Spotlight on America’s Top Scholarships: Gates Millennium Scholars

Gates Millennium Scholars

Offered by: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

About the Organization

Based in Seattle, Washington, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. They believe that every life has equal value and engage in a number of philanthropic endeavors. In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving the health of the people and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of poverty. Their approach to giving equal access to education to underprivileged students in the United States, is what makes their Millennium Scholars program a stand out in the scholarship world.  Starting in 1999, the foundation gave $1 billion to the United Negro College Fund for scholarships to high achieving minority students, making it the largest donation to a scholarship foundation ever. The foundation seeks to improve the level of diversity in higher education and fosters a generation of leaders who represent the full range of talents in society.

Fun Fact: Did you know, every second, Bill Gates earns $250?

Scholarship Background

Each year 1,000 students are selected. The scholarship funds tuition, books, and housing for all four years of undergraduate study. It even offers scholarships for scholars entering the graduate level after college in the areas of computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, or science. It also offers academic and leadership development programs.

Who Qualifies

This scholarship is open to African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic American high school students and GED recipients who will enroll full-time as a first-year students at an accredited college or university located in the United States. They must have attained a cumulative high school GPA of 3.3 on an unweighted 4.0 scale and be US citizens or national or legal permanent residents. Students also must have demonstrated leadership abilities through participation in community service, extracurricular, and other activities and meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria.

Application Process 

Students are required complete an application online. The application process is broken down into the following three categories:

1. Student Application (Nominee Personal Information Form) This includes basic information, education history, family income, and answering a list of questions concerning your leadership, community involvement, academic achievements, and personal character.

2. Educator’s evaluation of the student’s academic record (Nominator Form) This form is to be completed by principals, teachers, guidance counselors, higher education representatives and other professional educators and this person should be familiar with your academic achievements.

3. Evaluation of the student’s community service and leadership activities (Recommender Form) This is to be filled out by an adult who is familiar with your community service or leadership activities.

Annual Application Window

The deadline is in early January of each year. This is a competitive scholarship, so students should apply as early as possible.

Tips on How to Win

This application asks you to not only be a academic achiever, but an overall well-rounded student. You definitely need to have a history of volunteer or a leadership role within your school or community in order to apply for this scholarship because of the evaluation that is asked to be done by an adult familiar with your volunteer or leadership commitment. If you currently don’t participate in any volunteer project there are a number of places to look for for one.

Another important component of this application is the questions you must answer in the student nominee form. You want to be as specific as possible when it comes to answering questions, last year’s form had this question among others: “Discuss your short and long-term goals. Are some of them related? Which are priorities? Be specific in describing short and long-term goals you may have. Provide examples from any aspect of your life. In addition, if you have already accomplished some short or long-term goals you set for yourself in the past, you can discuss them.” This question asks you to specifically lay out your goals or to describe goals you may have already accomplished. This scholarship has a preference for students pursuing a career in math, computer science, engineering, and public health, so if you have goals relating to those fields it will be important to highlight them in this question.

Emphasizing the purpose of the foundation’s mission through your own personal actions and goals in the scholarship application process will make you stand out. Look over the criteria and the foundation’s mission statement. Find ways in which you can relate the goals of the foundation to your own life. For example, if you are a first generation college student coming from an underprivileged background, be sure to emphasize that in your application, because that is the ideal candidate they are looking for.