How to be a Marshall Scholar

The Marshall Scholarship is a program that finances young and promising Americans to study for a postgraduate degree at universities in the UK.

It covers anything from tuition and student fees to living expenses, thesis grants and even fares to and from the United States.

Marshall Scholars may pursue most master’s and PhD programs.

Here are some stats on the Marshall Scholarship program to kick things off:

  • 50 – the number of Marshal Scholarships awarded per year
  • 2,000 plus – the number of Marshall Scholars to date
  • 900 to 1,000 – the average number of Marshal Scholarship applicants per year
  • 24 – the maximum number of endorsements to the Marshall Scholarship an institution can make
  • 3% to 4% – the average acceptance rate for the Marshall Scholarship
  • 259 – the number of Marshall Scholars Harvard University has had
  • 139 – the number of Marshall Scholars Princeton University has had

A Brief History

In the early 1950s after World War II ended, the UK explored ways to strengthen its ties with the US, which was its ally during the war and, at that time, just gifted Europe with a generous amount of foreign aid.

The UK’s thank you note?

A scholarship program for US citizens who wish to attend British institutions.

Eventually, the said scholarship was named after General George C. Marshall, who was the general of the US Army and also the US Army chief of staff during the Second World War.

The foreign aid handed out by the US to the UK that I mentioned earlier, by the way, was also named after him: it was referred to as the Marshall Plan.

In the first year of the Marshall Scholarship, a total of 700 US students applied.

Of those, 74 applicants were interviewed, and 12 were granted scholarships — 8 men and 4 women.

The first batch of Marshall scholars completed their undergraduate studies at the following schools:

  • Bowdoin College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Dartmouth College
  • Harvard University
  • Oberlin College
  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Utah
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin

A couple of the said Marshall Scholars, by the way, were from Stanford University.

How To Apply

When applying for the Marshall Scholarship, you have 2 options:

  • The 1-year scholarship
  • The 2-year scholarship

Students can apply to only a single option. According to the Marshall Scholarship program itself, any candidate who is found to apply to both scholarship programs will be disqualified automatically.

After completing the online form, you will submit it to the institution from which you earned your bachelor’s degree.

Your school will decide whether or not to endorse you — if it decides to endorse you, the college will then have to submit it with a letter of endorsement from any of the following individuals:

  • President
  • Provost
  • Academic Dean

It’s not enough for your application form to be accompanied by a letter of endorsement from your school, though.

The Marshal Scholarship also requires the submission of a total of 3 recommendation letters, the first of which should be from the preferred recommender, who should have supervised your college or university education.

Your undergraduate institution will then have to submit your application together with the endorsement letter from it as well as the letters of recommendation.

As with the deadline, the exact date may vary from year to year.

It is usually in September when the deadline for the submission of the Marshall Scholarship application falls.

When applying for the Marshall Scholarship, it’s not enough that you meet the eligibility requirements enumerated earlier — it’s also important to meet additional criteria that embody Marshall Scholars.

Let’s check out the 3 different selection criteria for the Marshall Scholarship:

Academic Merit

  • Quality of program of study
  • Knowledge of proposed courses and supervisors
  • Evidence of academic background that is strong and relevant
  • Quality and breadth of recommendations

Leadership Potential

  • Ability to deliver results
  • Strength of purpose
  • Creativity
  • Self-awareness

Ambassadorial Potential

  • Knowledge of US-UK relations
  • Evidence of transferable extracurricular activities
  • Interpersonal skills and ability to engage with others
  • Self-confidence and ability to seize opportunities

Eligibility Requirements

Bachelor’s degree holders are strongly advised by the Marshall Scholarship to consider the program’s objective and selection process, too, before they fill out the application form.

The average selection rate for the Marshall Scholarship is between 3% to 4% only.

Similar to many other scholarship programs that send students to international universities, the Marshall Scholarship considers a number of factors when reviewing applications.

As expected, the student’s academic performance during his or her undergraduate studies in an American college or university is one of the main considerations.

Here are the things to meet to be eligible for the Marshall Scholarship:

  • Is a US citizen at the time of the application for the program
  • Has a first bachelor’s degree earned from an accredited 4-year institution in the US
  • Has obtained a GPA of not less than 3.7 on his or her undergraduate degree at the time of application for the program — the Marshall Scholarship does not accept GPAs that are rounded up
  • Has not studied at or does not hold a degree or degree-equivalent from any British university or the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) or A Levels from any school in the UK

It’s also a must for the candidate to have graduated from his or her first undergraduate college or university in a particular year to be eligible to apply.

For instance, someone who is thinking about applying for a 2030 Marshall Scholarship must have graduated from an American institution after April 2027.

As I mentioned earlier while we were talking about applying for the Marshall Scholarship, interested bachelor’s degree holders have a choice between the 1-year scholarship and the 2-year scholarship.

The eligibility requirements for the said Marshall Scholarship options are the same.


Similar to college alumni interviews, Marshall Scholarship interviews are not the most important part of the selection process.

Still, it’s essential as it allows the selection committee to determine if the candidate reflects his or her credentials.

In essence, a Marshall Scholarship interview is not confrontational. Nonetheless, it’s rigorous.

For one, candidates are given anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to inform the panel of interviewers why they should be made into Marshall Scholars.

The number of interviewers can vary from region to region.

Marshall Scholarship interviews, typically, take place in a span of 2 days.

In some regions, however, they may spread over 3 to 4 days instead.

Across different regions, the Marshal Scholarship interview process may vary slightly. So, in other words, the structure and the questions asked may differ from one regional interview to the next.

The members of the selection committee, however, assess candidates against the very same selection criteria.

Some of the questions asked by the interviewers are general questions, usually about the Marshall Scholarship itself and the scholarship process.

Some examples of questions that you may encounter include:

  • Why do you want to study in the UK?
  • Why (the name of the UK university)?
  • Why do you want a Marshall Scholarship?
  • What was the most important part of the Marshall Scholarship application process from the start?
  • How will you serve as an ambassador to the UK?

There are also questions designed to reveal just what kind of a person you are.

Of course, these questions will be based on the documents a candidate submits as a part of the Marshall Scholarship application.

Some examples are:

  • What was it like being homeschooled?
  • What is your greatest athletic disappointment and how did you turn it into a positive experience?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • How does graduate study play into your career as a future engineer?
  • How did you decide to spend a year in Canada?

Of course, some of the questions are meant to test your knowledge of the discipline that you focused on during your undergraduate studies and/or your proposed field of study, and the following are some sample questions:

  • Do you know if you meet the requirements for the program you have proposed?
  • If you had everything go as planned, how do you see your career panning out?
  • Can you discuss a little about the nature of the program at (the name of the UK university)?
  • What is the largest problem in the UK-US relationship?
  • What was your research at (name of institution or organization) like?

Marshall Scholarship candidates who ace their interview, by the way, will receive the good news via a phone call.

Degrees Not Covered by the Scholarship

Prior to filling out the online application form for the Marshall Scholarship and mapping out your entire graduate career at a university in the UK, make sure that you check out what the program funds and doesn’t fund.

It goes without saying that not all postgraduate degrees are covered by it.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that the Marshall Scholarship does not pay for graduate degree courses whose tuition exceeds £40,000, which is around $48,788 as of this writing.

However, the Master of Public Policy (MPP) graduate degree offered by the University of Oxford is an exception to the rule.

Below, you will come across the different degrees and educational pursuits that the Marshall Scholarship does not fund.

See if what you are thinking about earning at the British university of your choosing is any of the following:

  • Second Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS or BSc) undergraduate degree
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) at any UK university
  • Master of Science (MS or MSc) or Master of Financial Economics (MFE) at any UK university
  • Postgraduate diploma (PGDip) or postgraduate certificate (PGCert) in any subject and at any UK university
  • Graduate degree courses that lead to professional qualifications in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and law — they usually take 5 years to complete, while the Marshall Scholarship is only 1 to 2 years or 3 years max
  • Graduate degree courses that require extended periods away from the British university or the UK itself, including joint degrees with a university located outside of the UK
  • Distance learning degree courses, including those with large virtual learning environment (VLE) or online components
  • Master’s degree courses that usually take more than 12 or 24 months to complete, including 15- or 28-month Master’s degree programs
  • Supervised research that does not lead to any degree qualification
  • Degree programs that start in January
  • Part-time degree courses

Marshall Scholarship vs. Other Programs

VS. the Rhodes Scholarship

Here’s a couple of things that the Marshall Scholarship and the Rhodes Scholarship have in common:

  • Both send eligible students to the UK to pursue a graduate degree
  • Both have pretty much the same selectivity level

Their similarities, however, end there.

The Marshall Scholarship is open to US citizens, and those who qualify can study at any British university of their choosing.

Meanwhile, the Rhodes Scholarship is open to any student on any part of the planet.

However, Rhodes scholars can only work on an undergraduate degree in a particular institution: the University of Oxford.

In terms of flexibility, each postgraduate scholarship has its own strength — while the Marshall Scholarship wins as far as the selection of universities in the UK is concerned, the Rhodes Scholarship has an edge when it comes to who can apply since aspirants need not be American citizens.

VS. the Mitchell Scholarship

Both the Marshall and the Mitchell Scholarships are open to all US citizens who are interested in earning a graduate degree in the UK — they can pursue an eligible postgraduate discipline that they like, too.

It’s important to point out, though, that the Marshall Scholarship requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from a college or university in the US.

On the other hand, the Mitchell Scholarship also accepts applications from Americans who obtained their bachelor’s degree in the US or abroad for as long as it’s an accredited school.

So, in terms of this matter, the Mitchell Scholarship wins.

The Marshall Scholarship, on the other hand, takes the cake when it comes to British university selection — Marshall scholars can attend any UK institution, while Mitchell scholars are limited to Irish universities.

VS. the Gates Scholarship

Except for the fact that they are both scholarship programs and require applicants to be US citizens, the Marshall Scholarship and the Gates Scholarship share no other thing in common.

The Marshall Scholarship is for bachelor’s degree holders who want to pursue a graduate degree.

On the other hand, the Gates Scholarship is for high school students who want to get their hands on a bachelor’s degree. Eligibility requirements, of course, are stringent such as:

  • A GPA of at least 3.3
  • Participation in community service
  • Proven leadership skills
  • Demonstrate financial need

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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