Now accepting applications through January 31, 2023!

The McDonnell Scholars 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 is separate from and in addition to, an application to a graduate degree program at Washington University in St. Louis. You must complete an application to an eligible WashU doctoral or master’s degree program before completing the McDonnell Scholar application. 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 online application requires submission of the following information. Please read all requirements for each section before beginning your application. 

Complete your profile

The McDonnell Academy application requests general biographic and demographic information such as your contact details and country of citizenship.

Academic history

Provide details about your previous academic degrees, such as the partner university you graduated from (international students only) and the degree(s) you hold.

Personal essay

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

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.

You will be required to upload a URL to your application; video files such as .mp4, .mov, .wmv are not accepted.  It is recommended that applicants use the video recording software of their choice and upload the file to an online video sharing service such as YouTube or Vimeo. Please adjust the video privacy settings accordingly to ensure it 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


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.
  • Recommenders are given 14 days from receipt email to upload the recommendation letter. The upload link provided to the recommender automatically expires after the 14-day period.
  • 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 CST 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.

It is highly recommended that you apply using a current version of Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.  All information must be provided in English. (McDonnell Academy Sample Application)

Application Status & Changing Application Information

Details such as your address and phone contact can be updated in your profile at any time.  Your academic history, 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.

After you have begun the online application process, you can check the status of your application on your applicant dashboard.  The dashboard provides the status of the different sections in your application (as you complete them prior to submission), and the status of your application after you have completed all sections and submitted the application.  Until your application has been submitted, your application status will be “Incomplete”.  This will change to “Pending” after you have submitted the application.  As applications are reviewed, other status updates will appear to indicate where your application is in the process.

Important Note: 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. If the recommender information requires any changes after your application has been submitted, contact  Your applicant dashboard will display the status of the recommender’s letter.  If a recommender does not submit a letter of recommendation by the February 14th deadline, the link they were provided to upload your letter will automatically expire.  McDonnell Academy Admissions does not send notifications or reminders to the applicant or recommender in this regard.  It is the responsibility of the applicant and recommender to ensure the letter is uploaded prior to the recommendation letter due date.

Application Evaluation & Decisions

Once an applicant record is ready for review, the admissions committee will evaluate applicant records. We appreciate your patience during this period, as some programs will evaluate through April. However, McDonnell Academy decisions are typically made by the end of March. 

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?

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