How to Win a Full Scholarship to Cambridge

Funding, Scholarships & Financial Aid

How to Win a Full Scholarship to Cambridge

In this post I share my experience applying for the Gates Scholarship and identify the three biggest factors that helped me earn the full funding award to Cambridge: campus leadership, strong recommendations, and a Personal Statement that stood out.

Campus Leadership

From my first days at UChicago I got Involved in the activities that Interested me. I ran for Student Government, applied for The Blue Chips Investment Club, went out for UChicago's varsity track team, and pledged the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. Each Organization was full of great people that mentored me and Helped me Transition to College life and Adulthood. Getting involved helped me Build a strong CV that opened doors (like an Internship at Merrill Lynch) and developed Communication and Leadership skills that enabled me to serve successfully as Student Government President and to launch Moneythink, a financial education NGO. My greatest learning experiences as an undergraduate came from these activities (even more so than the amazing classes I was blessed to take) and demonstrated to the Gates Foundation that I was going to be an active learner and leader at Cambridge. Getting involved on campus allowed me to learn from older students, make amazing friends, gradually become a leader and then build a strong CV to showcase my passion and experience.

Strong Recommendation Letter

I was very fortunate to take four incredible courses with Professor Charles Lipson, One of the sharpest, kindest and funniest men I've ever met. He brought the subject of International Relations to life for my classmates and me, prompting many of us to focus our college studies on how nations interact. I introduced myself after one of Charles' first lectures and began attending his office hours to discuss course reading and current events. Charles gave me advice as I contemplated my summer activities (he encouraged me to apply for the IMUSE Fellowship, which funded my first trip to China in August 2009) and told me to find my inspiration and set epic goals. He was a dutiful sounding board and provided sage advice as I launched Moneythink and sought to grow the organization beyond my UChicago dorm room. I shared sodas at Charles' office (he likes Diet Dr. Pepper while I'm a Coca-Cola guy) and helped him pass out candy at his house for trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Over time Charles came to know far more about me than just my academic results from his courses. He came to know how I think, my interests and motivations, my big goals and plans to get there. All the while he provided encouragement and advice and then saw how I responded to frequent setbacks and occasional triumphs.

The best recommendation letters speak to a student's potential, accomplishments, leadership capacity, personality and academic qualifications. After convincing me that Cambridge Business School was a great fit for me and that I might have a shot at the Gates Scholarship, Charles was able to pen Recommendation letter based on a strong our relationship. (Click here for the full Story of Charles and Me along with More Recommendation letter advice.)

Compelling Essay

Thousands of qualified students Apply to Cambridge each year but fail to Gain admission Because They do not earn an advocate in the admissions Office. I knew that was my academic standing middle of the pack (3.67 GPA with no GMAT Score ) so my personal statement would have to really Stand out. My goal was to write a statement that DESCRIBED my journey as a young businessman - competitive athlete from a student to a leader to a promising entrepreneur worth investing in. My aim was to share my story. To explain that I had the raw ingredients to become a strong businessman but needed formal academic training at Cambridge to discover my potential. I spoke on my budding track record, willingness to set big goals, enlist friends on projects, and work doggedly toward a vision day after day. I tried to position myself as an investment rather than begging for admission or pretending that I deserved a slot.

In short, I used my Personal Statement to tie my story together and demonstrate why my background prepared me to contribute to the Cambridge community and make the most of the Gates Scholarship. I was very fortunate to receive an interview where I had the chance to share more about my background and aspirations. I woke the next morning, on February 7, 2011 to an email of congratulations from the Gates Foundation. It was a brilliant sunny day in Brooklyn, New York, and I walked around beautiful Prospect Park with my high school debate buddy. It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the path that led me to the Gates.

No matter which path you aim to chart, your journey will be more rewarding if you get involved on campus, build relationships with professors and share your story along the way.


Greg Nance

ChaseFuture CEO