The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program: Apply Now

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is a highly selective, full-ride scholarship and one of the most prestigious in the United States. It aims to develop principled leaders who are committed to creating sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems. 

The History and Mission

The program was established in 2001 through a generous endowment from Julian Robertson, a successful hedge fund manager, and his wife, Josie. The motivation behind starting the scholarship was to identify outstanding student leaders who demonstrate strong academic achievement, drive for social change, and dedication to public service.


The overall mission of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is:

“To develop dynamic leaders who will make a meaningful difference through their commitment to serve society, shape policy, and build institutions of lasting societal impact.”


It aims to cultivate the next generation of leaders across diverse fields and empower them to tackle society’s greatest challenges through an interdisciplinary, real-world leadership approach. Over the last two decades, over 400 Robertson Scholars have gone on to make substantial impacts in government, non-profits, business, healthcare, education, and more.

Benefits of the Scholarship

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program provides an extremely generous and comprehensive package to selected scholars:

  • Full financial support for undergraduate studies including tuition, room & board, books, fees and a stipend for experiential learning opportunities. This can amount to over $250,000 in value at private institutions.
  • Access to a global network of over 400 Robertson alumni and prominent leaders as mentors and advisors.
  • Participation in annual conferences and workshops to enhance leadership skills.
  • Opportunities to intern or take policy-focused trips in Washington D.C. to get exposure to top institutions and decision-makers.
  • Global opportunities are available through international internships, research programs, and semester-abroad options.
  • Assistance from the Robertson Scholars Program office is needed for career exploration, graduate school advising, and post-graduate fellowship opportunities.

In essence, the Robertson Scholarship opens up countless doors for personal and professional growth through a four-year, transformative leadership experience. It allows scholars to focus solely on their education and development without financial constraints holding them back.

Eligibility & Selection Process

To be considered for the Robertson Scholarship, an applicant must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Be a high school senior intending to enroll as a freshman at one of the 30+ Robertson partner colleges and universities across the U.S.
  • Demonstrate exceptional leadership potential, volunteer or community service experience, and commitment to creating positive social change
  • Exhibit strong academic performance evidenced through standardized test scores and class rank

The selection process involves a multi-stage evaluation of candidates. It begins with an initial application where students provide details of their accomplishments, extracurricular activities, honors, recommendations, and personal statements. Shortlisted applicants are then invited to a regional selection weekend involving interviews, essays, team-building exercises, and networking opportunities. Approximately 65 finalists each year are chosen to proceed with the final selection of weekend interviews. Ultimately, 20-25 candidates are selected as new Robertson Scholars each cycle.

Network & Career Support

One of the most valuable aspects of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is access to a renowned alumni network. With over 400 scholars since 2001, the network spans diverse career paths and is a truly impressive community of accomplished leaders.

Scholars can rely on the network and Robertson staff for career exploration, mentorship matches, internship/job opportunities, graduate school advice, and more. Events like the annual alumni conference allow scholars to build meaningful connections with alumni that often lead to continued collaboration and sponsorship later in life.

Many former Robertson Scholars have gone on to attend top graduate/professional schools as well like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Wharton etc. The Robertson office guides scholars through the application process and connects them with alumni in desired fields and locations to gain real insight.

Post-graduation, the network has helped launch careers at prestigious institutions like Capitol Hill, McKinsey, Teach For America, CDC, UN agencies, and more. Regular networking gatherings and digital platforms make the Robertson network a lifelong resource for both personal and professional growth as scholars’ careers progress.

Leadership Development Programming

A core focus of the Robertson Scholarship is developing scholars’ leadership competence and potential. Their programming utilizes an experiential learning model to immerse scholars in real-world scenarios that enhance their ability to lead and manage complex challenges.

Some key leadership development opportunities include:

  • Policy Seminars in Washington D.C – Scholars participate in panel discussions, agency tours, and meetings at influential institutions.
  • International Programs – Options like seminars in Berlin, Taiwan, or Uganda expose scholars to global policy issues.
  • Summer Public Service Fellowships – Paid 10-week placements in non-profits, foundations, or lobbying organizations.
  • Undergraduate research grants – Funding for scholars to conduct independent research projects on social issues.
  • Career treks – Visits to innovative companies, government offices, and NGOs in emerging cities.
  • Targeted workshops – Modules on negotiation, public speaking, conflict resolution, etc., run by leadership experts.

This intensive programming is designed to give scholars real-world immersion experiences beyond the classroom to cultivate strategic thinking, collaboration skills, and understanding of systemic challenges.

Academic Experience

While the Robertson Scholarship focuses heavily on leadership development and service, academics still remain a central part of the program. Scholars are expected to maintain excellent grades throughout college to keep their scholarship.

The network of over 30 partner colleges allows scholars flexibility in choosing a university best suited to their interests and skills. This includes top-rated schools across public and private universities like UCLA, Georgetown, UNC-Chapel Hill, Georgia Tech, and more.

Scholars receive individualized support from Robertson campus representatives in navigating majors, research projects, study abroad programs, and more. Some scholars may also pursue selective dual-degree options, which the program aids with coordinated advising across institutions.

Overall, the academic experience is centered around using one’s education as a platform and framework to enhance leadership abilities. Courses, research, and experiential learning are meant to nurture both a scholar’s intellectual curiosity and knack for addressing complex societal problems.

Alumni Impact

One of the best measures of any leadership development program’s success is the impact of its alumni network. Looking at the feats of Robertson Scholars since 2001 is truly an inspiration. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Scholars have served as White House Fellows, Capitol Hill staffers, UN agency representatives, presidential campaign leaders, and more.
  • Created model non-profit organizations dealing with issues like refugee aid, rural healthcare access, environmental justice, and youth empowerment.
  • Become CEO and top executive of major companies in sectors like renewable energy, fintech, behavioral health, and education technology.
  • Founded and led initiatives at prestigious think tanks such as the Center for American Progress, New America, and the Aspen Institute.
  • Earned prestigious postgraduate honors like Rhodes, Fulbright, and Gates Cambridge Scholarships.
  • Garnered recognition through awards, articles, and TED Talks for their innovative solutions and policy work.
  • Held cabinet and senior advisor positions in state government across the U.S.

Without a doubt, Robertson Scholars have gone on to emerge as principled leaders in all walks of life committed to bettering society. Their collective accomplishments are a true testament to the Program’s ability to cultivate transformative change-makers.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What types of colleges can I attend as a Robertson Scholar?

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program has partnership agreements with over 30 prestigious public and private colleges across the U.S. This includes top-ranked flagship state universities as well as elite liberal arts schools and research institutions. Scholars have full freedom to choose any partner college that best suits their interests and skills.

2. What majors are suitable for Robertson Scholars?

There is no limitation on choice of academic major for Robertson Scholars. Past scholars have studied across all disciplines from science, technology, engineering and math fields to social sciences, arts and humanities. The program encourages study in any subject that helps produce innovative ideas and analytical thinking towards achieving positive social impact.

3. Do international opportunities really exist as part of the program?

Yes, global exposure is actively built into the Robertson Scholars experience. Options range from short policy seminars abroad to longer research programs and full-semester exchanges. Prior scholars have participated in opportunities across all regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. International experiences are meant to cultivate global perspectives and partnerships crucial for solving worldwide challenges.

4. Is community service experience required to apply?

While volunteer work through high school shows dedication to service, it is not mandatory to apply for the Robertson Scholarship. What selection committees evaluate most is an applicant’s passion and potential for making sustainable social change through leadership. Candidates with clear visions of creating innovative models to serve communities tend to stand out.

5. How selective is acceptance to the program? What are my chances?

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program is among the most competitive scholarships in the nation with acceptance rates often under 2%. On average, over 1,000 high achieving students typically apply each year for only 20-25 slots. It is an extremely selective process.

While the odds may seem low, it is important to remember that the Robertson Scholarship looks beyond just academics and test scores. They seek to identify students with a proven passion for creating positive change through leadership. Strong essays highlighting demonstrated leadership accomplishments, a clear vision for the future, and compelling letters of recommendation can trigger fast acceptance. Having diverse experiences in community service, research, entrepreneurship, or policy work showcases a drive to solve problems that selection committees value. Moreover, networking with alumni and program representatives can provide helpful insights into how to craft a competitive application. While acceptance is difficult, applicants who remain committed to exemplifying the Robertson mission and showcase their leadership potential in all aspects of the application have a reasonable chance of selection. The most qualified candidates are chosen each year regardless of major, ethnicity, or background.


Interested students can learn more and apply to the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program by visiting their official website at The application typically opens in early August each year.


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