Bill Gates Scholarship Essay Examples

Starting July 15, high school seniors who are Hispanic, from low-income backgrounds and believe they have strong leadership credentials can apply for a private scholarship to cover virtually all college expenses.

Launched this year, the new program from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will award its first full scholarships to 300 students in 2018. The support will include not just tuition, but also cover fees, housing, books and other costs.

The Gates Scholarship will continue funding 300 students every year for a decade, for a total of 3,000 students over the life of the program, according to information on The Gates Scholarship website.

The scholarship effort is being administered by the nonprofit Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) but it is open to other racial and ethnic minorities.

Fidel Vargas, the president and CEO of the HSF, said the 300 “will be selected from a diverse, competitive, and national applicant pool. We expect the demographic profile of each class to mirror the diversity of the targeted communities served by the program.’’

Students will have just two months – until Sept. 15 – to apply.

Essays, Interview Required

Vargas’ recommendation for applicants: Focus on finishing the application.

“In many cases, more than half of students that start a scholarship application do not complete the application for one reason or another,” he said.

Winners “will be selected based on their academic record, demonstrated leadership and a variety of other criteria, which includes essays, recommendations, and interviews for 600 finalists,” Vargas said. The Gates Scholarship is the latest effort by the Gates Foundation to help low-income, high-achieving minority high school students pay for college. (The Seattle-based philanthropy also provides funding to the Education Writers Association.)

In 1999, the foundation launched the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, a $1.6 billion effort administered by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The program stopped accepting students in 2016 and will end in 2028-29.

In all, the scholars program has helped 20,050 low-income students of color, 35 percent of them identified as Hispanic or Latino, said Larry Griffith, a vice president at the UNCF.

He noted that one of the major differences between the two Gates-funded scholarship programs is that participants in the Gates Millennium Scholars Program have the option of graduate school funding in seven selected areas, while the new program supports undergraduate studies only.

Both programs, however, provide further support to students as they pursue their college careers and work with colleges and universities to ensure student success.

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.


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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