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Rhodes-Scholarship Officials Tell U.S. Applicants: Write Your Own Essay

In recent years, colleges have increasingly tried to groom top students for illustrious scholarships such as the Rhodes and the Fulbright. But officials with the Rhodes Trust are now pushing back against that trend, telling American applicants that they must certify that they wrote their personal essays on their own, without help.

Rhodes Trust officials have notified representatives of American colleges that a change in the application rules for the United States Rhodes Scholarships will now require applicants to attest that their personal essays are their own work and are “wholly truthful.”

In a letter posted on the website of the Rhodes Trust’s American secretary, Rhodes officials said they had long required American applicants to certify that their required essays were their own work. But they said that many applicants’ essays were now edited “extensively and repeatedly” by others.

“We are no longer confident that the essays reflect the writing ability and style of the applicants, nor, even more important, that they reflect accurately applicants’ true personal goals, values, and aspirations,” the letter stated.

The Rhodes officials added that, in “an age of grade inflation and résumé burnishing,” the essays played a key role in efforts “to make a fair assessment against our criteria of selection.”

Effective with this year’s scholarship competition, applicants will be required to include the following statement with their personal essays:

“I attest that this essay is my own work and is wholly truthful. Neither it nor any earlier draft has been edited by anyone other than me, nor has anyone else reviewed it to provide me with suggestions to improve it. I understand that any such editing or review would disqualify my application.”

University representatives will also be asked to include in their institutional endorsements a statement saying that no editorial review had been provided for applicants’ essays. Applications without those two certifications will not be considered.

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