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Frequently Asked Questions

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Applicants who hold passports or permanent resident cards from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macao apply online from January to May 20. Candidates invited to interview are notified before July, and attend interviews at Tsinghua University in Beijing in early July. Final admissions decisions for Chinese Schwarzman Scholars are announced before October each year.

Applicants holding a passport from any other country apply between April and September. The application, including all supporting documentation such as reference letters, must be submitted by the deadline. Some universities or colleges, especially those in the United States, may opt to establish an earlier deadline for completion of letters of recommendation. We encourage all currently enrolled undergraduate students to check with their university or college contact about any internal/campus-specific procedures that need to be followed. Candidates invited for interview are notified in mid-October. Interviews take place in three locations around the world with candidates often being invited to the location that is geographically closest.

Candidates must be at least 18 but not yet 29 years of age as of August 1 of their enrollment year.

There is no fee associated with applying to the program. Interview expenses, such as economy class air or train travel, group meals, and one night in a hotel if needed, are arranged and covered by the program. Expenses for Schwarzman Scholars are also fully covered by the program, including the following: tuition, fees, room and board, travel to and from Beijing at the beginning and end of the academic year, in-country study tours, required course books and supplies, a Lenovo laptop, health insurance, and a personal stipend.

The selection process prioritizes academic excellence and leadership potential without regard for the university or college where the candidate studied, assuming the institution was properly accredited. Outstanding Scholars and leaders have come from a wide variety of institutions.

We welcome applications from candidates who have already pursued advanced degrees, provided they meet all of the other eligibility criteria for the program. Like all other applicants, you must make a compelling argument in your personal statement regarding how the Schwarzman Scholars program will advance your professional, academic, and leadership goals.

The only firm targets are broad: 40% of the class will come from the United States, 20% from China, and 40% from the rest of the world; we will build a diverse geographic mix within each broad category but will not commit to specific national or regional targets beyond those listed above. We also expect that because of the diversity of Tsinghua’s campus, the interactions between Scholars and students from China and other countries will be much higher than the percentages suggest. The selection process also produces a class that is diverse in terms of nationalities, academic interests, gender, professional goals and other factors, to ensure multiple perspectives in the classroom and a diverse Schwarzman Scholars alumni network in the future.

There is no single most important element of the application. Our global selection committee reads each application carefully, examining academic abilities and leadership potential and considers all of the required application components equally in making a holistic evaluation of each candidate.  Leadership is the focus of the selection process, and all parts of the application should reinforce the candidate’s profile as a young leader in her/his field and culture.

The Schwarzman Scholars selection process strives to understand candidates as individuals and to assess them within their own academic, professional, and cultural contexts. This applies to our assessment of applicants’ leadership potential. We look at essays, in particular the leadership essay, and at the letters of recommendation as key tools in understanding an applicant’s personal experience and approach to leadership. We want candidates to provide specific examples of their leadership that explore their abilities to understand challenges and opportunities, envision solutions, take initiative to act, inspire others to join an effort, and push through resistance and/or challenges to reach results. The applicant’s example(s) of leadership might address some but not all of these characteristics. Examples might include efforts such as founding a student organization that successfully addressed a pressing need on campus; taking on an influential role in an existing organization to redirect or revitalize it in the context of a new challenge; founding and running a startup to take advantage of an emerging opportunity. Candidates should NOT let these examples limit their thinking and should draw on their own personal experiences for similar examples of leadership. Candidates should avoid describing situations that might fall into one of the following categories, all of which are valuable learning and growth experiences, but do not give the committee a deeper understanding of the applicant’s leadership over extended periods of time:

  1. Accomplishing a difficult but typical task assigned to you in the workplace;
  2. Solving brief problems of cultural miscommunication while traveling or studying overseas;
  3. Simply winning office in a student or community organization (It is, however, helpful to describe the challenges faced and accomplishments achieved in office);
  4. Brief situational challenges (Focus instead on longer term projects and challenges).

The personal statement asks for candidates to describe their professional interests and goals and how they relate to some current affairs or global business issue of importance. We are asking that candidates make a connection between their work/interests and the world around them. We are interested in how the candidate describes the things they are passionate about and their ability to understand how they can both contribute to and learn from participation in the Schwarzman Scholars program.

GPAs and grading practices can vary enormously around the world, and our applicants come from a range of schools that use different grading scales. Academic excellence is mandatory for successful applicants, but there is no minimum GPA or class rank required to apply. Applicants are expected to have demonstrated agility and superior performance in their academic studies, and the most competitive candidates will be among the top students in their graduating class. Our assessment of candidates’ academics abilities draws on global experts who know a variety of grading systems and academic cultures in different world regions.

All applicants including Currently Enrolled Undergraduates, Graduate Students, and Young Professionals should have three letters that holistically capture insights into your leadership and intellectual abilities. 

  • One academic letter from a professor who can speak to your academic abilities 
  • One letter addressing your leadership abilities with examples (this can be from an employer, supervisor, mentor, faculty member, or other). It is a requirement to have at least one letter which speaks to the applicant’s demonstrated leadership and potential.
  • For the third letter, identify a recommender who can offer further insight that best reflects your current profile as an applicant: a letter from an employer or mentor commenting on leadership abilities, an additional academic endorsement, or some combination of the above options. 

Recommenders should know you well and be able to speak to your leadership experience and potential, intellectual abilities, and/or character. The letters should be written in English. If not, a translation must be provided and combined with the original letter uploaded by the recommender. We will only accept online letters of recommendation.  

Deadline for recommenders to submit these letters is September 22, 2020, – 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). We will not accept letters submitted after the deadline and it is your responsibility to work with recommenders to make sure these are submitted prior to the deadline. Upon submission of your application, you may check the status of your recommendation letters via the self-service portal. 

All recommendations must be submitted through our online system. An applicant will enter contact information for letter writers into our system which will automatically produce an email to the recommender. Note that this will be an automated message and will not connect you with a Schwarzman Scholars representative. Also note that because the message is automated, it often is caught by spam filters. If you believe you are missing an invitation, reach out to the applicant first. Upon receipt of the automated message, follow the prompts to submit your letter to our online system. We are unable to accept any materials by mail or email. Only letters included in our system and submitted by the application deadline will be reviewed during the selection process.

Our preference is for a scanned copy of an official transcript. We are aware that universities have different practices in issuing transcripts directly to students and sometimes issue a formal document, produced by the registrar that might be considered unofficial. We will accept any transcript that has been produced by the registrar that clearly shows the student’s name and all courses and grades. We will not accept a screen shot or PDF of a website that allows students to check their own grades and credits. If a student is selected as a Schwarzman Scholar, we will require a hardcopy of the official transcript(s) upon enrollment.

Applicants must demonstrate strong English skills, as all teaching will be conducted in English. If the applicant’s native language is not English, official English proficiency test scores must be submitted with the application. This requirement is waived for applicants who studied at an undergraduate institution where the primary language of instruction was English for at least two years of the applicant’s academic program. The requirement is also waived for applicants who have studied in English for two or more years at a Master’s degree level or higher.

Acceptable test options and minimum test requirements are:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL PBT). Minimum score 600.
  • Internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT). Minimum score 100.
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum score 7.

As many testing centers have temporarily closed due to COVID-19, this year we will accept English language proficiency exam score reports with expiry year 2019.

For applicants using the China Application System, refer to guidelines on the Schwarzman College Admissions page.

Yes, you are eligible to apply, but like applicants from all fields, you must make a compelling argument in your statement of purpose how the Schwarzman Scholars program will advance your professional, academic, and leadership goals. We will put together a cohort that is professionally diverse and that brings together promising leaders from a wide variety of fields, with the key being that spending a year with the program will advance your goals and that you will be an active member of the community.  The program has had many successful applicants from science, engineering and the humanities in addition to social sciences and business.

Given the large number of applications, we ask that candidates only submit the materials requested. Any supplemental materials submitted that are not required, such as portfolios and writing samples, will not be shared with the selection committee.

The application and selection process is jointly designed and administered by the admissions teams at Tsinghua and in the Schwarzman Scholars office in New York. Staff at Tsinghua manage recruiting and will manage selections for greater China, including Macao, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, following the same process used for applicants from the rest of the world.

International candidates will often articulate how understanding China builds on their leadership and professional interests. Chinese candidates, in contrast, often express an interest in further developing their leadership and intercultural skills in the international context of our program.

Interview panelists are distinguished senior figures from politics, business, universities, and the non-profit world, typically but not exclusively from the same region as the candidate being interviewed.

There is one round of interviews, but in some rare cases there may be a brief phone or Skype call to clarify some aspect of the application before decisions are finalized.

We host interviews at four locations around the world. Dates and locations are shared via email once an application is submitted. We ask that applicants reserve the date for the location that is geographically most convenient and presents minimal visa complications. Video interviews will be conducted only for a limited number of candidates who cannot secure a visa to travel to an interview site.

Yes, the program will provide economy class airfare or train fare and one night in a hotel, if needed.

The in-person interview component is an integral part of the Schwarzman Scholars selection process and all candidates invited to interview are expected to attend. In very rare instances, such as a serious health matter or inability to secure a visa to an interview site, the program may opt to make an exception and conduct a video interview with a candidate. Such exceptions will only be made at the discretion of the Schwarzman Scholars admissions team.

Interviews are free-flowing conversations, driven by but not limited to your written application. Come to the interview prepared to discuss your application in detail, ready to answer specific questions about your essays and experiences, but also be flexible as the conversation follows tangents and evolves over the course of 25 minutes. A typical panel has 5-6 members, high level figures from business, politics, non-profit organizations, and universities, and note that program leadership may join for portions of the interview.

The 25 minutes will be allocated along the following general guidelines:

  • The chair will ask you to introduce yourself very briefly, approximately one minute, describing your background and professional interests. Please do not bring notes for your self-introduction.
  • The chair will then invite panelists to ask questions, prompted either by your application or your introduction. Questions and follow up questions may also cover new topics introduced or prompted by your answers, so that the conversation evolves to topics not covered in your written application.
  • At the 20 minute mark, the time keeper will pause the conversation, and one panel member will ask a randomly selected question from current news events, outside of your area of specialty, asking you to offer your thoughts on the topic.
  • The interview will wrap up very promptly at 25 minutes. Candidates should be prepared for transitions at 20 minutes and 25 minutes and not interpret an abrupt or early ending as a negative sign.

You may want to prepare by having “practice interviews” using the framework above with friends or colleagues who have read your application and can ask you questions about your leadership. If your university or college has a fellowships or career office that offers mock interview assistance, feel free to share this information with them. We cannot predict what questions interviewers will ask, and request that candidates not memorize answers to anticipated questions. To prepare, be sure you are comfortable answering questions related, even tangentially, to the essays (statement of purpose and leadership), to discuss additional examples of your leadership, and to discuss how being a Schwarzman Scholar advances your academic and professional interests and/or builds on what you have already studied and experienced.

The Tsinghua University International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) will provide the necessary paperwork for requesting a visa. This process begins in the spring after a Schwarzman Scholar is accepted. The Schwarzman Scholars staff will assist with advice but the university and the relevant consulate will issue official documents.

Securing a valid passport is the responsibility of the Schwarzman Scholar. Given that some candidates will need to travel internationally to participate in their interviews, we recommend that applicants secure a valid passport before applying to the program.

The program of study, including all required courses and activities, is one year, beginning with mandatory orientation in late August and concluding with a graduation ceremony early the following July. Students who are from China mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan are required by the policy of the Ministry of Education for the master degree to remain registered as full-time students at Tsinghua University for two years so their diplomas are issued approximately one year after completing the program. In some instances, students from those areas may experience complications with signing employment contracts with some Chinese employers until the certificate of graduation is awarded. Please consult with the Beijing Schwarzman Scholars admissions office admissions@sc.tsinghua.edu.cn for details.

Yes, an applicant is eligible to reapply, but we strongly advise waiting until something significant has changed in your profile before reapplying. We ask that, if you are applying again, please explain what has changed or what have you learned since your last application.

Due to the volume of applications, we are unable to offer individualized feedback on applications submitted.

Due to the structure of the program, we do not allow students to transfer into the program. Schwarzman Scholars are all identified through our annual admissions process and participate in the full degree program.

To be eligible, applicants must complete all of the requirements for their undergraduate degree by August 1 of the year they enter the Schwarzman Scholars program. For example, Schwarzman Scholars entering in August 2020 would need to have all undergraduate degree requirements completed by August 1, 2020. Official verification of this is required prior to the start of the Schwarzman Scholars orientation program. If you are not able to obtain your diploma by this date, you must provide your official transcript and a letter from your institution verifying that you have completed the degree. This letter must contain an official signature from the appropriate official at your university, such as the office of the registrar or the office of academic affairs. Verification letters should include the following information: student name, degree(s) earned, college/department awarding the degree, date of completion, and a statement confirming when the diploma will be issued, such as: A diploma and final transcript reflecting degree completion will be issued by [Authorized University Office] to [Scholar Name] on [Date]. In the interim, this letter and an official transcript serve as confirmation that [Scholar Name] has completed all of the requirements and has been awarded [List Degree].

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