My year in India is made possible thanks to a one year academic and cultural exchange scholarship provided by the generous donations of Rotarians to the Rotary Foundation. The Ambassadorial Scholarship takes Rotary’s vision of “creating world peace through cultural understanding” as its mission. This page is dedicated to explaining how you or someone you know can become a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar!
The process to apply for this scholarship begins approximately eighteen months before you would begin your year of study. Anyone applying in the upcoming round of scholarships will be eligible, if selected, to study during the 2013-2014 academic year. Many applicants are current college juniors or seniors, but you are eligible to apply if you have completed two years of college coursework or have a secondary education and have been employed in a recognized vocation for at least two years when the scholarship begins.
Here is a link to the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar information page to answer your preliminary questions.
And here is a rough timeline of the application…
AS SOON AS POSSIBLE get in touch with the Rotary Clubs in your area to find out if your district offers the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship. Not all districts are able to offer this scholarship. Those that do may offer one or more scholarships in any given year. If your university or alma mater has a competitive scholarships office consult its advisor as he or she may be able to direct you to a Rotarian who can guide you in the process. (If you go to CSB|SJU, Dr. Richard White is incredible and will work with you throughout the entire application process.) Make sure to find a faculty mentor or Rotarian in your area who can guide you during the application process. In order to submit an application you must be paired with a Rotary Club that will “sponsor” you onto the district level. No financial sponsorship is required from your sponsor club, but they will be somewhat responsible for you throughout the process.
Note: If you are currently in college you will apply for the scholarship in the district where your college is located, unless that district does not offer the scholarship in which case I believe you are eligible to apply in your home district (where your guardians live or your permanent address). If you have graduated from college, you will apply in the district where you currently reside.
December 2011/January 2012 – Check the Rotary International Foundation website for the updated scholarship application. Here is a link to the current application so you can take a look at it. I don’t expect it will change drastically.
At this time it is also incredibly important that you consult your professors or professional mentors so that they may advise you which universities abroad are best suited for your desired area of study. In your application you will be able to rank up to five different universities with the condition that they are in at least three different countries and none of your selections may be in the same city. You will also be required to show linguistic proficiency if your studies will take place in a language other than English. Choosing a host institution was the most difficult part of the paper application for me. Scholarship funds cover one year of study and many institutions don’t offer one year Masters programs so don’t plan to finish your Masters during your time as an Ambassadorial Scholar unless you can self-finance Year 2. Some are lucky enough to find a yearlong program, so be sure to check with your advisors if they are aware of one in your field.
Your application will also require letters of recommendation and multiple essay questions. Just like with college applications DO NOT let these essay questions wait until the last minute. Spend ample time writing, editing, rewriting numerous drafts of your essays as they, and your letters of rec, are what will advance your application to the district level. Find a nitpicky friend, advisor, or family member – someone who will critique you honestly – to edit your essays. It’s especially important that this person knows you, as you will be trying to convey who you are in writing.
March 2012 – Applications are due to your local Rotary Club (each club has a different deadline, so make sure to check when the application is due in your area). Give yourself a big pat on the back, hoorah! Now you will wait to hear whether your application has been advanced to the district level.
April 2012 – If your application advances to the district level you will be expected to show up for an interview most likely the first week of May. April is your month to prepare, prepare, prepare, for your interview. As its title indicates, this scholarship is one part Ambassadorial, one part Scholarly. You need to be able to display in your interview that you are able to carry both responsibilities. Again, language ability is important. If you are going to a country where most of the population does not speak English in conversation, you are expected to be conversant in that language or have a plan for becoming so.
If you don’t have a record of public speaking, find an excuse to start growing one now. My best advice is to kindly request the assistance of a group of adult mentors in staging a mock interview. Prepare for the mock interview(s) as you would for the real one. Dress to impress. Invite and graciously accept all feedback. Send them all handwritten thank you cards, or emails at the very least. Send handwritten thank you cards to the professors who write your letters of recommendation, and anyone else who takes the time to help you in a big way. Make sure these people are also informed in a timely manner when you do find out whether you have received the scholarship. They will want to know the news.
During this time you will also attend a meeting at your sponsoring Rotary Club. Do your best to connect with anyone in the club who can tell you more about the scholarship and provide advice. You will be introduced at the meeting and may be expected to give a short introduction or presentation (5 minutes). Rotarians love to hear why young people like you want to spend a year in cultural exchange! Just as you did your homework for the interview, do your homework for the Rotary meeting. Check out the club’s website and make sure you understand the mission of Rotary. Not everyone in Rotary knows what the Ambassadorial Scholarship is, so be prepared to speak about that as well. Again, dress to impress and remember that handwritten thank yous never hurt.
May 2012 – The Big Day, Interview Day, will likely take place during the first week of May. Each district has a different interview process, but it’s not uncommon for the interview to span the entire day, from breakfast to early afternoon. Many districts let scholars know the day of the interview whether they have received the scholarship. Ask lots of questions from those you meet before the interview day about what you can expect the day of. Interview Day, though stressful, is an incredibly exciting day for many, since you get to meet other peers who are vying for the same scholarship. These applicants are usually awesome people doing awesome things in the world. Chances are they will become lifelong friends.
…I’ll leave my timeline at this point for now, since you have plenty of work to do between now and next May. Please do not hesitate to contact me or Daniel if you have questions about the application process. As we get closer to next May and Interview Day I will update this site with a list of current scholars who will be able to answer your questions about studying in specific regions or at specific universities. In the meantime, check out the info page and application and decide if this opportunity is right for you and if you are right for it. Best of luck!