Application Tips from the Admissions Team

August 28, 2023

Completing the Schwarzman Scholars application is the first step towards shaping your future as a global leader. We understand that the application process can be daunting, and it requires careful planning, thoughtful reflection and a touch of inspiration. The Schwarzman Scholars Admissions team is here to support you on this path.


The application deadline, which is September 19 at 11:59 p.m. EDT, is approaching quickly, so we’ve curated a comprehensive toolkit that equips you with the tips you need to confidently refine and complete your application.



Application Tips: 


  • Resume
    • Tailor your resume to focus on your demonstrated leadership. This resume may look a lot different from what you’ve submitted for a job or internship: it’s a supplement to the leadership narrative you articulate throughout the rest of your application.
    • Include relevant details that otherwise may not be present in your application. Club affiliations, internship experiences and hobbies can all be included here to supplement your education and career history. 
  • Essays (Leadership, Statement of Purpose)
    • Craft a compelling narrative by sharing personal anecdotes that illustrate your leadership journey and values.
    • Emphasize how your unique background, experiences and perspectives will enrich the program’s diverse community.
    • Use concrete examples to demonstrate your leadership skills, problem-solving abilities and commitment to positive change.
    • Don’t get bogged down with the details. Some applicants spend much of their valuable word count on the setting of a story. Instead, think big picture. Your application should follow a cohesive and cogent narrative and the essays should play a large part in emphasizing that story. 
    • Listen to your tone of voice. Literally record yourself talking about a few topics that you’re considering for your essays. If you sound canned, that topic will translate into a lackluster essay. If you hear yourself light up with charisma and enthusiasm, that topic will make for a great essay. 
    • Remember, be authentic. Your essays are an excellent vehicle to articulate your leadership narrative, the impact you’ve had as a leader and your vision for how you’ll lead in the future.
  • Letters of Recommendation
    • Make sure you sit down with your recommenders before they submit your letter. Talk to them about Schwarzman Scholars, why you’re applying and how they can best highlight your leadership, character and intellect. 
    • Do your best to include recommenders that are actively excited to advocate for you. The energy and passion of a close mentor are what helps a letter of recommendation stand out.
    • It is more important to solicit recommendation letters from people who know you well than those coming from a “high-ranking” individual with whom you have had limited personal interaction.
    • Strong recommendation letters provide context about your performance and trajectory relative to your peers and other individuals they have interacted with in their tenure in their respective sector/region.
  • Video Introduction
    • The optional video introduction is a great way to supplement the leadership narrative you’ve already put in writing. It helps our selection committee get to know you better, so think about what you might share that supplements what’s in your written application.
    • Don’t just settle for reading the bio that you included in the application. Give the Admissions Team something new that really showcases who you are. 
    • Have fun with this part. No need to regurgitate part of your application. This is where we get to hear your voice and see the ways you can contribute to the Schwarzman Scholars community.
    • When do you feel like you’re at your best? What gives you a sense of joy, purpose and fulfillment? Is it baking, is it building? Is it researching or hiking? Or is it something else entirely? Bring us into your world and show us how you shine. 
  • Personal Bio
    • Though you have flexibility with what information you would like to include, most Scholars highlight their current and former academic degrees, professional experiences, key leadership roles and future aspirations. 
    • Read through Scholar bios on the Scholars section of our website, but make sure to read most or all of them and not just a few to get a sense of the diversity of what leadership looks like in a cohort of Schwarzman Scholars.
    • Think of your 100-word bio as your elevator pitch. It should provide a snapshot into your top leadership accomplishments and give us an idea of how you plan to shape the future.
  • Leadership Roles
    • Use this section to showcase key leadership opportunities in your profile. What do you want to highlight to the selection committee? Use the 75-word description box to talk about your specific contribution, innovation and impact. Don’t just tell us what the role was. Tell us about your impact, what you accomplished and are most proud of. 
    • Focus on quality over quantity – showcase a few impactful leadership roles and experiences, detailing the specific actions you took to lead and the positive outcomes that resulted.
    • If you are struggling to come up with leadership examples, take the time to first identify your affiliations, which may come from work, school, volunteering, athletics, community organizing, advocacy work and more. Then reflect on your contributions and impact at each institution. Even if you don’t hold a certain title that indicates leadership, your contribution to leadership can be elevated in each entry’s “brief description” text box. 
  • Awards & Recognition
    • For each entry, clearly explain why the award or recognition is relevant to your leadership journey. How does it demonstrate your qualities as a leader and your commitment to making an impact?
    • Awards can come from many places. While some are made at the national or international level, it’s also important to include recognition at the regional, local or institutional level. 



Application FAQs from our Admissions Team:


  • What’s one of the most important things you’re looking for when you review applications?
    • The most important word to keep in mind is “authenticity.” We want to get a clear view of who our applicants are, what types of leaders they are, what they want to do, how they think they can get there and why Schwarzman Scholars is essential in that vision. Tell us who you are, not what you think we’re looking for. Our Admissions Committee is not looking for one thing. We’re looking for unique young leaders who can bring something new and interesting to the program and who will contribute to the mission of the program over the course of their lifetimes.
  • What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who is working through their application (or a specific section of the application)?
    • Don’t get caught up in what you think your application “should” look like. We don’t want you to minimize or fit yourself into the application process. Instead, lean into your unique interests, strengths and perspectives. Apply with the confidence that you will both benefit from and contribute to the Schwarzman Scholars experience.
  • What’s one common error or pattern to look out for?
    • Here are three tips to help you avoid common errors:
      • Proofread your work. Unnecessary mistakes may distract from a clear picture of who you are so attention to detail is crucial. Effective communication is important for a leader—show us you understand that through your application.
      • Check in with your recommenders. You don’t want a lack of recommendations to cause you to have an incomplete application that cannot be sent for review.
      • Read through the application instructions carefully and follow them meticulously.
  • Is there a specific order you recommend approaching the application from?
    • Before approaching the application materials, we always encourage applicants to create a login and read through the entire application. This is a helpful practice even for prospective applicants who do not plan on applying in the current cycle. Reading through the application first will help you assess which components will be more time-consuming and allow you to plan accordingly. Once you are certain that you are applying, it can be helpful to reach out to your recommenders early. Recommendation letters cannot be accepted after the application deadline passes, so be sure to provide your recommenders with sufficient lead time.
    • Start with a clear understanding of the program’s mission and values. Then, consider your own experiences and achievements in that context. Begin with sections you feel most confident about and gradually work on others. Don’t forget to leave enough time for proofreading and final adjustments.
  • What would you say to someone who is applying to Schwarzman Scholars for the second or third year?
    • To those who are embarking on their Schwarzman Scholars application journey for the second or third year, your determination and commitment are truly commendable. We encourage reapplicants to reflect on their previous application and identify areas for growth. Highlight how you have evolved since your last application and showcase new leadership experiences, achievements and impact that strengthen your application. You can also seek feedback: don’t hesitate to reach out to mentors, professors or individuals who have experience with application processes. Their insights can offer fresh perspectives and help you fine-tune your application.
    • How have those opportunities further focused your leadership vision and sense of purpose? Leadership development is a progression and we want to hear about yours. Tell us how, at the point of reapplication, Schwarzman Scholars is the right next step in your leadership trajectory. 
  • If someone is feeling stuck on part of the application, what should they do?
    • If you’re feeling stuck on any part of the application, you may benefit from taking an intentional break. Application fatigue could be preventing you from putting your best foot forward for the selection committee and intentional time away to rest and reflect can help you return with inspiration and drive. 
    • Don’t wait until the last minute. Have a strategy to complete your application and give yourself enough time to revise your application materials before submitting. 
    • Make your application personal. The Schwarzman Scholars application process is about you. We want to know who you are as a leader, why you want to be a part of our community and what you have to contribute to the program and the mission. 
    • Get others involved. All of the work you submit with your application must be your own, but that doesn’t mean you can’t consult with advisors, mentors, friends and colleagues to help you reflect on your experiences and refine your goals. Let others know that you are invested in this opportunity. Invite your peers, recommenders and mentors to offer feedback on your essays and application materials. It takes a village to write a strong application.
    • Of course, you are always welcome to contact the admissions team at if you have any questions that are preventing you from completing the application.
  • Are there any specific experiences/achievements that stand out and make applicants more suitable for the program?
    • There is no singular experience or achievement that makes a Schwarzman Scholar. Instead, candidates should highlight their demonstrated leadership, character and intellect through their own story. Everyone’s narrative is different – your education, your work, your identity can inform your sphere of influence. Think about ways you best want to capture your impact through your resume, essays and letters of recommendation that showcase your best talents. 
  • How important is it for applicants to demonstrate a genuine interest in China and Global Affairs? 
    • While you certainly don’t have to be an expert in China or Global Affairs, we do want to see a clear case for how you will benefit from and contribute to the experience of living in China and studying Global Affairs. Schwarzman Scholars are open-minded and excited to engage with the world, so take any opportunity in your application to speak about what sparks your curiosity in the world around you and how the program would help you explore that more deeply.
    • We have a wide variety of majors represented in every Schwarzman Scholars cohort, ranging from engineering to public health and humanities to social sciences. The thread that ties our Scholars together academically is that they are eager to understand the issues related to Global Affairs that they will face and encounter as leaders.
  • Do applicants need to have previous China-related experience or education?
    • The selection process does not revolve around whether you’ve had prior experience in China before applying to the program. Instead, our emphasis is on your demonstrated leadership and your ability to effectively convey that in your application. Getting first-hand experience in China, building relationships with leaders in China and understanding the language and culture will all be critical to set you up for success in your leadership trajectory, no matter what field you may go into.
  • Are there any resources that you would recommend to applicants for a better understanding of the application process?
    • We run regular application walkthrough virtual sessions where we break down every section of the application process. Catch the next one here:
    • Explore the Schwarzman Scholars website thoroughly. You will find plenty of information offering detailed insights into the program’s mission, curriculum and application requirements.
    • Additionally, we encourage you to engage with our social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. These channels frequently feature testimonials, videos and posts from Scholars and Alumni, shedding light on their personal experiences and application journeys. It’s a good way to gain first-hand perspectives and gather valuable insights.
    • Lastly, our downloadable Application Calendar is a helpful resource that provides a clear timeline of important dates, including Info Sessions, reminders and the application deadline.
  • Is there anyone I can contact with specific questions if they come up as I work through finalizing my application? 
    • If you have further questions after looking through our website, social media and informational webinars, please feel free to reach out at We also answer questions live through our information sessions and application walkthroughs.


We hope these tips and resources serve you well in shaping your application. Our Admissions Team is excited to begin selecting a new cohort of leaders to join our global community. Don’t forget, the application deadline is September 19, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at


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