Students around the world are often told about the prestigious nature of becoming a Rhodes scholar, but few understand what holding the distinction means. While it would be simple enough to state that it is a scholarship awarded to postgraduate applicants at Oxford, it is a distinction that, as U.S. News and World Reports shows, can be of benefit to not just British students, but students worldwide. Here is a quick overview of the Rhodes Scholarship, the selection process, and more.

Definition and History

The Rhodes Scholarship, and the scholars who are distinguished by this achievement, was created by and named after the British mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes. It is thought to be the oldest and most prestigious international fellowship that is awarded to students from all over the world who are pursuing secondary bachelor's degrees or graduate degrees at Oxford University. It was established in 1902 and the first recipients entered Oxford in 1903. Since then, over 7,500 scholars have attended the university from all over the world.

Selection Process

The selection process is intensive, made more so by the fact that not only do United States students have to adhere to the four tenets set forth by Rhodes' will, they must also pass through a competitive selection process based on their academic achievements and an interview process. Students must demonstrate academic and athletic achievements, good character standing, and service to others. About 32 scholars are selected every year from American universities, and with thousands of applicants every year, the Rhodes scholarship remains one of the most competitive in the world; its current acceptance rate stands at 0.7 percent, much lower than Harvard's 5.6 percent acceptance rate for undergraduate students.

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Terms of Scholarship

The scholarship is lucrative for students; along with university and college fees being paid for by the Rhodes Trust, who hands out the scholarship, students can also expect to receive a monthly stipend for their living expenses. As part of the terms of the scholarship, students must attend school full-time and either take on a master's, research, or second undergraduate degree; exceptions are made for doctoral degrees. It is important that students declare their intended degree prior to applying, as the fellowship depends on seeing the degree plan through. Students also gain access to Rhodes House, which sits on the grounds of Oxford, while maintaining living arrangements at one of the residential colleges.

Controversy

Controversy has laid a blanket of concern over both Rhodes as an individual and the scholarship in general. Rhodes himself was a noted white supremacist, which led to widespread disdain over the selection process; as a South African politician, Rhodes refused to allow black Africans to apply for the scholarship. The Rhodes Trust was finally made to relent on black African applicants in 1991 when the African National Congress rose to power. Women, too, were banned from receiving the scholarship until 1976, when the British Parliament passed the Sex Discrimination Act that offered equality in all aspects of life, including education. Additionally, international rows have taken place over some American scholars lamenting the difference of education between America and Britain, although this controversy has largely gone by unnoticed by ambitious applicants.

The Rhodes scholarship has an impressive track record of creating opportunities for brilliant minds; it has also been the pioneer of international scholarships to help students bridge not only their education but also their cultural understanding. It is still an important achievement, particularly for those potential scholars who wish to enter into public service. To become a Rhodes Scholar is a mark of distinction, but the truth remains that the distinction only matters once a student has completed their education and become professionals in the workforce.