I have recently received some queries about the Rhodes Scholarship which I am going to answer here, so others who have similar questions can also benefit. If you have a question, post it in the comments and I will try to answer it in a future post.
Caveat: All answers are my opinions. My answers may be biased or off the mark because I can only speak from my one time experience of the selection process, and my interpretation can be wrong, or may not apply in your case.
I am a third year medical student.
Do I need to have distinctions left right and center for my application to even be considered. I am doing my MBBS from an institute which rarely, if ever awards distinctions. Will very good scores in final profs count/matter?
- Rhodes gives weightage to academic performance. As I understand, very good academic performance is the baseline as far as Pakistan is concerned, so the selection committee will expect you to have done the best given the parameters of your educational set-up. So, good scores will matter, as will the other criteria that Rhodes is looking for, but let me remind you that you should manage your stress, and not let yourself burn out in the process. It is extremely important to develop this, no matter where you go.
How often are doctors seen at Rhodes interviews? I know you had one in your batch. But is it common?
- I don't have any data on who has been interviewed or short-listed in the past so I can't objectively answer your question, but personally I feel that they might be common enough, given that many of my Rhodes peers from other countries do medicine/related degrees here at Oxford and the Pakistani Rhodes scholar 2 years above me also did medicine.
I'm not sporty at all. I mean I do know my chess but that's about as is sporty as it gets for me. Does it effect my chances? Do you HAVE to be athletic to be considered?
- Sports is meant to demonstrate: Energy to use one's talents to the full. But sports is not the only way in which individuals demonstrate this trait. If you can show through other activities in your life that you emulate this trait, then you should not be worried. People who are enthusiastic artists or writers or actors emulate this trait too. Sports is but one interpretation of this trait.
How much community service/social work is enough? Will I have to provide proofs along with my application?
- It is really tough to define a baseline for this or a threshold. Whatever you do needs to be meaningful, impactful and should demonstrate "truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship" or "moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings". Whatever you do, you should know where it fits in to your larger personal context, why are you doing it and why does it matter to your community and the world at large.
I do not think that you will be asked to show proofs.
Does it matter that I won the National Spelling bee? Does it matter that all of my declamation and MUN experiences ended with school?
- I think showing sustained personal achievements matters - so if those were the last things that you did and have done nothing since then probably that is not a great fit, especially since it can be interpreted to mean that in your undergraduate years you found nothing that could motivate you to action. But if those experiences gave you skills and traits that you have positively used in other ways later in your life then that can be woven into a good personal narrative.
Is it too late to pick back up on my co-curriculars?
- As I said, sustaining a level of personal achievement is important. If you are applying for August this year, and it is already end of June as I write this, then perhaps you don't have enough time to do anything meaningful. Co-curricular activities need to demonstrate certain traits to the selection panel and perhaps it is not a good idea to take up extra curriculars for the sole purpose of adding things to your CV.
I did my graduation from Karachi University in Biotechnology and then switched over MBA programs. My majors were Banking & Finance.
I am concerned that I switched degrees, would it backfire? Should I mention it or not. I mean, my KU degree has not mentioned which courses I took.
- Students switch degrees, it happens, I am not sure how it could backfire. As long as you found something which you liked and excelled at, you should be good.
I would like to ask are you really a Freemason? The "Chosen Ones" who thinks they are the only one who can govern this world's affairs, directly or indirectly.
- Would you really believe me if I said no? Or would you actually believe me even if I said yes? Besides the world's affairs are for all who take an interest in them, the rest make (conspiracy) theories.
Actually I am about to write the personal statement and for that I need your assistance.
- I can't offer you any direct assistance for your personal statement, as it would be unfair to those who don't have the recourse to a Rhodes scholar for their personal statement, but the advice that I believe is helpful is captured in this post: The Impossible Personal Statement
Can I submit a provisional transcript from my university until I don't have my degree?- Yes, that should be fine in my opinion.
I appeared in CSS exam this year and now I am waiting for the results, which will be announced in October. Should I discuss it in my personal statement or not? I think, it can backfire if I make it to the interviews. They can ask me, what you will do if you get selected, will you go for the Rhodes scholarship or will you join the civil services?
- Best to mention it and even better to discuss it in your interview. CSS shows dedication to service of your people, which is a great attribute. Rhodes scholars have taken time off from civil service to get a degree from Oxford and then return to their Civil service responsibilities, so it is not an either/or situation, you can benefit from both.
Should I submit the IELTS doc along with my application as the officials have not mentioned it, but a friend said to submit it as it will mount good impression on the evaluators.
- I don't think it will hurt to send it but it is not an official requirement. You will probably need it anyway if you get into Oxford.
The traits that I quote are mentioned here: Selection Criteria for Rhodes Scholarship