The McDonnell Academy is no longer accepting applications for the 2024-25 academic year. The application for the 2025-26 academic year will open in September 2024.

The McDonnell International Scholars Academy fellowship is open to prospective students applying to pursue an eligible full-time graduate or professional degree at Washington University in St. Louis. Visit our admissions page to determine your eligibility before proceeding.

Application to the McDonnell Academy can be completed as part of your WashU application to an eligible WashU doctoral or master’s degree program. Visit for detailed graduate program information and to apply to a WashU graduate degree program.

Please read this page in its entirety before starting an application.

Application Process

The McDonnell Academy application requires submission of the following information. Please read all requirements for each section before beginning your application. 

Personal essay

Essay Guidelines & Requirements

One of the goals of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy is to create a global network of leaders who have a desire to address scientific and societal issues. Therefore, we wish to recruit individuals who would like to develop leadership skills and a knowledge base that extends beyond what is required in traditional graduate and professional studies.

With this in mind, in 1,000 words or less, please explain:

  • Why would you like to be selected as a McDonnell Scholar?
  • How will being a McDonnell Scholar benefit your professional career and your country?
  • How will you contribute to the goals of the McDonnell Academy?

Essays must be uploaded to your application in .pdf format.

Essay Tip

In addition to telling us why you want to be a McDonnell Scholar, highlight ways in which you have shown determination and followed through on your academic, professional, and personal goals. Tell us how you will use what you learn in the McDonnell Academy and in your studies to benefit your community and/or address the world’s most pressing issues.

Video introduction

Video Guidelines and Requirements

We would like to get to know you better by receiving a 2-minute video addressing the following question:

Tell us about a talent, facet of your personality, OR experience that is genuinely meaningful and unique to you.  Consider, 

  • how you have developed and demonstrated that talent over time; OR
  • how that facet of your personality has influenced your personal growth over time; OR
  • how that experience has changed the way you think.

Please do not worry about the production aspects of the video, however, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Your face should be in full view of the camera.
  • Your response should be audible.
  • Your video should not exceed two minutes.

Video Format

Applicants are required to provide a URL for their video; video uploads are not accepted in the application.  It is recommended that applicants upload the video to an online video or file-sharing service of their choice to obtain a sharable link to the video. A few examples include YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, WeTransfer, etc. Please adjust the video privacy settings accordingly to ensure your video is viewable.

Video Introduction Tip

Your video introduction is a way to convey who you are beyond the written portions of the application. We find videos are more personal and engaging, and we enjoy hearing from you in your own voice. 

Recommendation letter

Letter of Recommendation Guidelines & Requirements

You are required to select one individual to write a letter of recommendation that speaks to your leadership skills, character, and potential, rather than your academic credentials. This individual should be a current or past instructor, academic advisor, employment manager, or professional mentor. We will also review your departmental recommendation letters included in your graduate program application (in consultation with the academic department). For this reason, we strongly encourage you to select an individual who has NOT previously submitted a letter of recommendation for your academic program application. If necessary, you may provide information for an individual who has already written a letter of recommendation for your graduate school application. However, the individual must write a separate letter to the McDonnell Academy addressing your leadership qualities rather than academic credentials.

The application will request the individual’s name, organization, and professional email address.  Because your recommender will be contacted directly by the McDonnell Academy to request their letter, we strongly suggest you discuss the recommendation letter in advance with your recommender before submitting contact information in the online application. 

Submission Process

  • Recommenders will not be contacted until your application is submitted. 
  • Upon application submission, an automated email will be sent to your recommender. This email includes a link to upload the recommendation letter.
  • The application deadline is January 31st, which means recommendations can be submitted until February 14th and still be considered on time. This 14-day grace period allows us to accept recommendation letters until 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on February 14th.

Letter of Recommendation Tip

The letter of recommendation should speak to your leadership skills, character, and potential, rather than your academic credentials. Choose a recommender who can speak about these qualities. Your recommender should be able to describe how you have achieved goals and/or exceeded expectations.

Please note: While the McDonnell Academy has access to and may review the materials submitted as part of the graduate degree program application, the admissions committee primarily reviews the materials submitted as part of theMcDonnell Academy application. If there is specific information or experiences that applicants would like to highlight, we encourage you to include that information in your McDonnell Academy essay and/or video.

Application Information Updates

Your personal essay, video introduction, and recommender contact information can be changed at any time before your application is submitted. After submission, the application data cannot be changed. Please carefully review all aspects of the application and ensure all information is accurate before submitting. You may contact McDonnell Academy admissions to request a correction only in the case of a technical error.  

Application Status

You may view the status of your application on your status page in the WashU Graduate Application Portal using the credentials previously established.

Evaluation & Decisions

Only completed applications, including all required materials, will be reviewed. Your application is NOT fully complete without the letter of recommendation, which must be uploaded to your application by the recommender within 14 days from receipt of the letter of recommendation request email.

The McDonnell Academy admissions committee begins evaluating applications on February 15th. However, McDonnell Academy decisions are typically made by the end of March. We appreciate your patience during this period, as some programs will evaluate through April. 

Your applicant dashboard within the online application will be updated to reflect the decision that is reached regarding your acceptance.  Accepted individuals will also receive an email notification with further information.

Questions or technical issues?

Contact us by completing an Admissions Inquiry Form