Marshall Scholarship

The Marshall Scholarship is one of the most prestigious and competitive scholarships for American students to study in the United Kingdom. Established in 1953 as a gesture of thanks to the United States for assistance under the Marshall Plan after World War II, the Marshall Scholarship finances young Americans of high ability to study for a degree in the UK.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the Marshall Scholarship – from eligibility criteria, benefits, application timeline and tips, to stats and famous Marshall Scholars.

What is the Marshall Scholarship?

The Marshall Scholarship is a prestigious postgraduate scholarship program financed by the British government. It was created in 1953 by a 1953 Act of Parliament as a national gesture of thanks to the United States for the assistance provided by the Marshall Plan after World War II.

The scholarship allows intellectually distinguished young Americans the opportunity to study at any university in the United Kingdom for up to three years in any subject. It aims to strengthen the Special Relationship between the British and American people by giving the future leaders of America direct exposure to the UK academic system and society.

Since its creation, the Marshall Scholarship has been awarded to over 2,000 American students. They have gone on to become leaders in their fields, including one Supreme Court Justice, Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and Nobel Laureates.

Marshall Scholarship Eligibility Requirements

Marshall Scholarship

The Marshall Scholarship competition is extremely selective, with around 40 scholarships awarded annually from over 1,000 applicants. Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen who will hold or has held U.S. citizenship for at least the past three years. Dual citizens of the U.S. and another country are eligible if the other citizenship was obtained involuntarily (i.e. birthright).
  • Education: You must have graduated from an accredited U.S. college or university by the time you take up the scholarship. While most applicants apply in their senior year of undergraduate study, you can apply up to three years after receiving your bachelor’s degree.
  • Grades: You must have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.7 out of 4.0 to be competitive.
  • Study plan: You must have a concrete study plan to pursue a one-year postgraduate degree like a Master’s, or up to three years for a doctoral degree at any UK university. The Marshall Commission looks favorably upon applicants who choose courses of study not widely available in the U.S.
  • Age limit: Applicants must be under 26 years old on October 1st of the year they start the scholarship. There are limited exceptions for those who have done U.S. military service.

In addition to meeting these baseline criteria, successful applicants excel academically, demonstrate strong leadership potential and ambassadorship skills, and embody the values the Marshall Scholarship seeks to foster.

Benefits of the Marshall Scholarship

The Marshall Scholarship provides the following generous benefits:

  • All university tuition fees paid: The Marshall Commission will pay for all tuition, registration, laboratory and examination fees related to your degree program for up to three years of study.
  • Stipend for living expenses: Scholars receive a stipend of £1,110 per month for living expenses. The stipend is paid directly into your UK bank account.
  • One-time grant for travel: Scholars receive a one-time grant of £400 to cover travel expenses from your home to your UK university when you first arrive.
  • Fares to and from the US: You will receive economy class airfare to the UK at the start of your scholarship, and back to the US when you finish your degree(s).
  • Thesis grant: Scholars can apply for a grant to cover costs related to their thesis, including travel, access to libraries or materials, fieldwork expenses, and more. The maximum thesis grant is £1,500 total over your time as a Marshall Scholar.
  • Vacation grant: Scholars studying for two years or more can apply for a vacation grant to travel in Europe of up to £800 per year of your scholarship.

In total, the value of the Marshall Scholarship can exceed £38,000 per year, providing full financial support for American students to earn a postgraduate degree at any UK university.

Marshall Scholarship Application Timeline

The Marshall Scholarship application process takes place over the course of a year, with the following key dates:

  • April-August: Application opens online in April. Prospective applicants should begin researching programs and universities where they would want to study in the UK.
  • August-September: Application due between early August to early September depending on your school. Check with your campus advisor for the exact deadline.
  • October: Regional Review Panels conduct in-person 20 minute interviews with applicants in October. Interview locations are San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, Boston and Washington DC.
  • November: The Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission meets in London to select that year’s class of 40 Marshall Scholars based on applications and panel recommendations.
  • December: Winners are notified. The list of Marshall Scholars is publicly announced.
  • June-July: Newly selected Scholars arrive in the UK to begin postgraduate study at their university.

Applicants are advised to begin the process 12-18 months before they wish to take up the Scholarship. This allows sufficient time to prepare a compelling application and get letters of recommendation.

How to Apply for the Marshall Scholarship

The Marshall Scholarship application requires submitting the following components:

  • Online form: You will need to complete a detailed application form online with personal information, contact details, education, employment history, proposed UK study program, extracurriculars and more.
  • Personal statement: A 1000-word essay describing your objectives and priorities in pursuing postgraduate study in the UK, and how it relates to your future career plans.
  • University proposals: Outline your proposed research program and preferred universities in the UK. List two favored degree courses along with two reserve choices.
  • Transcripts: Submit complete undergraduate transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. Graduate school transcripts should also be included if applicable.
  • GRE scores: Applicants must submit their Graduate Record Examination scores taken within the past five years.
  • Letters of recommendation: You will need three confidential letters of recommendation submitted on your behalf discussing your qualifications and ability to be an ambassador for U.S.-UK relations.
  • Photo: Provide a recent, professional headshot photo to include with your application.

All components of the application must be submitted by the campus deadline, usually in early August or September. Late or incomplete applications are not accepted.

8 Tips for a Successful Marshall Scholarship Application

Follow these top tips to craft an outstanding Marshall Scholarship application:

  1. Start early: Begin preparing your application 12-18 months in advance. Take the GRE, secure strong letters of recommendation, and carefully research UK universities well before the deadline.
  2. Be focused: Have a clear study objective for your time in the UK. Describe a focused, achievable one or two-year postgraduate degree plan aligned with your goals.
  3. Stand out: The Marshall seeks distinguished applicants who stand out from the competition. Highlight unique experiences, perspectives, skills and goals that make you the ideal candidate.
  4. Ace the essay: Craft an outstanding personal statement that convinces the selection panel you deserve the Scholarship. Be reflective, mature and articulate your motivation.
  5. Get help: Seek feedback on your full application from mentors, advisors and others who have insight into what makes an applicant compelling.
  6. Mind deadlines: Follow instructions carefully and meet all campus deadlines. Submit a complete application on schedule to avoid disqualification.
  7. Interview strongly: Prepare for the interview by researching current affairs, articulating your goals clearly, and practicing answers to common questions.
  8. Be a leader: Demonstrate not just academic excellence, but also outstanding leadership, community impact, and ambassador potential.

With early planning, attention to detail, and a phenomenal application, you can earn this life-changing Scholarship to study in the UK as one of America’s finest future leaders.

Marshall Scholarship Acceptance Rate and Statistics

The Marshall is one of the most competitive scholarships worldwide. In 2022, over 1,100 students applied, and just 45 were selected – an acceptance rate under 4%.

Here are some key Marshall Scholarship statistics:

  • Number awarded annually: 40 (with typically 2-5 more added from waitlist offers)
  • Typical applicant pool: 1,000 – 1,200 applicants
  • Acceptance rate: Under 5%
  • Most common degree pursued: Master’s degree (70% of Scholars)
  • Most popular field of study: STEM fields (engineering, sciences)
  • Top universities attended: Cambridge, LSE, Oxford, University College London

To stand out, you must demonstrate academic excellence far beyond decent grades. The median GPA for recent Marshall Scholars was 3.92 out of 4.0. Over 80% of recipients had a GPA higher than 3.8.

Marshall Scholars also tend to excel at top universities. In recent years, Princeton produced the most winners (25), followed by Harvard, Yale, MIT and Stanford.

Competition for the Marshall is intense, but pursuing this Scholarship is a chance to join an esteemed community of gifted leaders empowered by this transformative opportunity.

Notable Marshall Scholarship Alumni

Many Marshall Scholars have gone on to become leaders in their fields and household names. Here are just a few of the most prominent Marshall alumni:

  • Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court Justice: Studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship before attending Harvard Law School and eventually being appointed to the highest court.
  • Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Former U.S. Secretary of Health: Studied at Oxford in the late 1980s on a Marshall Scholarship before rising to top government roles under President Bill Clinton and later serving in the Obama administration.
  • Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation: Buttigieg studied economics and politics at Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship and was later elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 before joining Biden’s cabinet.
  • Neil Gorsuch, Supreme Court Justice: Gorsuch received a doctorate in legal philosophy from Oxford under a Marshall Scholarship. He clerked for Justices White and Kennedy before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2017.
  • Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy: Granholm became Governor of Michigan after studying at Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship in the 1980s. She now serves as Secretary of Energy under President Biden.

The Marshall Scholarship has propelled many talented American students to reach positions of leadership. It provides a powerful platform to launch a career that makes an impact.


The Marshall Scholarship represents a life-changing opportunity for exceptional American students to enhance their education, leadership skills and career trajectories as they experience living and learning in the UK. The application process is rigorous, but successful candidates gain entry to an esteemed community of scholars and a powerful launch pad toward impactful careers spanning many fields.

If you are among America’s top university students who crave new global perspectives, the Marshall Scholarship is made for you. Its benefits make graduate study at a UK university fully funded for leaders destined to make a difference in the world. With thorough preparation, a thoughtful application, and demonstrated excellence, this prestigious scholarship may be within your reach.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Marshall Scholarship

Here are answers to some common questions about the Marshall Scholarship:

Do I need to have a graduate school acceptance before applying for the Marshall?

No, you do not need acceptance to a UK graduate program before applying for the Marshall Scholarship. If selected, Marshall Scholars can apply to UK universities afterwards.

Can I choose any university / degree program in the UK?

Yes, Marshall Scholarship recipients have the flexibility to pursue a graduate degree at any UK university. Your proposed research and universities should align with your academic and professional goals.

Is the Marshall Scholarship need-based?

No, the Marshall is awarded purely on merit, not financial need. All Scholars receive the full benefits regardless of need.

Can I defer the Scholarship if awarded?

Deferrals are only granted in exceptional circumstances, like compulsory military service. Otherwise, Scholarships must be taken up in the year awarded.

Can I study medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine degrees?

No, the Marshall does not support clinical degrees in medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine. Graduate research degrees like an MPhil in biomedical sciences may be allowed.

What activities are expected of Marshall Scholars?

Scholars are expected to be active contributors to UK-U.S. relations. Opportunities include meeting dignitaries, giving talks, mentoring new Scholars and networking.

How many recommendation letters do I need?

You need three confidential letters of recommendation submitted on your behalf discussing your qualifications, abilities, intellect and character.

Can I apply again if I’m not selected?

Yes, you can reapply one additional time if you are not chosen on your first try, as long as you still meet the eligibility criteria.

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