The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University seeks rising leaders from around the world who meet the following criteria:
- Have a proven commitment to service and leadership within a community, region or country outside the United States, coupled with a demonstrated commitment to return to these communities following their completion of the program and apply their enhanced training, skills and connections on a long-term basis for the benefit of these communities
- Are emerging leaders who have made meaningful contributions to their field and are now at a “tipping point” in their careers
- Are fluent in English (verbal, written and spoken)
- Have the ability and inclination to positively shape the future of their community
- Have a demonstrated commitment to humility, integrity, inclusivity, stewardship, fearlessness, imagination and teamwork
A complete application, submitted entirely online, includes the following materials:
Complete online application form
Access the online application form.
The résumé/curriculum vitae should be a chronological listing of employment and educational history, academic endeavors and other significant activities. Applicants should include any awards, publications or other achievements they have received.
Personal video statement
The personal video statement should be a short video (no longer than five minutes in length) introducing the applicant and their work to the selection committee. The video should also include a statement on why the Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University is an appropriate opportunity for the applicant at this stage in their career. Applicants will upload their video statement to YouTube or Vimeo and include a link to the video in the online application.
Responses to short essay questions
The short essay questions help the selection committee understand the applicant’s work, their motivation and how the program fits into their career trajectory. Applicants will submit their essay questions in the online application.
Proof of English proficiency
Applicants whose native language is not English are required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language by submitting valid and official scores from one of three exams: The internet-based or paper-based exams of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL); the International English Language Testing System (IELTS); or the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic).
This requirement is waived for applicants who:
- have completed an undergraduate degree — not a master’s or graduate degree — in a country where English is an official language;
- have previously taken the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE exams and scored at or above the minimum requirement of 100 (TOEFL-IBT), 600 (TOEFL-PBT), 7.0 (IELTS), or 68 (PTE). If you qualify for a waiver under this exception, you must upload a scanned copy of the score report to the online application to ensure your application is eligible for review. Please note: If you did not score at or above the required minimum or do not have a copy of your old results, you must retake the exam.
Please note that while applicants who received scores below the posted minimums may still apply, applications are not guaranteed to be reviewed.
Two letters of recommendation (a maximum of three letters may be submitted)
Two letters of recommendation are required from individuals who are familiar with the applicant’s work in an academic, professional or community service setting. Recommendations should directly address the applicant’s suitability for admission to the Obama Foundation Scholars Program. Recommendations should not be written by family members or friends.
- Monthly stipend to assist with living expenses in New York City
- A furnished studio apartment within walking distance of Columbia University
- All tuition and fees for up to four courses at Columbia University
- Basic medical, dental and life insurance for the duration of the program
- Air travel to and from home country and any program-related activities
- Leadership development programming led by the Obama Foundation that will help scholars gain the real-world skills, tools and experiences to expand the impact of their work when they return home
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