The Gates Scholarship Application Guide 2021
What is The Gates Scholarship?
Basically, it’s an amazing opportunity—a highly selective, last-dollar scholarship awarded to 300 student leaders each year, with the goal of eliminating financial barriers to college. Their philosophy is that students have a better shot at reaching their maximum potential if they don’t have to worry about money.
Scholars receive funding for their full cost of attendance to earn a bachelor’s degree (for up to five years), that isn’t already covered by other financial aid and the expected family contribution.
If you like to think about formulas, The Gates Scholarship Award looks like this:
Cost of Attendance for the year (COA) - Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - Gift Aid (Scholarships and Grants) = The Gates Scholars Award Amount
In addition to the financial support, The Gates Scholarship also provides Scholars with a ton of online support services including career services, mentoring, leadership development, and wellness. And there’s also a Summer Institute where Scholars can meet one another and begin to build their Gates network with peers and mentors.
What exactly does The Gates Scholarship cover?
Tuition and fees
Room and board (housing and food)
Books and supplies
Personal expenses (as outlined in your COA)
Health insurance premium (provided by institution)
Work study contribution
Study abroad (for credit and offered through your institution; summer excluded)
Computer (if included by institution in your COA)
Co-op and internship programs
Summer courses at institution (only in some cases)
How do I figure out if I am eligible for The Gates Scholarship?
To apply, you must be:
A current high school senior
African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native*, Asian & Pacific Islander American, and/or Hispanic American (*proof of tribal enrollment is required)
Pell-eligible (If you’re not sure, use the FAFSA4Caster to determine eligibility
A U.S. citizen, national or permanent resident
In good academic standing with a minimum cumulative weighted GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent)
What are the characteristics of an ideal Gates Scholar candidate?
Stellar academic record, likely in the top 10% of your class
Demonstrated leadership ability (this could be in a club/organization, community service, religious institution, work, etc.)
Excellent personal abilities - motivation, perseverance, emotional maturity, etc.
How do I apply for the Gates Scholarship?
First, create a myTGS Profile online , which will be your portal to all The Gates Scholarship resources, for the life of the scholarship.
Phase One of the application is pretty straightforward. It’s divided up into eight sections:
It’s basically like the first sections of college applications, before you get to the essay writing portion. The essay part of the application comes later, if you are selected as a semi-finalist.
What about standardized test scores?
The Gates Scholarship is not requiring either SAT or ACT scores for this application cycle, due to testing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you have already taken the SAT and/or ACT, you are encouraged to report your scores. However, students who do not report scores will not be penalized.
The Gates Scholarship Application Timeline
Here are some key dates for the current application cycle:
September 15th - Initial Phase One application is due at 5pm PT
December 1st - 2,000 Semi-Finalists will be announced and will be invited to complete Phase II of the application which includes essays, recommendations, and additional document verification (more on that in Part Two of this post)
March 1st - 600 Finalists will be announced and invited to interview
April 20th - The 300 Gates Scholars will be announced
More great reads on financial aid & scholarships:
How to find scholarships for high school seniors, how to write a scholarship essay, college application fee waivers: who qualifies & how to get them, want help writing your supplemental essays check out a trial of my step-by-step video course..
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How to Win the Gates Scholarship [2022-2023 Edition]
One of the biggest and best scholarships available for students is the Gates Scholarship . In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the Gates Scholarship, including how to make yourself the strongest candidate possible for winning it.
As a reminder, the Gates Scholarship is one of more than twenty thousand private scholarships available to students every year. If your interested in winning more than just the Gates Scholarship, consider signing up for the #1 rated scholarship app in the world, Scholly Search .
Without further ado, let’s look at how to win the Gates Scholarship!
What is the Gates Scholarship?
The Gates Scholarship is awarded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation , whose mission is to “ensure more children and young people survive and thrive.” The foundation seeks to eradicate poverty through access to high-quality healthcare and education.
Prior to 2017, the Gates Scholarship was the Gates Millennium Scholars program, which served 20,000 students up to that point.
The new Gates Scholarship funds the education of 300 Pell grant eligible, minority students a year with the aim of helping underserved students reach their maximum potential in life. The program will run 10 years (until 2027), and fully fund the education of 3,000 students total!
You can find more information about the Gates Scholarship here . You can also check out the Gates Scholarship student FAQ page . And read on for everything you need to know about applying for and winning it!
What the Gates Scholarship Provides
So, what does a Gates scholarship winner actually win ?
The Gates scholarship awards full funding for the winner’s education (that is not already covered by other scholarships or grants). This funding is fully renewable for up to five years , which means your entire undergraduate education will be covered, providing you can finish it in that time.
Furthermore, the Gates Scholarship offers all kinds of other online support systems including mentorship, career counseling, a network of other Gates scholars, etc.
Pretty great deal, huh?
And by the way, the cost of education includes tuition, fees, room and board, textbooks, transportation, and (potentially) other costs associated with college.
In other words: the Gates Scholarship is a HUGE win.
Eligibility for the Gates Scholarship
Okay, but you may be asking yourself, “Am I eligible for the Gates Scholarship?” Good question.
According to the newest eligibility guidelines, you’ll need to be:
- A high school senior
- A minority student , which is this case refers to being one of the following ethnicities: African American, American Indian/Native Alaskan, Asian/Pacific Islander American, and/or Hispanic American
- Eligible for a Pell grant , which are awarded to undergraduate students who qualify for financial aid
- A US citizen, national, or permanent resident
- In good academic standing with a GPA of 3.3 out of 4.0 on a cumulative, weighted scale
Here are a few more key facts about eligibility:
- If you received your GED instead of a high school diploma you are not eligible to apply.
- You must be attending an accredited, 4-year college or university in the United States or Puerto Rico. Community colleges are included, but you must be able to prove you’re enrolling as a freshman in a 4-year program.
- If you’re seeking an Associate’s Degree from a 2-year college before transferring to a 4-year university, you are not eligible to apply.
Sound like you? Read on!
Application Steps for the Gates Scholarship
If you’re eligible for the Gates scholarship, hooray! Now let’s take a look at what you’ll actually need to apply and the necessary steps to take.
#1 Gather the following information:
- Your current academic information: your high school name and address, your transcripts, GPA, class rank, and SAT and/or ACT scores
- Your college information: your acceptance letter and your financial aid award letter (btw: in order to receive financial aid you will need to fill out a FAFSA. Check out our complete guide to filling out your FAFSA for help). Note that if you haven’t been accepted anywhere yet, that’s okay. But by the final stage of the application process, you’ll need to provide this verification.
- You family’s financial information: your dependent or independent status and your parents’ or guardians’ personal gross income for the previous year
- You extracurricular information: this includes employment, sports or clubs, community service, leadership roles, etc. Make sure to have as much information on hand about these activities as possible, including names, dates, and descriptions associated with each.
#2 Create a TGS profile
In order to log in and apply, you’ll need to create a TGS account and start a personal profile. Everything you submit for the Gates Scholarship will be through this portal.
It may seem obvious, but on the first page, select “student” from the drop down menu and then select and confirm a password of your choice. It’s a super simple process, but necessary for proceeding with your application. You will not be able to apply through any other sites or by mail.
#3 Familiarize yourself with the application phases
- In phase one of the application—which you’ll automatically be directed to upon signing up—all you’ll need to do is fill out a questionnaire about yourself. This step is also very simple, and if you’ve gathered the information mentioned above it won’t take long at all to enter it.
- If you are selected to advance to phase 2 of the application as a semi-finalist , congrats! (FYI: 2,000 students will be chosen to move on at this juncture). You’ll be notified and provided an additional application to complete. This portion of the application will require you to: complete another, more in-depth questionnaire, submit your updated transcripts, provide letters of recommendation (typically 2), and complete several short essays. Unfortunately, essay questions change annually and are not released until you make it to this step, but we’ll provide you more advice about scholarship essays shortly!
- If you’re one of the lucky 600 students who make it round 3 , BIG congrats! This means you’re a finalist and will be given an interview with the selection committee.
The Gates Scholarship Timeline
The exact dates vary year to year, but here’s the general timeline:
July: The Gates Scholarship application opens!
September: Application deadline for phase 1
December: Semi-finalists are announced and the phase 2 application opens for all those who are progressing as semi-finalists
January: Application deadline for phase 2
March: Finalists are announced and interviews are scheduled
April: Scholarship winners are announced!
August/September: Fall scholarship money is disbursed to all winners
For reference, the most recent Gates Scholarship opened July 15 and the first deadline was September 15. You can refer back to the previous timeline here.
Even if it seems far off, now would be an excellent time to start preparing for the next open application season!
Tips and Strategies for Winning the Gates Scholarship
Following the gates “ideal candidate” guidelines.
The Gates Scholarship board explains exactly what they consider an ideal candidate, which is a student who:
- Possesses an outstanding high school record , including a high GPA and class ranking in the top 10% of their graduating class
- Consistently demonstrates strong leadership through community service and/or extracurricular activities
- Exudes “exceptional personal success skills” like emotional maturity, motivation, motivation and perseverance despite challenges and setbacks, etc.
Get a Jumpstart on Everything
Winning the Gates Scholarship is truly a life-changing event, and because of that, it’s a super competitive pool. This means if you want a fighting chance of winning, you’ll want to be a strong applicant with high grades… and you’ll want to get on this early in your high school career.
Because here’s the thing about GPAs: they are actually quite hard to change substantially after your sophomore year. So you’ll want to get a jump start on getting good grades as early as freshman year so that your cumulative GPA for all four years is high when you apply.
The early bird also gets the worm when it comes to the actual application process. At Scholly, we’re big fans of starting an application as soon as it becomes available . This gives you enough time to gather the necessary information, reflect a bit, make any changes, and get tech support if necessary.
This is especially important if you make it to phase 2 of the competition and have to write essay responses. Start brainstorming and drafting as early as possible to give yourself ample time to edit and upload them.
Give Back and Demonstrate Leadership
The Gates Scholarship committee really wants to see that you are a person of service—an individual genuinely and whole-heartedly concerned with the wellbeing of others and in taking action to make change in the world.
It’s one thing to have a list of extracurricular and volunteer activities listed on your resume and it’s another to actually live into these passions. Remember that if you advance to rounds 2 and 3, you’ll likely have to write and talk in depth about the causes that are important to you and why.
So we encourage you to get curious and adventurous (again, as early on as possible). Try to find a type of community service that actually speaks to you, not just one that looks good on paper. Are you passionate about animal rights? The environment? LGBTQ+ progress? Look for groups in your school and your community where you get involved. If you don’t know where to start, talk to a teacher, college counselor, or guidance counselor about your interests and they’ll help point you in the right direction.
Trying a lot of different things is okay, but you’ll also want to show that you can consistently dedicate yourself to the things you care most about. Try to find at least one or two activities or causes and stick to them over the course of your high school career.
Whenever possible, work up to leadership roles at any jobs, activities, or volunteer projects. Are you captain of your speech team? A shift leader at a local restaurant? A tutor who helps others? Your ability to demonstrate leadership and mentorship will help your application stand out.
Emphasize What Makes You Unique
300 students a year win the Gates Scholarship, which is pretty amazing. But the application pool is still… BIG. While there’s no definite number released on how many applicants apply each year, the semi-finalist pool alone is made up of 20,000 students. That means 1.5% of students who make it as far as the semifinalist phase will win.
So long story short, you’ll need to stand out . In your questionnaire (and later, in your essays), you’ll want to focus on the things that make you uniquely you. You can include and discuss attributes such as your cultural background, your gender identity, your passions (the more unique, the better), and your values.
If you move on to become a semifinalist or finalist, you’ll want to spend some time really reflecting on your future aspirations and goals, especially those in service of creating a better world for all. The more specific, the better. Will you use your law degree to advocate for equal pay for all? Will you become a nurse to help bring adequate healthcare to communities in struggle?
Let’s be clear: you won’t have to elaborate too much on these subjects during your initial application process. But we highly suggest you’ve given them some thought so that you’re better prepared if you advance!
Get Strong Letters of Recommendation
If you become a semifinalist, you’ll need to supply letters of recommendation from teachers or guidance counselors.
We can’t emphasize this enough: ask for your letters of recommendation early—as soon as you submit your initial application. If you don’t advance as a semifinalist, that’s ok! These letters can be re-purposed and used for other scholarship applications or similar. This is important because you’ll want to give your recommenders time to write thoughtful, reflective essays that paint a vivid picture of who you are and why you should win.
Also, make sure to ask people who know you well and and can genuinely speak to your ability, your potential, and your personal growth over a period of time. The better your recommenders know you, the more personal and captivating their letters will be, which will increase your chances of winning!
Check out this guide on how to ask for a letter of recommendation that will help you receive the best letter possible in a timely fashion. You can also send your teacher or guidance counselor this guide on how to write a recommendation letter for scholarship applications !
Slay the Essays
If you make it to the semi-finalist round, your essays are, without a doubt, THE most crucial part of your application. It’s through your essays that you’ll be able to create a complex and compelling portrait of who you are and what you stand for.
We strongly recommend that you take a look at this piece on how to write a scholarship essay that will help you win big for tons of tips and strategies for scholarship essay writing.
Here are a few “golden nugget” tips from it:
- Reach each question thoroughly and make sure you understand exactly what is being asked. It may sound silly, but we’re huge fans of reading out loud so you don’t miss anything. Break down each question into parts: are there sub-questions? It can help to print the questions and underline each idea you have to respond to.
- Trim the fat . That means you’ll want to keep your essay as tailored as possible, cutting out all redundant words and phrases as well as any ideas or thoughts that don’t directly apply to the prompt.
- Be YOU . Communicate passion for the topic at hand. You’ll want to be as professional as possible, but don’t be afraid to speak in your own voice and tone. Think: the way you’d talk to a teacher you know very well and respect.
- Proofread your essay! More than once. And ideally, have someone else proofread it as well. You can also use a tool like Grammarly that checks and improves your spelling, grammar, word choice, sentence structure, and more!
While the Gates scholarship essays change yearly and aren’t shared with you until you become a semi-finalist, most scholarship essays center around common themes like:
- Your goals for the future
- How you intend you make your dreams a reality
- Your strongest qualities and how they serve you and others
- What winning the scholarship would mean to you and how it would change your life
- Your strongest values
- Aspects of your identity (e.g. your race, class, gender, etc.) that have shaped your life
- How you’ve overcome certain hardships in your life
- An event or circumstance that has had significant impact on your life and shaped who you are
Reflecting and taking some notes on some or all of these topics will be incredibly helpful if you become a semi-finalist!
Prepare for an interview…even if getting one is a long-shot
Have you ever heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want”? This piece of advice is sort of like that.
You’ll want to look forward and start preparing for an interview (which are offered in person and via video chat) months in advance, even before you know if you’ll get one
Why? Because this way you’ll be beyond prepared if and when you do get an interview! And if you don’t, we guarantee that your interview prep will benefit you in some other way (for example, for another scholarship, college acceptance, or a job you want).
There’s no exact formula to nailing an interview, but these are some good scholarship interview tips to keep in mind.
According to one Gates Scholarship winner , he was asked about his extracurricular activities in depth and was also asked “Is there anything you’d like to add that was not reflected in your application?”
That applicant says he believes his overall passion about his interests and focus on his innovative nature is what landed him the scholarship. In his recounting of his interview, he shares that he explained in detail to the interviewer how he improved the design of the school newspaper and built out the school’s tennis team substantially.
Beyond the Gates Scholarship: Want Even MORE Scholarship Opportunities?!
So now you know how to win the Gates Scholarship. If you’re eligible, we really hope you apply! But also keep in mind that there are hundreds of thousands of other scholarships out there for you!
To easily find them, download Scholly Search , the #1 scholarship app in the world that instantly matches you with hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in scholarships based on your interests, accomplishments, and traits!
You can also check out the rest of our blog where we share tips on how to graduate debt free and win other scholarships like the National Merit Scholarship and the Dell Scholarship .
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The Gates Cambridge Scholarship
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program, created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, offers various scholarships funding between one and four years of study at Cambridge University in England. Areas of funded study are graduate, affiliated (a second undergraduate degree), clinical, and MBA, and the scholarships are competed for internationally. Students apply directly to Cambridge through the usual procedures, with the scholarship award decision heavily driven by the target Cambridge department. About 500 US students per year apply for the scholarships, with approximately one-fourth of them being offered a follow-up interview. Nearly 100 scholarships are awarded per year, and about one-third of those awarded scholarships typically go to US applicants.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship Selection Criteria
Gates Cambridge Scholarship applicants are evaluated by the following criteria:
- exceptional academic achievement and scholarly promise;
- aptitude for research, analysis, and a creative approach to defining and solving problems;
- appropriate fit between candidate’s plans and Cambridge offerings, as revealed through the applicant’s written application and interview.
Gates Cambridge scholars will become leaders who address such global concerns as social equity, health, and technological advances. Obviously, evidence of an applicant’s ability to have such an impact leads to a more favorable outcome.
Preparing the Gates Cambridge Scholarship Application
Gates Cambridge application questions vary slightly based on the area of funded study, but commonalities are questions related to your intended course of study and a 500-word personal statement. When answering these and other narrative questions, detail should be given about how your past activities reflect both leadership and service, and for how a particular course of study at Cambridge will serve to help you attain your goals. A useful exercise is to browse through the Gates Cambridge website link below, where you will find ample opportunities to hear from past Gates Scholars about their work and background. For instance, one Gates Scholar notes the value of her volunteer work in Ecuador. Discussing research and future plans, one scholar describes his plan to work on neuron regeneration at the Brain Repair Centre in Cambridge, while another summarizes his long-term goal to serve in Pakistan as a financial advisor. There is also a 12-minute film on the website detailing the goal to create a network of scholars through the Gates Scholar Alumni Association, and featuring recent Gates Scholars discussing their motivations and goals. Obviously, familiarizing yourself with these scholars will help you decide how to present yourself so that you can stand tall among them.
Evaluation of Two Sets of Sample Gates Scholarship Application Essays
In the pdf link below, the two sample excerpts from Gates Cambridge applications show the depth and diversity of students who apply for this scholarship. The first student, studying colon cancer, shows interests in everything from Renaissance painting to technical writing, while the second, studying speech technology, discusses interests ranging from computer security to swing dancing. Both of these students were awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
The first writer uses her short statement of research proposal to demonstrate her thorough awareness of the program at the center where she aims to conduct research at Cambridge. In her accompanying 500-word essay, she strikes a bold and creative tone by representing herself as something of a modern “Renaissance woman” (she even explores her creativity by “reproducing an intricate Renaissance painting” at the age of 13)—one who sees the study of science as an outlet for her creative mind, and one who takes the initiative to co-found and edit a health journal as well as teach science to students in state custody. Her theme of creativity as the “driving force” in her development and eventually leading her to science is both rhetorically persuasive and stylistically elegant.
The second writer discusses the specific course of study he would like to complete at Cambridge, followed by research which he hopes would make computer technology available to a wider audience, “including those suffering from physical disabilities.” His passion for working in this area becomes further articulated in his 500-word essay, where he expresses concerns about sensitivity of personal information and “the safety and stability of the global economic community.” Like the writer in the first example, he sees education as an important vehicle for change, and he has taught computer literacy classes to the elderly as well as studied abroad during his junior year at Oxford University. He ends his essay affirming his desire to “take action to improve the condition of humanity.”
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship website provides information on applying for the scholarship, profiles and quotes from recent Gates winners and alumni, and links to the bi-annual magazine The Gates Scholar.
Visit the Gates Cambridge Scholarship website.
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to win the gates scholarship.
The Gates Scholarship is a program with a huge impact. Launched in 2017, the program's mission is to give opportunities to outstanding minority students to reach their highest potential.
In this guide, I'll go through all the details of the scholarship and the application protocols. After that, I'll give you expert tips and strategies for putting together the strongest Gates Scholarship application possible. Read on to learn more!
Note: The Gates Scholarship was established in 2017 as a replacement for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program , which reached its goal of 20,000 scholars in 2016.
What Is the Gates Scholarship?
The primary mission of the Gates Scholarship is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in all majors. By offering outstanding scholars better educational opportunities, the program aims to develop a diversified group of future leaders for America.
Each year, 300 student leaders are selected for the Gates Scholarship, with each winner receiving funding for the full Cost of Attendance to an accredited four-year US university or college.
Compared with other impressive corporate scholarships, the Gates Scholarship is especially comprehensive and generous. In addition to funding, it offers a wide structure of support, guidance, and mentoring.
Overall, the Gates Scholarship provides the following:
- Renewable educational funding: The scholarship covers any unmet need and self-help aid (in other words, instead of having to take out loans and do a work-study job, the scholarship would cover those Cost of Attendance expenses) for up to five years.
- Online support services: Services offered to scholarship winners include academic support, mentoring, professional advice and guidance, and help with financial literacy.
The total amount of aid you're eligible to get will depend on your amount of unmet need. Unmet need is the difference between your school's Cost of Attendance (room, board, tuition, fees, books, and personal expenses) and the amount you've received in grants and/or scholarships. The larger your unmet need is, the larger your scholarship award will be.
Your total amount of aid will also depend on how long you're able to renew the scholarship. As long as you meet renewal qualifications every year, you can continue to receive funds for up to five years for a bachelor's degree program.
Are You Eligible for the Gates Scholarship?
To be considered for the Gates Scholarship, you must meet all the following criteria:
- Be a high school senior
Be African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and/or Hispanic American
Be a US citizen, legal permanent resident, or national
Have a cumulative 3.3 GPA on an unweighted 4.0 scale
Meet federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria (this means that you must demonstrate significant financial need—check out our Pell Grant eligibility guide to learn more)
- Plan to enroll full-time in a four-year (bachelor's) degree program at an accredited, not-for-profit US college or university
Ideal applicants will also have the following traits, per the Gates Scholarship website :
An ideal candidate will demonstrate:
- Outstanding academic performance (Students in the top 10% of his/her graduating class)
- Leadership ability (e.g., as shown through participation in community service, extracurricular, or other activities)
- Exceptional personal success skills (e.g., emotional maturity, motivation, perseverance, etc.)
If you meet all the above eligibility criteria, you're on the right track to getting a Gates Scholarship.
What Do You Need to Apply for the Gates Scholarship?
Before you get to work on your Gates Scholarship application, you'll need to gather some important information.
From your guidance counselor, you'll need to get the following:
- Your full academic record
- Your cumulative GPA
- Your class rank
- Your Enrollment Verification
From the college/university you plan to attend, you'll need the following:
- Your college acceptance letter (again, this must be a four-year, accredited, not-for-profit US college or university)
- Your Financial Aid Award letter
You'll also need some family financial information, including the following:
- Your status as either a dependent or independent student
- Your personal gross annual income from the past year
Next, you'll need to prepare names, dates, and descriptions of participation for the following:
- A list of your leadership roles and experiences
- A list of community service experiences
- A list of employment experiences
Finally, you'll need to have your SAT/ACT scores handy.
All applicants must make a MyTGS Profile and apply through their online account.
Note that the Gates Scholarship application process consists of two phases, with each phase having its own application and selection process.
The Phase 1 application consists of a questionnaire—that's it! If you get to Phase 2, you'll need to submit another application that's a bit denser and will take more time; this one includes another questionnaire, essays, updated transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
What Is the Gates Scholarship Application Timeline?
This year, the Gates Scholarship application is expected to open on July 15, 2022; the deadline for submission will be September 15, 2022. Selections will be made in April 2023, with awards given out from July to September.
Below is the annual timeline for the Gates Scholarship:
- July: Phase 1 application opens
- September: Phase 1 application deadline
- December: Semi-finalists announced
- December: Phase 2 application opens
- January: Phase 2 application deadline
- March: Finalists announced; interviews for finalists
- April: New class of scholars announced
- Fall: Scholarships disbursed to winners
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It's time to get tactical.
Strategies: How to Increase Your Odds of Winning the Gates Scholarship
Every year 300 scholarships are awarded through this program, but that doesn't mean the Gates Scholarship isn't competitive.
If you want a chance at winning this prestigious scholarship, you'll have to dedicate yourself 100% to the application process. Winners come from all over the country, with many scholarship recipients ending up at prestigious colleges.
The strategies I'll present here won't just help you strengthen your application for the Gates Scholarship but will also help you more generally with your college applications.
The best candidates for the Gates Scholarship will be motivated, high-achieving students with strong resumes, transcripts, and test scores —basically, the students who prepare themselves well for college.
As you might expect, the best way to effectively implement the strategies below will be to start the scholarship application process as early as possible. We've divided the strategies into two sections depending on where you're at in school and the application process.
Scenario 1: You're in Your Early Years of High School
If you're still just a freshman or sophomore and want to get a head start on looking good for the Gates Scholarship, here are four important tips to keep in mind.
#1: Demonstrate Academic Excellence
Competition for the Gates scholarship is stiff. In order to be a strong applicant, you should strive for more than the minimum GPA (3.3). Be sure to take advanced, honors, and AP classes when available, and actively seek out extra help from your teachers in any weaker subjects. Take those opportunities to develop strong relationships with teachers, tutors, and/or mentors.
#2: Cultivate Leadership Skills
Many scholarships, including the Gates Scholarship, want to invest in future leaders and innovative pioneers. One of the best ways to prove you have leadership potential is to actively develop your leadership skills as a student.
Here are some ways you can do this:
- Actively participate in your classes. Volunteer to lead discussions or group projects. Help out other classmates who might be struggling with a particular problem or concept.
- Join clubs or extracurricular activities that ignite your passions and interests. Focus on quality over quantity; invest in fewer activities but stick with them. If the opportunity presents itself, move up to team captain or a club officer role. The more your instructors, coaches, and peers respect you, the easier it will be to assume a leadership role.
#3: Commit to Community Service
The Gates Scholarship isn't just for helping individuals achieve their own personal goals; it's also for aiding in the betterment of whole communities. An ideal Gates Scholarship applicant will use opportunities they'll get through the scholarship to give back to their communities.
You can demonstrate your commitment to service by choosing (and sticking with) a community service or volunteer position. Ideally, this should be something you participate in regularly, on a weekly or so basis.
If you're thoughtful about choosing where you volunteer and spend time doing something you're passionate about, it'll definitely pay off when you submit your scholarship application.
#4: Develop Relationships With Educators and Mentors
It's important to have wise people around you who can offer you trusted guidance and advice. It's also important to have good relationships with people who can serve as recommendation writers for any scholarships you apply to.
If you have respect for a particular class or activity, your teacher or mentor will come to respect you—that's Step 1.
To work on further developing these relationships, you can do the following:
- Go to office hours to ask for extra help on tricky problems or concepts
- Actively participate in class, practice, or club meetings
- Go to your teachers, coaches, or mentors with questions that might be outside the scope of your regular curriculum; this demonstrates intellectual curiosity
Scenario 2: You've Made It to Phase 2 of the Gates Scholarship
The following three tips are for high school seniors who've made it past the Phase 1 questionnaire and are ready to get started on the much heavier Phase 2 application for the Gates Scholarship.
#1: Plan Ahead
Recall that you'll need letters of recommendation for this part of the application. It's important to give your recommendation writers as much time to write their letters as possible.
And since you'll only have about a month after you move to Phase 2 before your application is due, it's imperative that you find and secure a recommender as soon as you are told you're a semi-finalist.
#2: Invest in Your Essays
If the Gates Scholarship evaluators only cared about your grades and resume, they wouldn't ask you to write essays. So how can you ensure that your essays are great?
First off, make sure you're answering every part of the essay prompt in your response. Most essay questions have multiple parts!
You also want to elaborate —don't just provide a list as a response or give a yes/no answer. The evaluators want to see that you're thoughtful and have put time into your application.
Another tip to keep in mind is to make your goals clear. Why do you want the Gates Scholarship? You don't want to worry about paying for college, sure, but how will winning the scholarship affect your long-term and short-term academic and/or career goals? Most importantly, how will it enable you to be the person you want to be?
You'll get brownie points if your future goals include pursuing an underrepresented field (i.e., computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, or science) or serving others in some capacity.
The more thoughtful and clear you are in describing your goals in your essays, the more impressed the scholarship evaluators will be.
You should also craft a narrative with your essays. Make sure that all your essays work together to tell a single unified, logical story.
Before you start writing, come up with two to three points you want to get across about who you are. Maybe you want evaluators to know that you're empathetic, hardworking, and interested in mental health. Or maybe you want them to know that you're focused, ambitious, and passionate about social justice issues. The point is that all of your essays should ultimately serve to elucidate these points.
On that same note, don't be afraid to brag (to an extent). You're allowed to bring up any honors, awards, accolades, promotions, or fancy titles you've received. You earned them—talk about them! It's helpful to make a comprehensive of all these things before you start writing your essays so that you don't forget anything important.
That said, you should also be humble in your essays. Very few people can attribute their success solely to their own hard work. Did your family, friends, teachers, coaches, and/or mentors support you or offer guidance? Don't be afraid to partially attribute your accomplishments to them, as well as to your own efforts. Evaluators won't see this as a weakness but as insightful self-awareness.
Finally, remember to stay positive. Be honest about any struggles you've had but maintain a matter-of-fact tone. It's a smart idea to express optimism and a positive viewpoint about future outcomes and goals after you discuss any difficulties or disappointments.
#3: Choose Your Recommenders Wisely
Your recommenders will be expected to include detailed, glowing anecdotes and accounts of your personal relationships with others in addition to your academic and extracurricular performances.
Therefore, it'd be ideal if you could ask someone who knows you in multiple contexts (e.g., a teacher who serves as a club head, coach, or personal mentor). This should also be an individual with whom you feel very comfortable.
One of the best ways to make yourself a strong Gates Scholarship applicant is to set your goals high by being a strong college applicant. Check out our expert guides to getting perfect SAT scores and ACT scores , and learn how to get into your top-choice colleges .
Got more questions and Pell Grant eligibility since you have to meet these criteria in order to receive the Gates Scholarship? Read all about the Pell Grant and its eligibility criteria .
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Francesca graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and scored in the 99th percentile on the SATs. She's worked with many students on SAT prep and college counseling, and loves helping students capitalize on their strengths.
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The Gates Scholarship
The Gates Scholarship (TGS) is a highly selective, last-dollar scholarship for outstanding, minority, high school seniors from low-income households. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to exceptional student leaders, with the intent of helping them realize their maximum potential.
To learn more watch this video .
Scholars will receive funding for the full cost of attendance* that is not already covered by other financial aid and the expected family contribution, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or the methodology used by a Scholar’s college or university.
*Cost of attendance includes tuition, fees, room, board, books, and transportation, and may include other personal costs.
To apply, students must be:
- A high school senior
- From at least one of the following ethnicities: African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native* , Asian & Pacific Islander American, and/or Hispanic American
- A US citizen, national, or permanent resident
- In good academic standing with a minimum cumulative weighted GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent)
Additionally, a student must plan to enroll full-time, in a four-year degree program, at a US accredited, not-for-profit, private or public college or university.
*For American Indian/Alaska Native, proof of tribal enrollment will be required.
An ideal candidate will have:
- An outstanding academic record in high school (in the top 10% of his/her graduating class)
- Demonstrated leadership ability (e.g., as shown through participation in community service, extracurricular, or other activities)
- Exceptional personal success skills (e.g., emotional maturity, motivation, perseverance, etc.)
Ngoc Nhi Le + Scholarship Junkies
Free gates scholarship support from gmsp award winners, gmsp part 2- the essays.
UPDATE: The new Gates Scholarship will replace the GMSP program! The application hasn’t been released, but we’ll update this guide as soon as the info is available!
—-Outdated info: relevant for GMSP. Might not be relevant for Gates Scholarship!——-
In applying for fellowships, essays are the hardest and most time-intensive part. However, if you start early and remember that you are writing YOUR story, no research required, you will be ok!
1. The essay prompts that YOU need to answer
There are a total of 8 essays that you must write for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP) application. This is NOT including the essays that your nominator and recommender must write.
See below for the prompts as well as sample essays from GMSP award winners !
Prompt 1: Discuss the subjects in which you excel or have excelled. To what factors do you attribute your success?
GMSP Sample essay- Ngoc Nhi Le 2006
GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009
GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009
GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012
GMSP Sample essay- Joy 2013
Prompt 2: Discuss the subjects in which you had difficulty. What factors do you believe contributed to your difficulties? How have you dealt with them so they will not cause problems for you again? In what areas have you experienced the greatest improvement? What problem areas remain?
Prompt 3: Briefly describe a situation in which you felt that you or others were treated unfairly or were not given an opportunity you felt you deserved. Why do you think this happened? How did you respond? Did the situation improve as a result of your response?
Prompt 4: Discuss your short-term and long-term goals. Are some of them related? Which are priorities?
Prompt 5: Discuss a leadership experience you have had in any area of your life: School, work, athletics, family, church, community, etc. How and why did you become a leader in this area? How did this experience influence your goals?
Prompt 6: Discuss your involvement in and contributions to a community near your home, school or elsewhere. Please select an experience different from the one you discussed in the previous question, even if this experience also involved leadership. What did you accomplish? How did this experience influence your goals?
Prompt 7: Other than through classes in school, in what areas (non-academic or academic) have you acquired knowledge or skills? How?
Prompt 8: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about that may help us evaluate your nomination (i.e., personal characteristics, obstacles you have overcome)?
Prompt 9: ONLY for Nominees who graduated from high school or earned their GED more than one year ago: Describe those activities in which you have participated since completing high school (e.g., community service, leadership, employment) that you believe qualify you for this scholarship.
2. Notes on writing the essays
When writing the essays, remember:
- The essays do not have to be perfect!
- Answer the prompt. If the only thing you write is the exact answers to the prompt, then you at least provided the information that they are seeking
- DO NOT be too verbose, pedantic, wordy…(you get the point). The people who are reading your essays are volunteers and they will be reading LOTS of essays so DO NOT bore them or make it a difficult read! Some of my sample essays are borderline pedantic so I am not a great guide on how to be short and to the point.
3. FREE essay reviewing services by GMSP award winners
- Free essay reviewing service is now available through the great efforts provided by Scholarship Junkies!
 Submit all 8 essays as word 2 document files (4 essay per file). Please note that all files MUST contain your full name and have the essay prompt before each essay.
~ Ngoc Nhi Le
** Disclaimer: ALL ESSAYS ARE THE PROPERTIES OF THEIR LISTED OWNERS! DO NOT PLAGIARIZE!
1,293 thoughts on “ gmsp part 2- the essays ”.
Are you still available to edit/review essays?
Are you still around???
I was wondering if you could give me some advice regarding the upcoming interview phase of the Gates scholarship. I know that the scholarship changed in the structure quite a bit, but how was the interview process held for previous classes? What was typically asked?
Thank you! -Binh
Hello Nhi, Are the essays part of Phase 1 of the Gates Scholarship that is due Sep 15, 2017? Thanks, Jocelyn
I have a scholarship application due on the 26 and I was wondering if you would be willing to look over my essays. You were so helpful when I was applying for the GMS!
Of course! 🙂 Feel free to send that essay along to SJ and someone should reply to you! Else, if you want me to personally review it, let me know and I’ll email you!
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Op-Ed: How I won ‘The Gates Scholarship’
When I found out that I won The Gates Scholarship , I felt so much weight off my shoulders, because I would no longer have to worry about how I have to pay for college. The process was tiring and, honestly, a bit of a self-esteem killer, but I triumphed.
After a year hiatus, the scholarship made a comeback. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to possibly alleviate my family and myself of the financial hardship of having to pay for school, so I applied.
The first two rounds asked about basic information such as family income, high school grades, standardized test scores, and involvement in extracurriculars.
I was surprised when I found out that I made it past the two preliminary rounds and into the semi-finalist round, which was the essay round of the scholarship. That portion was difficult because I had writer’s block during the two months I had to complete the essays. I began and finished my essays the day they were due, which is something I advise against.
It was not the best choice to procrastinate about something so important, so my hopes of getting the scholarship absolutely went down the drain.
I was trying to get the most help as possible, so I applied to more scholarships, such as the Milken Scholars program, the Coca-Cola Scholars Program, the META Foundation scholarship. After rejection from those scholarships, my self-esteem went fell to an all time low. I felt as if no matter how hard I tried, I was not succeeding the way I hoped.
I remember the day I found out I made it into the finalist round. I was at practice at the tennis courts, and I jumped up in the air. People were worried, because my shriek of excitement sounds a lot like a shriek of panic.
I was surprised, because I thought my essays weren’t as strong as expected, but when I re-read them, I was shocked at how I was able to encapsulate the downs and lows of my personal and academic life in so little time.
The finalist round was the interview stage of the scholarship and it was nerve wracking. For previous college admissions interviews, I did not prepare and would unsurprisingly do a horrible job. I would stutter, give unclear and short answers, and not answer the question quite well.
I had about a week from the time I found out I was a finalist until the interview date, so I decided to dedicate my life to preparing for the interview. I asked peers, teachers, and administrators to give me the most tips possible. I had mock interviews with myself in the mirror to practice what I said and how I said it.
As the interview approached, I felt like something was punching me in my gut. I was completely nervous, but I kept my cool. The interview was a Skype interview, so I wore jeans with a button up shirt and tie to seem professional.
My interviewer asked me questions about what I like to do at school, so I elaborated more on my extracurriculars. While I don’t do many, I do become completely invested and gave my full time and attention to the process.
The question that can make or break an interview: “Is there anything you’d like to add that was not reflected in your application?” was the question where I shined bright.
I talked about how I always seek to improve and innovate things I do and things I participate in. For example, I helped our newspaper create a design that is sleek and pleasing to the reader’s eye. I also helped our school’s Interact Club grow its membership to the biggest in years because of sharing my experiences in the club and how I’ve benefited from being a member. I also helped the tennis team grow from a mere sport that was constantly ignored to one of the sports with the most participation because of my experiences of growing into a student-athlete where I can perform to my fullest potential in the classroom and on the court without giving up one or the other.
After my interview, I was confident about receiving the scholarship because I gave some of my best responses, and I could tell that the interviewer was impressed with what I said.
I had to wait about a month and a half for April 20, the day I found out if I had been awarded the scholarship.
On that same day, our tennis team had a playoff quarterfinal match, so I felt the pressure mounting. We lost our match and our season came to an end that day, but I had yet to hear the response.
I was waiting for other matches to finish when the email I dreaded for over a month came in. The email read, “Congratulations! We are delighted to announce that you have been selected as a Gates Scholar and a member of The Gates Scholarship Inaugural class of 2018.”
I jumped off of the bench I was sitting and yelled “OH MY GOD!” I immediately called my mom to tell her the news and we started crying on the phone. I felt a weight off my shoulders, because, although I had not chosen the most affordable university to attend, I did not have to worry about being a financial burden on my family.
The last time I went to Panda Express, my fortune in my cookie read, “You have to kiss a few frogs before finding Prince Charming.” I was surprised that the fortune became kind of true, because, after being rejected from other scholarships, I received the most rewarding of them all.
My advice to people seeking to apply not only to The Gates Scholarship , but other scholarships and to colleges and universities in general, is to put forth your best effort both inside and outside of the classroom.
Get involved. You don’t have to be in a lot of clubs, but find something you are interested and passionate about and do something related to your interest outside of school.
Always do your work on time and do not procrastinate . Constant procrastination will not get you very far. Don’t be afraid to seek for help from others because their help will get you very far.
You don’t have to be the smartest person to receive opportunities like these. I’m not at the top of my class, but I do believe that I go the extra mile compared to others to achieve what I have, so never be discouraged because of academic standing.
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How to Win the Gates Scholarship
Bill Gates Scholarship– Introduction
In this article, we will discuss a highly competitive merit-based scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This merit-based scholarship is called “The Gates Scholarship” (you will also hear us refer to this as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship or the Bill Gates Scholarship).
In this guide on “How to win the Gates Scholarship”, we will cover:
- An overview of the Bill Gates Scholarship
What is a merit-based scholarship?
- Eligibility requirements for the Bill Gates Scholarship
- The Gates Scholarship acceptance rate
- Top tips on how to apply to and win the Bill Gates Scholarship
- A look at more Bill Gates Scholarships and other merit-based scholarships to help lower your cost of college
Looking for more resources on merit-based scholarships from CollegeAdvisor? Read our merit-based scholarship guides on:
- Coca-Cola Scholarship
- Vanderbilt Scholarship and more !
Without further ado, let’s dive into our guide on one of the most sought-after merit-based scholarships in the world: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship.
Understanding Merit Scholarships: What is a merit-based scholarship?
Wondering how to lower the cost of college? You’ve undoubtedly already heard about scholarships for college. However, many students have misconceptions about what it takes to win these awards. For example, you may have heard that unless you demonstrate dire financial need, you don’t have a hope of winning a scholarship. That’s not the case!
In fact, there’s a whole category of scholarships for college that are awarded primarily based on merit or ability, as opposed to financial need. If you’re worried about qualifying for need-based aid, merit-based scholarships might be a great avenue to explore.
A merit-based scholarship is an award given to students based on their excellence in a category. The category emphasized by merit-based scholarships is specific to each one. Some merit-based scholarships emphasize GPA and academics; others award aid for a commitment to volunteering or sports or artistic ability.
Merit-based scholarships can be awarded by universities themselves—such as USC and Vanderbilt , for example—or by private organizations. The Gates Scholarship is one of many prestigious merit-based scholarships available to students hoping to lower the cost of college.
There are dozens of merit-based scholarships given away each year. These scholarships vary in terms of the amount they offer for the cost of college, the competition, as well as how well they promote equal access.
Top tips for winning merit-based scholarships
It’s hard to know where to start when applying to merit-based scholarships. Let’s take a look at some of the most tried-and-true tips from our team at CollegeAdvisor .
1. Identify the merit-based scholarships you are eligible for
The list of merit-based scholarships is long, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s simply too overwhelming to try to apply for all of them. However, each merit scholarship comes with its own unique list of eligibility requirements. For example, some are only available to certain school districts, others focus on niche abilities, and so on.
Use resources such as the U.S. News prestigious scholarships list and other online lists of merit-based scholarships as a starting point. Then, look through the scholarships’ requirements and make a shorter list of awards you’re eligible for. This list should look a lot more manageable!
2. Make sure you understand the application requirements for merit-based scholarships.
The last thing you want is to be removed from an applicant pool on a technicality. Therefore, read each scholarship’s website thoroughly and take the time to really understand the application requirements.
We recommend keeping a spreadsheet of application deadlines , as well as a list of corresponding application components. That way, you can be sure you have everything organized and ready to go before any deadlines.
3. Submit a competitive application to your merit-based scholarships.
This tip sounds like an obvious one. However, you’d be surprised how many students send in half-hearted application attempts, even for awards as prestigious as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship. This can happen because students think components like essays or interviews don’t matter that much or that their odds of winning are too low to really put in the effort.
Remember — using that extra time to strengthen your applications can make all the difference in getting scholarships for college. Wondering if you should retake a test to aim for a higher score? If you think you can improve your score, do it. Wondering if you should get someone to proofread your application essay? Absolutely do it!
Apply this mindset to every part of the application process. Ask for strong recommendation letters , write powerful essays , earn high grades, and of course, submit ahead of the application deadlines. If you put in the time and effort now, you’ll reap the rewards later.
Bill Gates Scholarships: What is the Gates Scholarship?
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship was started in 2017 . Since then, it has become one of the most prestigious minority scholarship and merit-based scholarships available worldwide. Each year, the Bill Gates Scholarship selects 300 high school seniors from low-income households and pays the entire cost of college for their undergraduate attendance.
Bill and Melinda Gates, the founders of the program, have used the Bill Gates Scholarship to send over 3,000 minority students to college. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, and Melinda Gates are two of the most prolific philanthropists in the world. Their organization, the Gates Foundation , is dedicated to resolving inequities all over the world. This is what inspired them to start the Gates Scholarship program, one of the most well-known minority scholarships. Since its founding, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship has given more than a billion dollars to put Gates Scholarship winners through school.
Gates Scholarship winners are selected for their academic excellence, leadership, as well as personal successes. Scholars are typically in the top 10% of their graduating class. In addition, as the Bill Gates Scholarship is a minority scholarship, applicants must belong to a minority ethnicity.
What are minority scholarships?
Minority scholarships are a category of merit-based scholarships for minority groups. They may select by ethnicity, first-generation, low-income, or any other criteria, and they seek to promote equal opportunity in access to higher education.
You can read more about what the foundation looks for in Gates Scholarship winners here . Finally, find out more about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation scholarship here .
What does the Gates Scholarship cover?
The Gates Scholarship is one of the most generous minority scholarships and merit-based scholarships out there. Each year, the 300 Gates Scholarship winners receive an award to cover the total cost of college , minus financial aid, other scholarships for college, and the expected family contribution.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship award also covers room and board, books, transportation, and other personal costs associated with the cost of college. Students may also use the Gates scholarship to pay for a study abroad or off-campus housing. The funds may not , however, be applied toward graduate school tuition.
How hard is it to get the Gates Scholarship?
The path to becoming one of just 300 annual Gates Scholarship winners is not an easy one. Gates Scholarship winners all faced the Gates Scholarship acceptance rate. In fact, over 34,000 Gates Scholarship hopefuls apply each year. This makes for a Gates Scholarship acceptance rate of less than 1%.
Curious what it takes to beat the Bill Gates Scholarship acceptance rate? Read one Gates Scholarship winner’s story to get an idea. Akayla Brown, a teen from Philadelphia, became one of the Bill Gates Scholarship winners in 2021. Brown founded a nonprofit called Dimplez 4 Dayz at the age of 13. Her nonprofit, aimed at lifting people up within Brown’s community, was the focus of her essay submission for the Bill Gates Scholarship.
Other notable Gates Scholarship winners include NASA astronaut Kayla Barron, mathematician Melanie Wood, and journalist Juliet Lapidos.
The Gates Scholarship – Am I eligible?
Wondering if you have what it takes to win one of the Bill Gates Scholarships? Let’s take a look at the basic eligibility requirements for those hoping to beat the Gates Scholarship acceptance rate.
Bill Gates Scholarships ask that students meet the following requirements :
- High school senior
- Identifying as one of the following: African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander American, and/or Hispanic American
- A U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Minimum GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale
In order to qualify for the Bill Gates Scholarship, students must also plan to attend a four-year degree program at a U.S. college or university .
In addition to meeting the above basic requirements for the Gates Scholarships, the ideal candidate for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship will also show:
- Excellent academic performance, including graduating in the top 10% in your high school class. This includes GPA, test scores, and other measures of academic success.
- Demonstration of leadership ability, perhaps through community service, school organizations, extracurricular activities , etc.
- Personal success skills such as maturity, motivation, and perseverance.
Pay attention to all of the characteristics listed above, as opposed to simply meeting the basic eligibility. This will give you the highest chance of making it through the <1% Gates Scholarship acceptance rate and winning the Bill Gates Scholarship.
When can I apply for the Gates Scholarship?
Once you’re sure you’re eligible for the Bill Gates Scholarships, you can turn your attention to the application itself. With a Gates Scholarship acceptance rate of under 1%, it’s important to craft an application you’re proud of. This is the main way the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship committee assesses candidates and selects the Gates Scholarship winners.
Each year, online applications for the Bill Gates Scholarship open on or around July 15 th . You’ll find the specific date on the Gates Scholarship website . The deadline for the first round of applications is September 15 th . After another round of applications for semi-finalists and a round of interviews for finalists, the Gates Scholarship winners are announced in April. Then, in the autumn, scholars receive their Gates Scholarship awards.
As you can see, the process for this merit-based scholarship is drawn-out, more so than most scholarships for college. That’s because of the prestige of the Bill Gates Scholarship and a large number of applicants this merit scholarship attracts.
To save yourself any last-minute stress, gather your materials for the application as early as possible. In particular, ask your recommenders far in advance of the deadline to give them time to write the best letters possible.
Lastly, make sure you take the application for the Bill Gates Scholarship seriously. Remember: the Gates Scholarship acceptance rate is less than 1% and you will only have one chance to beat the odds. Putting in more effort early on could make all the difference in winning this merit scholarship.
How do I apply to the Gates Scholarship?
In this section, we will go over the application materials you need to submit in order to apply to the Bill Gates Scholarship. We will also cover how to submit the application itself via the Bill Gates Scholarships’ website.
Before you apply, you will need to create a myTGS Profile . This profile will serve as a portal throughout your application process for the Bill Gates Scholarships. You can complete the myTGS Profile before the application’s opening.
Once the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship officially opens, you will need to submit the following documents:
- One copy of your most recent transcript (this will be submitted by your high school counselor)
- A Student Aid Report (SAR), which you will attain once you complete the FAFSA
- Financial aid award letter
- Letter of admission to a four-year bachelor’s degree program at a not-for-profit, private or public university
- CSS profile
- Headshot photo
There are two phases to the Bill Gates Scholarship application process. Phase I opens earlier and is available to any prospective applicant who meets the basic eligibility requirements outlined above. This is where the Gates scholarship committee rejects the majority of applicants, hence the infamously low Gates Scholarship acceptance rate. Phase II of the application, open later, is available only to the semi-finalists selected from Phase I.
After Phase II, the Gates scholarship committee selects finalists from the remaining pool and asks them to participate in Bill Gates Scholarship Finalist interviews . These happen in-person or online, depending on the location of the finalist.
Concerned about the Gates scholarship interview process? Don’t be! Watch CollegeAdvisor’s free webinar on acing college interviews , led by an admissions officer. You can also read our guide on college interviews . The questions will be slightly different for a merit-based scholarship, compared to a college interview. However, you should apply the same techniques for interview preparation including:
- Looking professional
- Practicing ahead of time
- Mastering the most common questions
The Gates Scholarship – Application Timeline
With such a low Gates Scholarship acceptance rate, the committee for the Bill Gates Scholarships takes time to select Gates Scholarship winners. Therefore, the process for applying to this merit scholarship is longer than many scholarships for college.
In addition, unlike many other minority scholarships and merit scholarships, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship takes several rounds to decide the Gates scholarship winners.
In 2021, the timeline for applying to the Bill Gates Scholarship was as follows:
Note that the exact dates change from year to year. However, the above dates give you a sense of the general timeline of the Bill Gates Scholarship application.
Bill Gates Scholarship winners are announced in the spring. Then, the Gates Scholarship committee awards Gates scholarship winners’ schools the following autumn.
The Gates Scholarship – Frequently Asked Questions
Presently, we’ll answer your top questions about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship, and merit scholarships generally.
1. What is a merit-based scholarship and why is it different from other scholarships for college?
Scholarships for college can be awarded for just about anything, from athletic ability to financial need to essay competitions and more. A merit-based scholarship is simply a scholarship awarded for excellence in a given category. Each merit scholarship will specify the category. This can include academic ability, artistic prowess, extracurricular achievement, and more.
See more CollegeAdvisor guides on top merit-based scholarships for college:
- Vanderbilt Scholarship
2. Can the Bill Gates Scholarship be used for any college major?
Yes! While the Bill Gates Scholarships must be applied to U.S. accredited institutions of higher learning, there is no restriction on the field of study selected by scholars.
3. Can I use the Bill Gates Scholarship at any school?
Unfortunately no. Recipients of Bill Gates Scholarships must attend a U.S. accredited, four-year, not-for-profit, private or public college or university. However, this is far less restrictive than many other minority scholarships and scholarships for college. It still allows recipients to attend almost any institution in America.
4. Can I apply the Bill Gates Scholarship toward a four-year community college?
Yep! As long as it is still a four-year program in which you will receive a bachelor’s degree, you are eligible for the merit scholarship.
4. How can I retain my Bill Gates Scholarship throughout college?
In order to remain eligible for your Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship throughout your four years, you must submit:
- A completed FAFSA
- A renewal form with current transcripts
- Enrollment verification dated after the start of each new term
You must submit these documents annually. In addition, you must achieve satisfactory academic progress toward your degree.
More Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation scholarships
Worried about the Gates Scholarship acceptance rate? Good news – the Bill Gates Scholarship is not the only Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship available.
The Gates also fund two other scholarships for college:
- Millennium Scholars
- Gates Cambridge
The Gates Millennium Scholars Program is another Gates minority scholarship. The program grants an average of $12,785 to 1,000 annually-selected scholars. This has amounted to a total of over $1 billion over the lifespan of this merit scholarship.
The GMSP is open to all students of color. The Gates scholarship assesses applicants according to academic achievement, community service, and leadership potential. Funds are distributed based on the financial need of these Gates scholarship winners.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is another Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation scholarship. Unlike the foundation’s other scholarships for college, this merit-based scholarship is only available to students who attend the University of Cambridge. Each year, 80 postgraduate applicants to the University of Cambridge, all from outside the UK, are selected to receive this award.
The Gates Cambridge merit scholarship covers the full cost of tuition, in addition to discretionary funding.
You are eligible for this merit-based scholarship if you are:
- A citizen of a country other than the United Kingdom
- Applying to a PhD, MPhil, or MLitt residential course of Cambridge or you are applying to a one-year postgrad course
Each year, applications for the Gates Cambridge merit scholarship open in September . Offers are made to these Gates scholarship winners the following January.
The Bill Gates Scholarships are amongst the most generous and competitive scholarships for college available worldwide. If you are among one of the few Gates scholarship winners the aid will greatly reduce the rising cost of college. However, it’s not easy to overcome the Gates Scholarship acceptance rate.
How to win the Gates Scholarship– Final Thoughts
There’s a high demand and a low supply of merit scholarships. So, it can be daunting to try winning minority scholarships, merit scholarships, or other scholarships for college.
Bill Gates Scholarships in particular are amongst the most selective merit scholarships and minority scholarships out there. So, how do you overcome the Gates Scholarship acceptance rate? Here are our best tips for winning the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship.
1. Tell a story through your extracurricular activities
The Bill Gates Scholarship seeks both leadership qualities and personal qualities in Gates scholarship winners. In order to stand out, your extracurricular activities must be impressive. That means they should tell a story of who you are as a person and what you are passionate about. Decide what matters to you and then find a way to take it a step further through your activities. Start a non-profit, get a job, write for a local newspaper—whatever your story is, make sure your extracurriculars speak to it.
2. Challenge yourself in your classes
Bill Gates Scholarships are both minority scholarships and merit-based scholarships. In order to satisfy the former, you must meet basic eligibility for the award. For the latter, it’s vital that you achieve academic excellence. Therefore, select classes that challenge you, and then work hard to get good grades.
Ideal candidates for the Bill Gates Scholarship will be in the top 10% of their graduating class. While this is not a strict requirement, it greatly increases your odds of beating the Gates Scholarship acceptance rate.
3. Stand out with strong letters of recommendation
Other than your extracurriculars, your letters of recommendation are one of the only places in the application where readers will get a sense of your character. Furthermore, it’s the only place where they’ll see your personality through another person’s eyes. So, it’s crucial to have strong letters of recommendation.
How do you ensure that your letters are strong? Firstly, forge authentic, lasting connections with your prospective recommenders. The people you ask should be able to talk about what makes you unique, as well as the reasons you deserve the Bill Gates Scholarship.
4. Start early
As with most parts of the college application process , the best way to win scholarships for college is to start early. Bill Gates Scholarships don’t open until the autumn of your senior year in high school. However, by the time you apply to the Bill Gates Scholarship, it’s too late to drastically change your GPA or extracurriculars. Since both are crucial to the evaluation process, put in the work early in high school to set a strong foundation.
5. Don’t worry if you don’t win
Finally, it is important to be honest about the odds of beating the Gates Scholarship acceptance rate. The Bill Gates Scholarships are simply too competitive to put all of your eggs into this basket.
And if you don’t win, it’s okay! There are lots of other minority scholarships and merit-based scholarships out there; it’s just a matter of finding them.
CollegeAdvisor has tons of resources available to help you win the best merit-based scholarships. Check out our resources and articles for articles and webinars to help you beat the odds and lower your cost of college.
Best of luck as you apply for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship and other scholarships for college! You’re taking a hugely important step in your college journey, and we know you have what it takes to excel.
This article was written by Becky Weinstein. If you want to get help with your college applications from CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts , register with CollegeAdvisor.com today. Also, check out our other guides to Merit-Based Scholarships as you embark on your college application journey!
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