RG Scholarships

The Rhode to Success

Application requires time, service, excellence and authenticity
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What does it take to become a Rhodes Scholar? Academic excellence for sure. Demonstrated leadership and a history of community service also help. But, even if a student has all that, getting selected is not guaranteed.

Considered one of the world’s most prestigious international scholarship programmes, the Rhodes Scholarship covers full tuition, accommodation and living expenses for postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford. Thousands of students apply each year. Fewer than one percent are accepted.

Tierrai Tull knew there was a good chance things might not go her way, but was encouraged by professors who “highlighted it as something for [her] to consider” and the 23-year-old will now head to Oxford in October as Bermuda’s 2024 Rhodes Scholar.

What likely helped, is her work as a member of the Gender Affairs Council, a group that addresses disparities and discrimination between men and women. She’s also cofounder of Bermuda Youth Connect, an organisation created to foster civic engagement and political participation in young people.

Ms Tull will graduate in June from the University of Toronto, where she is studying culture and public policy on full scholarship. Prior to that she studied at United World College in Armenia, where she enjoyed the focus on service. The Rhodes Scholarship presented a similar opportunity.

“It just seemed like a community that I wanted to be a part of,” she said. “The values really resonated with me [and] at Oxford they have a specific genders programme that I was interested in. I was drawn to the community aspect, but also the academics.”

The Rhodes Scholarship was first awarded in 1902. A single scholarship is available to a Bermudian student each year and nearly 100 have been selected to date. Applications must be submitted online –https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/scholarships/applications/bermuda/ – by October 2.

Applicants must be Bermudian, have a permanent residency certificate or have a parent with one. They must also be between the ages of 18 and 23 on October 1 of the year they apply. The Scholarship will accept applications from candidates who complete their first degree later than is typical if they are under the age of 27 by the application deadline.

Students must have been educated in Bermuda for a minimum of five years and have completed their first degree with first class honours or a GPA of at least 3.7. Scholarship applications must be submitted by students before they apply for a course at Oxford. Five references are essential as is “an authentic statement of who you are” in 750 words.

Ms Tull advised starting the process early. “It can feel overwhelming because there’s just so much information. It’s easy to get lost in the noise.” Help for her came through the Rhodes Outreach Ambassador Programme, created in 2020 to make people more aware of the Rhodes Scholarship opportunity.

Ms Tull began writing her personal statement in August and went through about 20 edits before she felt it was good enough. “I think more than trying to write a perfect essay just make sure it’s authentic to you and of course, well written,” she said. “I spoke about how the places that I’ve lived have shaped my identity and a lot of my dreams were shaped because I’ve been all over the place during school. And I spoke about wanting to connect them to service and wanting to do that a little bit more at Oxford.”

Another strong recommendation from the Rhodes Scholar: give yourself time. “That’s the best thing you can do for yourself and [then] you can be confident that you put your best foot forward and it’s not some sloppy job that you put together two hours before the deadline. Also, you need a lot of recommendations and you have to factor that in. Are your professors writing their recommendations for you? Do you have recommendations? Do you have all your official transcripts? There’s a lot of administrative attention that needs to be paid to the Rhodes Scholarship, but I think more importantly than that admission stuff, you just want to make sure that you are confident in your application; that you can say I have done the best I can and I will accept any outcome.”

For anyone bold enough to follow through, Ms Tull gives the following advice: “centre your why. It’s a shot in the dark for everyone. There are tons of brilliant people who don’t get Rhodes Scholarships. So I would say just do it, don’t self-disqualify. Reflect on the reasons that you’re applying and let that be your guide. If things work out you can continue and have beautiful experiences. If it doesn’t work out you can reapply or you can go to Oxford another way or you can go to another school. But I think centring your why would be the most important thing. And whatever that why is, let that be your guiding light for the application process.”

At a meeting of all the candidates Ms Tull considered them “open and kind and brilliant. I don’t know what stood out about me,” she said. “I don’t think I’m the person to answer that question. I knew that I had worked really hard but everybody works hard. I wasn’t exceptional in that way.”

What likely helped is the hours she gave to her various communities and her belief that everyone should always strive for excellence. “Take pride in all the things that you do. Question yourself, question your motivations. Be excellent, work hard, prepare, do as much as you can but also submit to the process of life which is just full of uncertainties.

“I had a more honest perception of myself after coming out of the Rhodes application process because it’s just so demanding. It forces you to think about the world, your place in the world and your place in relation to others in ways that I had never done outside of my nightly journal.”

For more information on the Rhodes Scholarship, contact Christie Hunter-Arscott, the National Rhodes Secretary for Bermuda: [email protected]

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