Naughton Scholarship Personal Statement

The Mitchell Scholarship is named to honor the former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell, who served as Chairman of peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. The scholarship funds one year of graduate study at an Irish university and is awarded to approximately 12 students per year. The scholarship provides airfare, tuition, fees, housing, and a stipend for living expenses. The Mitchell Scholarship Selection Committee interviews 20 scholarship finalists in Washington, DC.

The Mitchell Scholarship Selection Criteria

The Mitchell website notes the criteria used to select Mitchell Scholars:

  • Academic excellence and intellectual distinction;
  • An outstanding record of leadership;
  • A sustained commitment to service and community.

No minimum GPA is required and no GRE scores are used in the selection process, but high academic achievement is a necessity in a Mitchell Scholar. Also, a student’s past experience in Ireland or previous acceptance into an Irish university program does not serve as an advantage, in that part of the scholarship’s mission is to introduce new future leaders to Ireland. Nevertheless, one of the necessities of the scholarship is that the student has a concrete plan and commitment to study at an Irish university

Preparing the Mitchell Scholarship Application

The Mitchell application process takes place completely on-line, even for the applicant’s recommenders. Thus, a good deal of time must be spent on familiarizing yourself with the on-line system. Note that much of what you input in the application is the sort of material one lists in a curriculum vitae or resume, and this material will be balanced with your personal statement by the committee as part of the selection process. The application also invites you to list at least three preferences for schools, and the website notes that failure to do so can seriously weaken an application, in that institutional balance is a factor in placing students at universities.

In relation to the personal statement, the FAQ section of the Mitchell website notes this advice:

The personal essay is extremely important. Members of the Selection Committee examine the essay for clues to the character, commitment, and interests of each candidate. This is the only opportunity for the applicant to convey a sense of his/her passions, personality, and intellectual drive. In addition, a well-written essay should provide the Committee with valuable insight into the applicant’s motivation and rationale for the proposed graduate study program that is not otherwise communicated in the rest of the application materials.

In composing the personal statement, which is about two pages (no more than 1,000 words) in length, the basic goal is to present a rationale for the proposed study program and provide concrete evidence of your readiness. Some students detail their achievements in academics, leadership, and service, while others focus heavily on the study program of their first school preference, trusting that their application as a whole will provide a balanced picture of their background. Still other students match themselves to Ireland or Northern Ireland as directly as they can, including travel abroad when relevant, and noting any Irish professors whom they have met or with whom they have had contact.

Evaluation of Two Sample Mitchell Scholarship Personal Statements

The two sample personal statements in the pdf link below are an interesting study in contrasts, in that the first focuses heavily on music performance and the second on political advocacy. While both are strong personal statements, it should be noted that neither student landed a Mitchell Scholarship, underscoring the competitiveness of the application pool.

The first sample statement opens with a narrative discussion of Irish dance performance, after which the writer fleshes out her background in dance and music performance extensively. Indeed, this student has already studied for a semester abroad at University College Dublin and received private lessons in performing Irish “trad” music. Thus, her goal of extended study in this area is well-grounded in experience, and after she discusses her three target programs, making it clear why the University of Limerick is her first choice, she forcefully notes: “I must study in Ireland if I plan to pursue my passion.”

The second sample statement—written by a woman born of Peruvian parents and raised partly in Japan—opens with the writer defining her unique ethnic background and cultural diversity. As we learn throughout the essay, this background has informed her distinctive and deep involvement as an advocate for marginalized voices. She directly links this passion to her three academic programs of choice, and ends by artfully defining herself as a “world student and future political activist,” making a brief reference to Senator Mitchell’s work, and citing her commitment to ultimately helping US Latino citizens.

Click here to download a pdf of two sets of Mitchell Scholarship application essays by former students.

Self-Study

The Mitchell Scholarship website allows you to view a sample online application, offers a printable brochure about the scholarship, and gives profiles of past scholarship winners.

Visit the Mitchell Scholarship website.

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.”

Click here to download a pdf of two sets of Gates Scholarship application essays by former students.

Self-Study

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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