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Obama Foundation Scholars Program 2021-2022

  Applications for the Obama Scholarship Program 2020-2021 are now open.  The Obama Foundation Scholarship Program at Columbia University brings together rising leaders from around the world who have demonstrated a commitment to finding solutions to the challenges in their communities, countries, and regions.  Throughout the academic year, Obama Foundation students will have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and skills and build new capabilities and networks that will accelerate their impact in their home countries.

About the scholarship

  The Obama Foundation Scholars Program brings together emerging leaders from the United States and around the world who have demonstrated a commitment to finding solutions to challenges in their communities, countries, and regions.  Throughout the school year, Obama Foundation scholars have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and skills and build new ones.

  Scholars participate in an immersive program that combines academic, skills-based and experiential learning, designed by Columbia University in consultation with the Obama Foundation.  The cornerstone of the program includes the required course, which will continue throughout the academic year.  Scholars will also have the opportunity to choose and enroll in additional courses offered by Columbia University that are relevant to their specific field or values-based leadership, or that fill gaps in their previous studies.  Scientists will also participate in workshops to develop practical skills to enhance the impact of their work.

Obama Scholarship Program Benefits

  • A monthly stipend to help with living expenses in New York City
  • A furnished studio apartment within walking distance of Columbia University, if the program is able to meet in person
  • All tuition and fees for up to four courses at Columbia University
  • Basic medical, dental, and life insurance for the duration of the program in New York City, if the program is able to meet in person
  • Air travel to and from home and any program related activities, if the program is able to meet in person

  Eligibility requirements for Obama Foundation Scholars Program 2021-2022

  • Have a demonstrated commitment to service and leadership within a community, region, or country outside the United States, along with a demonstrated commitment to return to these communities after completion of the program and to apply their enhanced training, skills, and long-term connections to the benefit of these communities
  • They are emerging leaders who have made meaningful contributions to their field and are now at a “turning point” in their careers
  • They have the ability and inclination to positively shape the future of their community
  • Demonstrated a commitment to humility, integrity, inclusiveness, stewardship, courage, imagination and teamwork
  • Fluent in English (oral, written and spoken)
  • English Language Requirements: Candidates from countries where English is used as the official language may need to provide evidence of language ability via the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL);  International English Language Testing System (IELTS);  Or Pearson Test of Academic English (PTE Academic).  No other exams will be accepted.  Also see the official webpage for more details of language requirements.

How to apply for the Obama Foundation Scholarship Program 2021-2022

  Complete the online application form for the Obama Foundation Scholars Program 2021-2022.  Any applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

  Resume / CV

  The CV / resume should be a chronological list of your job, academic history, and other important activities, including any awards, publications, or other accomplishments.

  Personal video statement

  The personal video statement should be a short video clip (no more than three minutes in length) in which the applicant introduces their work to the selection committee.  Applicants will upload their video statement to a video hosting service, such as YouTube or Vimeo, and they will include a link to their video in the online application.  Additional information on personal video statement requirements can be found in the online application.

  Responses to eassay questions

  The short essay questions help the selection committee understand the applicant’s work, their motivations, and how the program fits into their career path.  Applicants will submit their essay questions in the online application.

  Proof of proficiency in the English language

  Applicants whose native language is not English are required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language by presenting scores from one of four tests: paper-based or internet-based tests for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL);  International English Language Testing System (IELTS);  Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic);  Or the Duolingo English Test (DET).  No other exams will be accepted.

  This requirement is waived for applicants who have completed an undergraduate degree – not a master’s or postgraduate degree – in a country English is an official language  or previously passed TOEFL, IELTS or PTE exams in the last five years and scored higher or higher than the minimum required score of 100 (TOEFL-IBT), 600 (TOEFL-PBT), 7.0 (IELTS) or 68 (PTE Academic).  If applicants are eligible for a waiver under this exception, they must upload a scanned copy of their score report to the online application to ensure that their application is eligible for review.  If they do not get scores or higher than the required minimum or no longer have a copy of their old results, they must retake the English Proficiency Test.

Minimum grades

  • TOEFL – Internet-based test: 100
  • TOEFL – Paper-based test: 600
  • Academic International English Language Testing System: 7
  • Pearson Test of Academic English: 68
  • Duolingo English Test: 120 (75 in test taken before July 2019)

  Please note that while applicants who score lower than the published minimum may still apply, review of applications cannot be guaranteed.

  Two letters of recommendation

  Two letters of recommendation are required from individuals who are familiar with the applicant and the applicant’s work in an academic, professional or community service environment.  The recommendations should directly address the applicant’s suitability for admission to the Obama Foundation Scholarship Program.  Recommendations should not be written by family members or friends.

  Scholarship link


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