University of Illinois

Gates Cambridge Scholarship




Matt Grobis shares his experience in applying for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.



One to four years of study leading to a graduate degree at Cambridge University, England. Seniors, graduate/professional students, and graduates are eligible to apply. U.S. and non-U.S. citizens are eligible. All applicants must apply directly to Cambridge and fill out the supplemental portion of the application to the Cambridge Trusts to be considered for the award.

Who they are looking for:

The Trustees are required to award scholarships on the basis of a person's intellectual ability, leadership capacity, and desire to use their knowledge to contribute to society throughout the world by providing service to their communities and applying their talents and knowledge to improve the lives of others.

In selecting Gates Cambridge Scholars, the Trust looks for students of exceptional academic achievement and scholarly promise for whom advanced study at Cambridge would be particularly appropriate. The Trust expects a good match to be made between the applicant's qualifications and aspirations and what Cambridge has to offer. Successful applicants will have the ability to make a significant contribution to their discipline while in Cambridge, with a strong aptitude for research, analysis, and a creative approach to defining and solving problems. Read more about recent Illinois Gates Scholars.

"Priority" Deadline: June 2, 2014

Students are encouraged to submit a priority application for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. The priority deadline is June 2 for students wishing to study at Cambridge University beginning in 2015-16. University faculty and staff who are familiar with the Gates Cambridge 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 your application and are willing to work with you through the summer on subsequent revisions.

          Please submit the following requested information to the National and International Scholarships Program (with the exception of the Choice of University Statements, one set may be submitted covering multiple scholarships) at or 807 South Wright Street, Fifth Floor, MC-317:

  1. A signed Scholarship Waiver (either scanned or in hardcopy)
  2. Transcripts from all colleges attended (photocopies acceptable)
  3. 3-4 Letters of Recommendation (drafts acceptable)
  4. Résumé
  5. Personal Statement of 1,000 words (Personal Statement should be in 12 point font and double spaced)
  6. Choice of University Statement of 500 words

In addition to the generic transcripts, personal statement, and resume, it is in your best interest to submit at least three letters of recommendation (three letters are ultimately required) and a "Choice of University Statement" outlining your choice of coursework and/or proposed research at Cambridge.

Further information about priority deadline requirements

Campus Deadline: August 26, 2014 at 12:00 noon

Unlike other prestigious scholarship schemas, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship does not formally require a university endorsement process. An applicant may choose to independently submit application materials to Cambridge and the Gates Scholarship. However, if you are interested in obtaining feedback on your Gates Cambridge scholarship application from a campus committee, then you need to submit materials by this deadline. University faculty and staff who are familiar with the Gates Cambridge Scholarship will review materials received by this date and will conduct an interview. If materials are submitted late, only the National and International Scholarships Program directors will review the materials and you will not receive a chance to interview with the committee at that time.

          Required information:

  1. A signed Scholarship Waiver (if not submitted since June-- either scanned or in hardcopy)
  2. Transcripts from all colleges attended (photocopies acceptable-- one set may be submitted covering multiple scholarships)

  3. 3 Letters of Recommendation particular to the student's Gates Cambridge application, two of which are part of the Cambridge application and a third that is a personal reference -- generally from a faculty member. It is best for this third referee to fill out the specific Personal Reference Form

  4. A complete Cambridge University application for admission (including writing sample, if required, but no photos). Since the online application is not available until September 1, please draft all of your answers using the sample application at: You can then copy and paste the information onto the online form after your campus interview.

Final Submittal Deadline: October 15, 2014

Gates Cambridge scholarship applications are a part of the general Cambridge application. The applicant is responsible for submitting his/her application to Cambridge. Please note that your online application will automatically be deleted if you don't make any changes in a two week period, so log in periodically to keep it active! Also, your reference letters are due online within 14 days after your submission (your submission triggers the request e-mail to your referees). Thus, these letters can arrive after October 16. Letters should be written to the attention of the "Board of Graduate Studies." If your letter writers wish to include the address, it is:

The Secretary
Board of Graduate Studies
4 Mill Lane
Cambridge CB2 1RZ
United Kingdom

Note that some programs at Cambridge also require test scores, additional essays, or even an earlier deadline-- make sure to check your Cambridge Department specifics! The National and International Scholarships Program would appreciate a copy of all materials (including letters) prior to submission. Please make sure to save and print a copy of your Cambridge application prior to submitting as well!

The Final Stages:

Individual departments at Cambridge nominate their top students based on academics. Then four different Gates review committees (biological sciences, physical sciences, arts, and social sciences) will short list candidates to be called for a national interview in early February. The National and International Scholarships Program will coordinate mock interviews for those students called to an interview. The final selection is generally publicly announced within a week of the Gates Cambridge interview.

General Application Tips:

The Gates reviewers will read your entire Cambridge application, so do not repeat yourself in the materials. Write "N/A" throughout the application for items that are not applicable.

The GRE is rarely required for admission to Cambridge, but some courses, such as religious studies and economics may require it -- look at your individual Department.

International students who have a Green Card should apply through the U.S. If a student is in the U.S. only for education, then they should apply through their home country. In that case, the international student must also apply for an ORS award.

Personal Statement: The scholarship is not for 'rounding out' education. Solid applications demonstrate that a student plans to contribute to, and not just receive from, Cambridge. A Gates Scholar will change the world by good research, analysis, and proposing solutions. The Foundation desires students who expect to contribute creative solutions to problems in all areas -- not just academics. Student must be extremely self-motivated, be intellectually curious, and know they have much to learn. An applicant should show that Cambridge is the best place to pursue their studies. The Gates should be more of an incentive to achieve than a reward for past accomplishments.

Recommendation Letters: The personal reference should know something about the candidate's service or leadership activities, but not be solely a family friend in most cases. However, it is not necessary that this letter be academic.

Advice for Writing Letters of Recommendation

Gates Website and Application:

For official information on the Gates Cambridge Scholarship (which supersedes any information provided here) and access to application materials, please go to: