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What type of student is the Gates Cambridge Trust looking for?

The Gates Cambridge Trust is looking for students with outstanding academic credentials, demonstrated leadership abilities, a passion to contribute to the improvement of society and a good fit with the graduate programme at Cambridge for which they are applying.

I am a UK citizen. Can I apply?

Unfortunately, the Trust is not able to consider applications from those classed as 'home' for the purposes of fees, as most UK citizens are. To check your fee status you should consult the Graduate Studies Prospectus.

I have dual nationality. How should I apply?

If you have dual nationality it would be at your discretion which to put on your application as your primary and secondary citizenship. As long as you are not considered a 'home' student for fees purposes, you will be eligible to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. If you have extenuating circumstances, you should contact the graduate admissions office by emailing graduate.admissions@admin.cam.ac.uk who should be able to advise you further.


I am a non-UK citizen currently residing in the UK. Can I still apply?

As long as you are not considered a 'home' student for fees purposes by the University you will be eligible to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. You can contact the Graduate Admissions Office by emailing Graduate.Admissions@admin.cam.ac.uk

I am a current Gates Scholar. Can I apply for a second scholarship?

Yes. Current Gates Scholars are eligible to apply for a second scholarship. Current Gates Scholars are considered in the same way as and alongside all other applicants in the second international round.

In short:

  • You must apply for admission and a scholarship by the second deadline in December (as all current Cambridge students do who wish to apply for a second degree)
  • You must be ranked by the department to which you are applying
  • If your application is sucessfully shortlisted by the shortlisting committee, you will have the opportunity to interview in Cambridge in late March
  • If you are selected after interview you will be offered a second Gates Cambridge Scholarship
Is there an age limit for Gates Cambridge Scholarships?

There is no age limit.

Are Gates Cambridge Scholarships available for internship or non-degree research positions at the University?

No. Gates Cambridge Scholarships are only available for postgraduate study or research at the University of Cambridge, meaning that the student must be enrolled in a full time, residential degree-earning program.

Qualifications and preparation

Does the Trust place/admit scholars to Cambridge?

The Trust does not admit students. All applicants must gain admission to a degree by applying to the University in the normal way. See the Graduate Studies Prospectus.

Is there a minimum class/GPA requried for Gates Cambridge Scholarships?

Although there is no minimum GPA/degree class required to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, successful applicants will be academically outstanding and meet all graduate entry requirements.

Applicants should note that the University states the following for admission to a graduate course:

Graduate work in Cambridge is intense and very intellectually demanding and so the University has high academic entry requirements. You are normally expected to hold or be about to achieve at least a 2i honours degree from a UK university or an equivalent standard from an overseas university. If you have a question about the suitability of your qualifications for a particular course, please contact the Department in which you would like study.

Further details about requirements for academic admission to Cambridge.

I am applying during the last year of my undergraduate degree. Many of my awards and honors will not be officially conferred until graduation in the spring. How can I showcase my achievements without officially receiving awards?

While some awards, and your GPA, may not be finalized until the end of the academic year, you can report and highlight your current awards and expected GPA. Often, applicants can ask the authors of their letters of recommendation to mention anticipated achievements. In general, many applicants are in a similar situation, so do not worry, and report your achievements to date.

I’m not from an “elite” undergraduate university - should I apply?

The Trust awards scholarships to outstanding students from a diverse range of backgrounds and educational institutions (almost 1,000 Gates Scholars from almost 500 educational institutions worldwide). Candidates must gain admission to the University of Cambridge and show evidence of leadership potential, social commitment and a good fit with the graduate course at Cambridge for which they are applying. Applicants from any educational institution who meet the eligibility requirements of the scholarship and the University are encouraged to apply.

In addition to academic credentials, what strengths or skills make an applicant competitive?

Competitive applicants have engaged in various non-academic activities and have demonstrated their leadership potential within these activities. Non-academic activities are broadly defined, and may include—but are by no means limited to—community activism, charity work, educational services, and entrepreneurial endeavours. These activities are in addition to superb academic achievement.

What type of students are the departments at the University of Cambridge looking for?

Variation among the programs means that each program and each department has its own criteria. Some programs are purely taught, some are solely research-based and some are a mix of the two. For graduate study, departments will expect to see an excellent academic record and in some cases some research experience. You should fully research the course that you are interested by reviewing the Graduate Studies Prospectus and departmental websites.

How important is the applicant’s research experience? What if I do not have any research experience?

Because some programs are taught courses and some programs are solely research based, each program and each Department will be looking for something different. Applicants are strongly encouraged to research fully the program to which they are applying at Cambridge, and highlight their qualifications that are most applicable to the programme. If you have questions, contact someone from the programme which you are interested in.

Does it matter what I propose to study at Cambridge for the Gates Cambridge Trust?

The Trust places no preference on a particular field or course of study. But keep in mind that your reasons for undertaking your program of study or research at Cambridge will be taken into consideration by the Trust.
All applicants are first evaluated by the academic Department in Cambridge to which they are applying. Departments then recommend their very best applicants to the Gates Cambridge Trust. The Trust's shortlisting panel then uses these departmental rankings - alongside the further Gates-specific criteria of leadership potential and a commitment to improving the lives of others - to draw up a shortlist of candidates to interview. The shortlist of candidates - and the final list of scholars - comprises a very broad range of subjects available at the University of Cambridge.

To what extent does my pre-university experience count in the selection of Gates Cambridge Scholars?

Generally, the Trust does not consider pre-university activities. However applicants are not precluded from discussing such activities in the essay part of the application if they are relevant to the criteria of the Gates Cambridge Scholarships. Applicants are encouraged to highlight those portions of their resume/curriculum vitae that are most relevant to their chosen course at Cambridge, their suitability for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and their future objectives.

Does the Gates Cambridge Trust select students based on their ability to act as cultural ambassadors?

Acting as a cultural ambassador to the UK is not a formal component of selection. The Trust is interested in selecting applicants who are concerned global citizens interested in taking a lead role in addressing some of the many challenges facing the world.

Submitting your application

I want to do a PhD. How do I select a research topic that fits in the research themes of a Department at Cambridge?

Applicants are strongly encouraged to visit the University and departmental websites and familiarize themselves with the course and department to which they are applying. Knowing the strengths, research interests and current projects offered at the department will greatly help the applicant craft a targeted application.

Do I have to contact academics in my prospective Cambridge department prior to submitting the application?

PhD and other research (e.g. MPhil by research or MLitt) applicants will want to contact their prospective department in Cambridge prior to submitting the application to ensure there is a workable research project and an academic who is willing to supervise them. Applicants should check the departmental website and contact their potential supervisor to ask for advice.
Full details of one-year courses are usually available from departmental websites, but applicants should contact the course coordinator if they have any specific questions about the course that are not answered on the website.

What if I’m not sure about what I want to study?

Both the academic programs and the Trust are looking for candidates who will be a good fit for the program to which they apply. The departmental websites have extensive information about the programs of study that are available and the work that will be required to complete each course. Consider the department’s criteria when choosing your programme and remember that applicants will not be shortlisted for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship interview unless they have been very highly ranked by their prospective department in Cambridge.

Do I need a letter of endorsement from my university?

No institutional endorsement is required. Applicants apply for admission to the University of Cambridge and a Gates Cambridge Scholarship directly.

What do I need to submit to apply for admission and a Gates Cambridge Scholarship?

You should check the Graduate Studies Prospectus and the website of your prospective department for full details of what you must submit.

In summary, you will need to submit the following documents by the relevant deadline: Please see the Applicaiton timetable for deadlines.

  • The GRADSAF application form
  • Three letters of reference (two academic ones for admission and one personal reference for the scholarship application) - Deadline
  • Transcripts
  • Any other documents required by the Board of Graduate Studies (e.g. proof of English ability if English is not your first language) or the department to which you are applying (e.g. some departments require examples of written work or a GRE test score).


If you submit all required documentation for admission, as well complete all Gates Scholarship section, before the application deadline you will be considered for:

  • admission to a course (e.g. MPhil Education)
  • admission to one of the 31 Colleges
  • a Gates Cambridge Scholarship
  • if you are not successful in the Gates competition - other awards for which you may have also applied for on your application (e.g. awards from the other Cambridge Trusts and the University)
I am a current student at the University of Cambridge. Can I apply?

If you are currently enrolled in a degree at Cambridge and wish to apply for a new degree (e.g. you are currently pursuing an MPhil and wish to apply for a PhD) then you are eligible to be considered for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. You will need to apply by the later (second) deadline. However, if you are in the middle of a multi-year degree at Cambridge and need funding to help you complete that degree (e.g. you are in the second year of a three-year PhD), then you are not eligible for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

What are the key dates in the process for US citizens?

See our 'application timetable' for this years key dates. Note that if you have not heard from the Trust by early January you can presume that you have not been successful in the Gates competition. If you have applied for other funding from the Cambridge Trusts or University they may be in touch with you directly.

What are the key dates in the process for non-US (international) citizens?

See our 'application timetable' for this years key dates. Note that if you have not heard from the Trust by the end of March you can presume that you have not been successful in the Gates competition. If you have applied for other funding from the Cambridge Trusts or University they may be in touch with you directly.

I am a non-US citizen currently completing my undergraduate at a US institution. Which application timeline do I follow?

You should apply according to your citizenship status. As a non-US citizen you should apply no later than second deadline. See our 'application timetable for the key dates.

What is the difference between submitting an on-line application and submitting a paper application?

Please see Graduate Admissions -apply now for the most current information on applying for 2012-13 entry. There is a charge for both on-line and paper applications. The type of application chosen by the applicant is not a factor in the selection process. However, where they can, applicants are encouraged to apply on-line as their data is then automatically uploaded to the University’s database.

If I submit online, when are my transcripts and letters of recommendation due?

If using the on-line version of the GRADSAF application form, please note the following deadlines:

  • Applicants should submit their application no later than midnight (UK time) on the relevant deadline.
  • Supporting documents (Transcripts and additional documents required by the department) must be submitted within 14 days of submitting your application.
  • References (2x academic, 1x personal) must be submitted within 14 days of submitting your applicaiton.

All documents must be uploaded into CamSIS by the relevant deadline. In the case of paper application, all materials must have arrived at Graduate Admissions in Cambridge in hardcopy by the deadline. View the deadlines here.

How much does it cost to apply to Cambridge for graduate study?

For the most up to date information about fees, please see Graduate Admissions - apply now. This fee applies to both the paper and on-line applications. For on-line applications you can pay by credit card; for paper applications you can pay by cheque or postal order. There is no additional fee to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

How many copies of each letter do I need? Should they be submitted together?

See the Graduate Studies Prospectus for full, up to date details..

What is the best method for submitting materials from overseas?

Each country has its own postal service options. Please ensure your materials arrive at the University of Cambridge before the application deadline.

What does a “PhD (Probationary)” mean?

The first year of the PhD program is known as your probationary year. At the end of this year, your performance is assessed according to standards determined by your program. If your performance is judged to be satisfactory, you are granted permission to continue with the PhD (with your probationary year counting as the first year of your PhD). In most cases you must have a Master’s degree in order to be considered for a PhD.

How long does a Gates Cambridge Scholarship last?

General: A Gates Cambridge Scholarship is awarded for the length of the academic course which the scholar is admitted to. For example, a Gates Scholar pursuing the LLM in Law will receive their scholarship for nine months; a scholar pursuing an MSc for two years and a scholar admitted to the PhD for three years.

PhDs: While the majority of PhDs at Cambridge are of three years in length - and scholars are strongly encouraged to complete their PhD within this timeframe - occasionally some scholars are not able to submit their PhD thesis until one or more terms after their original submission date. In these cases the Trust may be able to award further, discretionary funding to allow a scholar to successfully complete their PhD. Such scholars will also need to apply from funding from other sources in Cambridge.

I have some general questions about my qualifications for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and/or about the experience of being a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Who do I contact?

You can contact a Gates Ambassador for your region.

I have technical questions about the application instructions. Who do I contact?

If it relates to admission to the course and to a College: the Board of Graduate Studies: graduate.admissions@admin.cam.ac.uk.
If it relates to funding: the Gates Cambridge Trust: info@gates.scholarships.cam.ac.uk.

The interview process

What if I am chosen for an interview, but cannot afford to travel to the interview site?

We suggest you talk to someone at your college or university to help cover costs. Alternatively you can interview by Skype or telephone (many of those interviewed in the second, international round do so). Statistics show that there is no difference in the outcome in terms of interview mode (in person, Skype or telephone).

Will I be interviewed by people in my field of interest?

There are usually four interview panels which cover the following areas: arts, biological sciences, engineering/mathematics/computer science/physical sciences and social sciences. Each interview panel consists of 3-5 people who are experts in these areas and usually composed of: a former Gates Cambridge Scholar; an academic from the University of Cambridge, and – for the US interviews – an academic from a US institution..

What is the interview like?

You will be assigned an interview time and date and your interview will last roughly 20 to 25 minutes. The interviewers will ask you about your chosen course of study, your qualifications, and any material in your application. The interviewers will also ask you broader questions; for instance, interviewers might ask you to apply an idea from your chosen field to a current event, or might ask you to describe and react to a controversy in your field. Interviewers will attempt to assess your intellectual preparation, your leadership skills, and your future potential.

See our interview process page.

Choosing a College

What factors should I consider when choosing a College?

The Colleges at Cambridge offer diverse experiences and benefits to students. When choosing a College, some factors to consider are: location in relation to the town centre or your department, social atmosphere (some are quite formal, others are more informal), facilities (such as recreation facilities, housing, and library), reputation and strength of College community. You should also bear in mind that some Colleges are exclusively or primarily open to women or graduate students.

A key issue can be whether a College can offer you accommodation in College for all, part or none of your course. Some Colleges are also able to better provide for couples or families.

New applicants may choose up to two Colleges on the GRADSAF application form. While all students admitted to the University will also receive membership to a College, there is no guarantee that applicants will be admitted to their first or second choice College.

Is my choice of College linked to my course of study?

No, your academic department admits you to your course and deals with all administration related to your course. You may wish to attend a particular College for a number of reasons not related to your course (see previous question).

Does my choice of College affect the likelihood of whether I will be chosen for a scholarship?

No,your choice of College will not affect your application for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Admission to a College is usually determined after the applicant has been chosen for a scholarship as well as admitted to the University.

Value of the scholarship

What does a Gates Cambridge Scholarship cover?

In general, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship covers the full cost of studying at Cambridge.

The total amount of the award will vary depending on the applicant’s fee status, number of dependants, and other factors.

See the our value page.



Are funds available for the support of scholars' dependants?

Yes, Gates Scholars may apply for the discretionary family allowance.

Since Scholars' partners are eligible to apply for an independent work visa, the Trust no longer offer a partner allowance. However, the Trust does offer a discretionary family allowance for Scholars with children. Family allowance is awarded at the Trust's discretion and other income will be taken into consideration when assessing applications.

See the value page for details.

Are funds available to support fieldwork or attending conferences/seminars as a Gates Scholar?

Yes, discretionary funds may be available to support activities related to a scholar’s course: e.g. fieldwork (for PhD scholars) and if presenting at conferences etc. Scholars may apply to the Trust for these funds once they are in residence. Funds are also often available from Colleges and Departments at the University of Cambridge - Scholars should apply for these where possible.

See the value page for details.

Life as a Gates Scholar

Is there a community of Gates Cambridge Scholars?

There is a very active community of scholars in Cambridge, who elect a representative body known as the Gates Scholars’ Council. At the start of the academic year, all Gates Cambridge Scholars participate in a week-long orientation hosted by the Council. Among its many activities, the Scholars’ Council organises social events (such as formal dinners and trips to London and other UK destinations), hosts a distinguished speaker series, and communicates between the Trust and the Scholars. There is also a Gates Cambridge Scholars’ room in the centre of town which overlooks the river; the room includes computers, entertainment equipment, meeting spaces, and a small library.

Is there a bond between the Gates Scholars?

Yes, the facilities and the social activities described above contribute to a feeling of a community of scholars while in Cambridge.

Is there an alumni organization?

Yes, every Gates Cambridge Scholar is automatically admitted to the Gates Cambridge Alumni Association (GCAA) upon graduation. Membership includes invitations to regional social activities, professional networking and development programmes, and ongoing opportunities to connect back to Cambridge. The Gates Scholars' Council and the GCAA also collaborate to publish an annual Gates Scholar magazine featuring the research, activities, and contributions of current and past Gates Cambridge Scholars. Every Gates Scholar receives a permanent @gatescambridge.org email address and is encouraged to be an active member of the Gates Scholars community around the world.

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