Gates Millennium Essay Questions 2014

UPDATE: The new Gates Scholarship will replace the GMSP program! The application hasn’t been released, but we’ll update this guide as soon as the info is available!

—-Outdated info: relevant for GMSP. Might not be relevant for Gates Scholarship!——-

 

 

In applying for fellowships, essays are the hardest and most time-intensive part. However, if you start early and remember that you are writing YOUR story, no research required, you will be ok!

1. The essay prompts that YOU need to answer

There are a total of 8 essays that you must write for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP) application. This is NOT including the essays that your nominator and recommender must write.

See below for the prompts as well as sample essays from GMSP award winners!

Prompt 1:Discuss the subjects in which you excel or have excelled. To what factors do you attribute your success? 

GMSP Sample essay- Ngoc Nhi Le 2006

GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012

GMSP Sample essay- Joy 2013

Prompt 2: Discuss the subjects in which you had difficulty. What factors do you believe contributed to your difficulties? How have you dealt with them so they will not cause problems for you again? In what areas have you experienced the greatest improvement? What problem areas remain?

GMSP Sample essay- Ngoc Nhi Le 2006

GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012

GMSP Sample essay- Joy 2013

Prompt 3: Briefly describe a situation in which you felt that you or others were treated unfairly or were not given an opportunity you felt you deserved. Why do you think this happened? How did you respond? Did the situation improve as a result of your response?

GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012

Prompt 4: Discuss your short-term and long-term goals. Are some of them related? Which are priorities?

GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012

Prompt 5: Discuss a leadership experience you have had in any area of your life: School, work, athletics, family, church, community, etc. How and why did you become a leader in this area? How did this experience influence your goals?

GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012

Prompt 6: Discuss your involvement in and contributions to a community near your home, school or elsewhere. Please select an experience different from the one you discussed in the previous question, even if this experience also involved leadership.  What did you accomplish?  How did this experience influence your goals?

GMSP Sample essay- Ngoc Nhi Le 2006

GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012

GMSP Sample essay- Joy 2013

Prompt 7: Other than through classes in school, in what areas (non-academic or academic) have you acquired knowledge or skills?  How?

GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012

Prompt 8: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about that may help us evaluate your nomination (i.e., personal characteristics, obstacles you have overcome)?

GMSP Sample essay- Leslie Nguyen 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Maurice Antwaun Boothe 2009

GMSP Sample essay- Thao Nguyen 2012

Prompt 9: ONLY for Nominees who graduated from high school or earned their GED more than one year ago: Describe those activities in which you have participated since completing high school (e.g., community service, leadership, employment) that you believe qualify you for this scholarship.

2. Notes on writing the essays

When writing the essays, remember:

  • The essays do not have to be perfect!
  • Answer the prompt. If the only thing you write is the exact answers to the prompt, then you at least provided the information that they are seeking
  • Proofread!
  • DO NOT be too verbose, pedantic, wordy…(you get the point). The people who are reading your essays are volunteers and they will be reading LOTS of essays so DO NOT bore them or make it a difficult read! Some of my sample essays are borderline pedantic so I am not a great guide on how to be short and to the point.

3. FREE  essay reviewing services by GMSP award winners

  • Free essay reviewing service is now available through the great efforts provided by Scholarship Junkies!
  • Follow the EXACT instructions below!
    Make sure that you have completed and thoroughly proofread ALL 8 of your essays before submitting them for review. Once they are proofread, do the following:[1]  Visit http://scholarshipjunkies.org/for-students/[2]  Under “how did you hear about us”, make sure to list “Nhi Le” so that the team knows that you were referred via this blog[3] Under “essay draft version”, select “new essay submissions”[4]  Enter your information

    [5] Submit all 8 essays as word 2 document files (4 essay per file). Please note that all files MUST contain your full name and have the essay prompt before each essay.

    Due to the high volume of requests at this time of year, you might not receive your essay feedback within 72 hours after submission. Please be patient as all our volunteer readers and unpaid and are juggling other responsibilities at the same time. Thanks for your understanding! 🙂

~ Ngoc Nhi Le

** Disclaimer: ALL ESSAYS ARE THE PROPERTIES OF THEIR LISTED OWNERS! DO NOT PLAGIARIZE!

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To help you write your scholarship essays this spring and summer, we at Story To College are partnering with College Greenlight to break down scholarship essay questions each Tuesday over the next month. This week, we’re starting with the first half of the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

The Gates Millennium Scholarship provides renewable undergraduate (and postgrad) tuition to students of color who demonstrate significant financial need. That means a full ride to the school of your choice. While the deadline, which falls in mid-January, has passed for 2014, this breakdown will provide this year’s juniors a chance to get ahead. It will also model for approaching scholarship essays with similar questions.

As with any application, you should get to know the values and goals of the place to which you are applying. The GMS describes itself as founded on the vision of leadership: specifically, students of “extraordinary promise” who will make a “significant impact” on the American landscape after their graduation. Their application is designed to figure out if you have the grit, perseverance, ambition and compassion to be a powerful change-maker in the new millennium.

Take a deep breath. That sounds scary, but the GMS readers are looking for the same thing every reader is looking for: you. You stand out by revealing your character through telling specific stories. Read the student profiles in their 2012 Annual Report, and get a sense for the kind of details that they’re looking for. Here are some tips for making an impression in the first three questions of the Gates Millennium Scholarship Application:

1. Discuss the subjects in which you excel or have excelled. To what factors do you attribute your success?

Don’t be fooled: this question is not asking for a laundry list of your successes. Nothing is more guaranteed to make a reader’s eyes cross. That second sentence is crucial. When they ask “to what factors do you attribute your success,” they’re really asking if you can reflect and identify your own strengths. Reflection is a crucial skill of all leaders; this will come up again and again in the GMS application.

So take a moment. Reflect. What subjects have you excelled in, and why? What personal characteristics have made you successful in them?

Next, find a moment when you had to rely on that characteristic to excel. Did you need to be a creative thinker in robotics? Did you have to use your humility and curiosity to reach out for extra help in Chemistry? Consider defining “excel” in non-traditional ways. What does success mean to you? (Do keep in mind: the GMS is an academic scholarship particularly interested in successes in leadership, community service, and academics, with a leaning towards science and math, although they support students with interests in all fields.)

2. Discuss the subjects in which you have had difficulty. What factors do you believe contributed to your difficulties? How have you dealt with them so they will not cause problems for you again? In what areas have you experienced the greatest improvement? What problem areas remain?

Like the first prompt, this question is interested in your ability to reflect. Here, they want to know how you deal with hardship.

The most important part of this question is the third sentence: How have you dealt with them so they will not cause problems for you again? To answer this question effectively, you need to explain not only how and when you struggled, but what you did to overcome that difficulty. Keep this in mind, so you don’t get bogged down in that swamp of “all the times I failed.” Keep your brainstorming focused, actually, on your successes!

Then address the last two questions: how have you most improved, and what remains to be done? Think of this essay like a three-act play: describe your difficulty, the climax, and finally, the forward-looking resolution. To stay memorable, use specific details that are unique to only you, like dialogue or description.

3. Briefly describe a situation in which you felt that you or others were treated unfairly or were not given an opportunity you felt you deserved. Why do you think this happened? How did you respond? Did the situation improve as a result of your response?

This question is asking about your conflict management. Remember, the GMS is looking for leaders. You want to show you can handle prejudice productively.

Brainstorm a list of injustices you’ve witnessed or been subjected to. Be real and honest. Sometimes that means a story about the lady at the supermarket, or being pulled over by the police. Sometimes it’s your friend’s mom, or a substitute teacher, or the bullies in sixth grade that are inflicting the unfair treatment. We’ve all seen it. Don’t reach: reflect.

You don’t have to be a superhero, though. Sometimes, unfair things stay unfair, no matter how we handle them. That’s how the cookie crumbles. Take the opportunity to discuss what you would do differently, or how you want to make a change in the future.

I talked to our CEO Carol Barash for more advice on this question. Here’s what she said:

“It’s really easy to get lost in your thoughts in a prompt like this, which is one of the biggest mistakes students can make. Don’t talk about ideas. Show actions. Your actions reveal your character to the selection committee more compellingly than any claim of ‘responsibility’ ever could. Finally, use this essay to demonstrate that you share values with the mission of the Gates Millennium Scholarship. That will make an impression on the readers, and show that you are the type of student they want to empower and support.”

Want to see examples of essays that worked? Click here! Have other questions about this or other scholarship applications? Email me at sophie.herron@storytocollege.com, or leave me a comment below. I’d love to know what other scholarship questions you’d like to see tackled! See you next week for the second half of the GMS application.

 

 

Sophie Herron taught high school English in Houston, Texas, as a Teach For America corps member. Since then, she received her MFA in Poetry from New York University, where she was a Goldwater Fellow, instructor of Creative Writing, and Managing Editor of Washington Square Review, the graduate literary journal. She teaches as an instructor at Story To College and as a teaching artist with the Community-Word Project. She is a poet and podcaster. 

 

Photo Credit: Gates Millennium Scholars

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