Gates Cambridge


About the Gates Cambridge Scholarship
Scholarship Details and Eligibility
Application and Selection Process
Letters of Reference
Scholarship Interview Process
USC Gates Cambridge Scholars
AHF Advising

About the Gates Cambridge Scholarship

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in October 2000 by a donation of $210m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge; this is the largest ever single donation to a UK university.

Scholarships are awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. The selection criteria are:

  • outstanding intellectual ability
  • leadership potential
  • a commitment to improving the lives of others
  • a good fit between the applicant’s qualifications and aspirations and the postgraduate program at Cambridge for which they are applying

The aim of the Gates Cambridge program is to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.

Gates Cambridge alumni pursue further study or employment across many sectors of society and, despite the relative youth of the program, are increasingly taking on leadership roles and applying their knowledge and skills to improve the lives of others.

Quick Facts

  • First class of Scholars took up their awards in 2001
  • Currently over 1,400 Gates Cambridge Scholars and Alumni from more than 100 countries
  • 95 new Scholarships awarded each year: 40 in US round 55 in international round
  • 225 Scholars from c. 50 countries studying in Cambridge
  • Over 1,000 alumni spread across the globe

For additional information, visit the Gates Cambridge Scholarship website here.

Scholarship Details and Eligibility

While at Cambridge, Scholars pursue a full range of subjects available at the University and are spread through its departments and Colleges.  To learn more about the Gates Cambridge experience visit the Scholarship’s website.

Minimum Eligibility

At the time of application, an applicant must be:

  • a citizen of any country outside the United Kingdom
  • applying to pursue one of the following full-time residential courses of study at the University of Cambridge:
    1. PhD (three year research-only degree)
    2. MSc or MLitt (two year research-only degree)
    3. One year postgraduate course (e.g. MPhil, LLM, MASt, Diploma, MBA etc.)
  • be under the age of 30

Courses which are NOT eligible for Gates Cambridge Scholarships:

  • BA (undergraduate)
  • BA affiliated (a second BA)
  • MBBChir Clinical Studies
  • MD Doctor of Medicine degree (6 years, part-time)
  • Part-time degrees
  • Non-degree courses

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Gates Cambridge application does not require University Endorsement as is often the case with other competitive UK Scholarships. USC AHF advisors are happy to provide feedback on a draft of your personal statement. Please contact Academic Honors and Fellowships to request feedback.

Application & Selection Process

Key Dates for the application process can be found here.

Applicants apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and admission to their chosen postgraduate course at the University of Cambridge and a Cambridge College via the Graduate Admissions Office, using the Graduate Application Form and supporting documents. Full details can be found at and on the How to Apply website for the Scholarship.

It is not possible to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship without applying to the University of Cambridge. You must apply for admission as a postgraduate student to the University of Cambridge and a Gates Cambridge Scholarship at the same time, using the one application pack.

To be considered for postgraduate admission and a Gates Cambridge Scholarship all applicants must submit the following documents to the Graduate Admissions Office by the relevant deadline:

  • Graduate Application Form (which includes a Gates Cambridge section)
  • Academic transcripts
  • 2 academic references
  • 1 personal reference (for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship)

Within the Graduate Application Form, Gates Cambridge applicants are asked to provide a response to the following personal statement prompt:

Prompt: Describe – in not more than 3,000 characters (approx. 500 words) – how your interests and achievements, both academic and extra-curricular, demonstrate a capacity for leadership and a commitment to improving the lives of others. Please also set out why you think there is a good fit between your professional aspiration and the graduate programme at Cambridge for which you are applying.

The personal statement is your opportunity to explain how you fit with the Gates Cambridge program.  The Scholarship website offers additional key points for consideration here.


Competition for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship is intense; but this should not deter you from applying if you meet our criteria.

The University of Cambridge is normally ranked in the top three universities worldwide. It typically receives over 9,000 applications for postgraduate study and research from non-British applicants, approximately 1,700 of whom take up their place at Cambridge.

Within the U.S. Round 1 application process:

  • approximately 800 eligible applicants apply
  • 200 are highly ranked by departments in Cambridge
  • 100 are invited to interview
  • 40 offered a Gates Cambridge Scholarship after interview

Personal Reference Letter

In addition to two academic references for admission, Gates Cambridge requires applicants to submit a personal reference from someone with appropriate standing who can not only address the following prompt but also understands what type of person Gates Cambridge is looking for and how competitive the scholarship is. More points to consider can be found here.

Prompt: Please give your assessment of the applicant’s suitability for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. These are awarded on the following criteria: intellectual ability, leadership capacity, a commitment to improving the lives of others, and a good fit between the abilities and aspirations of the applicant and what the University of Cambridge can offer in its graduate programme.

Scholarship Interview Process

Applicants shortlisted for an interview have already gone through an incredibly competitive process.

You will be invited for a 20-minute interview and, depending on where you are, you can either attend in person or choose to be interviewed by Skype or by telephone.

There are four broadly subject-based interview panels:

  • Arts
  • Biological Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Social Sciences

Each panel usually consists of a representative of the Trust and two academics – and may include a Gates Cambridge alum. Each interview has four main sections: Welcome and introduction, Gates Cambridge, Academic and career plans, and final thoughts and any questions you might have.

More details about the interview process are available on the Scholarships website.

USC Gates Cambridge Scholars

2009 & 2010: Kavita Ramakrishnan
2014: Reid Lidow
2016: Parvathi Subbiah

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