The information contained on this web page pertains to the 2021 Rhodes Scholarship for Canada competition and includes the steps required for applicants seeking institutional endorsement through the University of Waterloo.

What is the Rhodes Scholarship?

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest (established 1903) international scholarship programme in the world, and one of the most prestigious. Administered by the Rhodes Trust in Oxford, the programme offers 100 fully-funded Scholarships each year for postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom - one of the world’s leading universities. Rhodes Scholarships are for young leaders of outstanding intellect and character who are motivated to engage with global challenges, committed to the service of others and show promise of becoming value-driven, principled leaders for the world’s future. Two scholarships are allocated to the province of Ontario.

The broad selection criteria are:

  • Academic excellence
  • Energy to use talents to the fullest (as demonstrated by mastery in areas such as sports, music, debate, dance, theatre, and artistic pursuits, including where teamwork is involved)
  • Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship
  • Moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in fellow human beings

What is the value and deadline?

The Rhodes Scholarship covers tuition and fees and provides a stipend to help cover living expenses for 2 to 3 years of study while at Oxford. The scholarship also covers travel to and from Oxford at the start and end of the program as well as private health insurance.

Application materials, including reference letters, must be submitted to the Co-ordinator, Graduate Financial Aid and Awards in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) by Waterloo's firm deadline of 9:00 a.m. EST on Friday, August 21, 2020. The official deadline by which endorsed applicants must apply within Ontario is 23:59 PT on September 25, 2020.

What are the critical steps in the application process?

1. Confirm eligibility

  • Nationality/citizenship: must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada (students who are attending a Canadian university on a student visa are not eligible to apply).
  • Education/residency: must be studying and living in Canada
  • Age: Upon 1 October 2020, you must meet either of the below criteria:
    • You must be at least 18 and have not reached your 24th birthday (i.e. you must have been born after 1 October 1996 and on or before 1 October 2002) 
    • OR (for older candidates who completed their first undergraduate degree later than usual)
    • you must have not reached your 27th birthday (i.e. have been born after 1 October 1993) AND your first undergraduate degree must have been (or will be) awarded on or after 1 October 2019
  • Academic achievement: must have completed (or will have completed by June / July 2021) an undergraduate degree from a college or university (normally a Bachelor’s degree) to a sufficiently high standard to be admitted to postgraduate study at the University of Oxford. Students who have completed or will be completing a master’s degree are also eligible to apply for the Rhodes for a second master’s degree or doctoral degree, providing they still meet all other eligibility requirements, including the age limit.

2. Read the official application instructions

The official Rhodes website provides detailed instructions regarding the competition process in their 2021 Information for Candidates, as well as Guidance for Referees.  

3. Select and contact six referees

Applicants must select six referees to write letters of recommendation. For full details about the requirements of referees, refer to 2021 Information for Candidates (section 5.j.)

  • Referees must email their letters directly to the Co-ordinator, Graduate Financial Aid and Awards by 9:00 a.m. EST on Friday, August 21, 2020 in order to be considered for institutional endorsement.
  • A minimum of six reference letters are required:
    • At least three of the referees should be academics who have formally taught and graded the applicant during their undergraduate or postgraduate degree. 
    • At least two referees should be able to comment on the applicant's character and/or involvement in extra-curricular/service or leadership activities.
  • Applicants are encouraged to provide the Rhodes Guidance for Referees to individuals they have selected.

    Note: Referees of applicants who receive institutional endorsement from Waterloo will be asked to submit their letters of recommendation again via the Rhodes Embark online system.

4. Submit application materials to GSPA

Institutional endorsement is required from the institution in order for the applicant to formally apply to Rhodes.

Applicants must email the following application materials to the Co-ordinator, Graduate Financial Aid and Awards in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) by 9:00 a.m. EST on Friday, August 21, 2020:

  1. Full curriculum vitae (CV) which should include details about academic qualifications, prizes, scholarships, positions of leadership, employment positions, involvement in student, voluntary, community or political activities and any cultural, musical or sporting accomplishments. This should not exceed two A4 (12pt font size) pages in length. Submit as PDF.  
  2. A head-and-shoulders colour photograph of yourself. Submit as .jpeg file. 
  3. Personal statement of no more than 1,000 words. For a full description of the required contents of the personal statement, refer to 2021 Information for Candidates (section 5.i.). Submit as word file. 
  4. Names, job/position titles, and email addresses of six referees. Please include a sentence for each reference detailing their relationship to you. Submit as word file. 
  5. Degree/program you plan to pursue at Oxford University. Include in body of email submission. 

    Note: additional materials (copy of birth certificate, copy of passport, official transcripts etc.) must be submitted to Rhodes if selected to receive institutional endorsement.

Waterloo's adjudication process

Applicants currently studying at a Canadian university can choose to apply in either their province of residence or in the province where their university is located. To proceed with a Rhodes Scholarship application, an authorization code must be obtained from the applicant's university (through an endorsement process) or from the relevant regional secretary.

Applicants seeking endorsement through the University of Waterloo must submit application materials identified above to the Co-ordinator, Graduate Financial Aid and Awards in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) by the FIRM deadline of 9:00 a.m. EST on August 21, 2020.

The institutional selection committee will be comprised of:

  • Dr. Jeff Casello, Associate Vice-President (GSPA)
  • Dr. Kirsten Muller, Assistant Vice-President (GSPA)
  • Laura Frazee, Co-ordinator, Graduate Financial Aid and Awards (GSPA)

The selection committee will review the application packages, taking into consideration the selection criteria of:

  • Academic excellence
  • Energy to use talents to the fullest (as demonstrated by mastery in areas such as sports, music, debate, dance, theatre, and artistic pursuits, including where teamwork is involved)
  • Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship
  • Moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in fellow human beings

The institutional committee will determine which applicants to invite for an interview to determine whether they are competitive enough to warrant institutional endorsement. Interviews will tentatively take place the week of September 7. All applicants will receive an email communication regarding decisions.

Applicants who receive institutional endorsement will receive an authorization code from Waterloo that will enable the Rhodes application to be completed online through the Rhodes website. Endorsed applicants will be provided with an official hardcopy of a Waterloo transcript that is to be scanned and uploaded into the Rhodes application system.

Referees of applicants who receive institutional endorsement are required to submit their letters of recommendation again via the Rhodes Embark online system.

An institutional endorsement letter, signed by the President of the University, will be written in support of the applicant(s) and provided directly to the Rhodes selection committee by the official deadline of September 25, 2020.

Examples of contributions from past Rhodes applicants

Applicants are expected to be of the highest caliber as the Rhodes scholarship competition is exceptionally fierce. Below is a sampling of contributions that would be expected of competitive Rhodes applicants:

  • Participant on committees such as social services, student governance, cultural diversity associations, community associations, city council, youth summit in the roles of representative, volunteer, secretary, director
  • Public interest research group leader
  • Program volunteer/assistant for student enrichment
  • Student ambassadors/dons
  • Volunteer at human rights centres
  • Missionary/humanitarian work
  • Presenter/delegate at international conferences, United Nations annual meeting
  • Workshop facilitator
  • Panel member in speaker series
  • Recipients of governance/volunteer/sportsmanship awards

Helpful resources

Questions about the Rhodes scholarship application process can be emailed to the Co-ordinator, Graduate Financial Aid and Awards in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA).

Last updated July 7, 2020