May/June)
June/JulyContinue conversations with National Fellowships Advisor on UK programs, the Marshall, and you; solicit four recommendation letters (due in August)
June/JulyOrder original transcripts for all undergraduate study – have sent to National Fellowships Advisor
June/early JulySend National Fellowships Advisor your Proposed Academic Program, Post Scholarship Plan, and Leadership essays for feedback
 By July 20thSend National Fellowships Advisor your Revised essays and Personal Statement for feedback
 By Aug 1stSend National Fellowships Advisor your revised Personal Statement and Ambassadorial essays for feedback
August 10thSend essays to your recommenders (Academic Program & Personal Statement); Enter recommenders' names in online application (you MUST waive the right to see the letter in order to be endorsed at MHC); ask recommenders to submit by August 29th
August 31stInitial application DEADLINE: Recommendations must be imported into the Marshall site or sent to National Fellowships Advisor; pdfs of transcripts, and essays, must be imported into online application and all other sections completed;applicants hit submit (online application will then go directly to National Fellowships Advisor; a pdf can be generated by candidate at any stage of the process); National Fellowships Advisor will distribute materials to Committee on Fellowships
9/12-9/16Committee on Fellowships interviews Marshall candidates; endorsement decisions are made and candidates notified
 9/16-9/25National Fellowships Advisor returns application to candidates; Nominees make further revisions to application based on Committee feedback
SEPT 26FINAL DEADLINE: Final version of recommendations uploaded to site; Nominee re-submits revised application
By Oct 3rdNational Fellowships Advisor submits application online with endorsement letter and mails original transcripts for candidates to their respective regions
 Mid-NovemberMarshall invites/declines applicants to interview; interviews conducted on these dates
Late NovemberAwards announced

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