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Essays for Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes Tips from the Yale College Center for International & Professional Experience How to begin? Do your homework

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Essays for Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes

Tips from the Yale College Center for International & Professional Experience
How to begin?

Do your homework:

  • What does the fellowship application request? What are the essay prompts? (Always answer the question asked!)

  • What is the fellowship for? What is its history? What’s the audience for whom you’re writing? What are the stated selection criteria for the fellowship? (The answers to these questions will be clues to the kinds of questions a fellowship committee may ask of your application. Audience: usually a faculty committee on-campus; there are often faculty and other experts on national committees, especially for fellowships for graduate study, but national committees usually include former winners of the fellowship, who work in all kinds of fields.)

  • What are you proposing to do with the fellowship, where, and why? (Basic questions, but compelling answers to them require some thought.)

Think of your application as a whole:

  • First: what are the points you really need/want to get across over all?

  • Next, consider what will best be conveyed by which part of your application: the letters of recommendation, the transcript, résumé/cv, short-answer questions, and essays, as applicable.

    • What can be said only or best by you?

    • What might better be said for you by other people, your transcript, résumé, etc.?

    • Considering each essay prompt(s), what might you put into each answer?

    • Do essays/other pieces of the application complement one another to create a coherent narrative?

Altogether your application should make readers want to call you for an interview to hear more, and should set you up to have a good conversation in an interview… (Be prepared to be asked in an interview to say more about any detail you include in your application, however minor.)

Marshall Essays

(See the current application for up-to-date prompts; what follows is based on the application for study beginning in 2012. Even if you’re only applying for Rhodes or Mitchell, developing good answers to these questions is useful.)

Proposed Academic Programme (500 words)
This is usually the best essay with which to begin. It should be pretty straightforward and usually includes the following:

  • Your proposed degree course and university

  • Justification of your choice of university and course (scholars there doing interesting research in your field, unique curricular features, a cutting-edge research center, archives, etc.); mention of any significant contacts already made at the host institution

  • Your qualifications (relevant course work/research/lab experience/even relevant extracurricular work)

  • Outcomes (what you hope to gain from this course, why it is a logical "next step," and how it fits into your longer-term career plans)

  • You may focus on Plan A for the term of the fellowship, but it is also helpful to say something at least briefly about why Plan B would also be a good option; a sentence or two might be all you need.

Choosing the UK (500 words)

This essay is really trying to get at what kind of an ambassador you might make: when you get off that plane, how will you engage with the community/get to know the people and the place? (Hint: look at the Marshall selection criteria…) What experiences have been valuable to you here or elsewhere to help you get to know people/a place: are you looking forward to similar things in Britain? And—if they give you this extraordinary opportunity, how might you try to give something back to the local community, through volunteer work or other types of community engagement?

Apart from the proposed degree course/university, what else makes you want to go to the UK? What about the contemporary UK draws you there? (Part of this might be related to your academic study, for instance if there are differences of academic culture in your field which contribute to your desire to study in the UK—as opposed to at the particular university—but it should go beyond that: remember there’s a whole separate essay for your academic proposal. There might be good professional reasons for studying/making contacts in the UK: don’t assume that these are obvious or that readers will assume you know them.)

*Avoid general arguments for why study abroad is valuable, or about why the history of Britain is important for Americans. Lots of people could (and will) say the same kinds of things—or will write about how they love tea, tweed jackets, Harry Potter, etc. What can you say that someone else might not?

Personal Statements for Marshall, Mitchell, and Rhodes

(Usually 1,000 words, but see the particular prompts and word limits for each application, as well as the selection criteria for each fellowship.)

What a personal statement should in general do:

  • set the context/tone for your application

  • give a clear sense of who you are, what drives you, what has shaped you/your values/your aims/your desire to make this proposal and especially your desire to pursue the work you hope to in the world—and why someone else might care about it [Beware reciting your resume! The personal statement should be a compelling, cohesive narrative: if an experience or activity helps make your case, if it explains/illustrates a point, it might fit into the essay; if not, leave it out.]

  • be honest: do not pad, but do not be falsely modest; do not try to guess what the selection committee might be seeking and try to give it to them (this will not work) [Be yourself: there is no formula for success. While good essays have common features, there are as many different kinds of good essays as there are good applicants. Your application and your essays should represent you!]

  • be a pleasure to read, well-written [Remember that these essays are often read in bulk, by very busy people…]

  • begin with a “hook” to get readers’ interest and give them an immediate idea of where the essay is going [Think of a good newspaper article, which draws you in fast, gives you a clear signpost to indicate where it might take you, and encourages you to read to the end…]

  • Mitchell and Rhodes personal statements should include a brief version of the academic proposal (see above), typically no more than a paragraph.

Keep your eye on the bigger picture. Remember that fellowship committees are, in a manner of speaking, looking for a good return on their investment: if they give you this opportunity, what will you do with it and how might that make a difference in the world? Even a “personal” statement is not just about you, but rather about the thing that drives you, about the context for what you’re hoping to do with the fellowship, about the work you want to do in the world, whatever that may be…

The final word: proofread! (Typos say that you’re not taking an application seriously, so the reader needn’t either…)

Resources: start with our website at “How to apply.” *If you’d like feedback on your drafts from Kate Dailinger, adviser for UK and Irish fellowships, in advance of the campus application deadline: be sure to send them in by the draft deadline (usually three weeks before the campus application deadline: see the campus application timeline), and then book an appointment. Appointments may be made over the summer, to speak in person or via telephone/Skype—see Inquiries only, email:
Fellowship Programs at the Yale College Center for International & Professional Experience (Revised spring 2012)

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