Study at the University of Columbia with Obama Foundation Scholars Program 2020/2021 for emerging leaders (Fully Funded)

The application for the 2020-2021 Obama Foundation Scholars Program is now open.


The application for the 2020-2021 Obama Foundation Scholars Program is now open.

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University brings together rising leaders from around the world who have demonstrated a commitment to finding solutions to challenges in their communities, countries and regions. Over the course of an academic year, the Obama Foundation Scholars will have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and skills and to build new capacities and networks that will accelerate their impact in their home countries.

Eligibility Requirements

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

Scholar Benefits

  • Monthly stipend to assist with living expenses in New York City
  • 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


A complete application, submitted entirely online, includes the following materials:

Complete online application form

Complete the online application form.

Resume/curriculum vitae

The resume/curriculum vitae should be a chronological listing of your
employment and academic history, and other significant activities,
including any awards, publications, or other achievements․

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. Applicants will upload their video statement to a
video hosting service, like YouTube or Vimeo, and will include a link to
their video in the online application. Additional information on the
requirements for the personal video statement can be found in the online

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 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). No other exams will be accepted.

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 in the last five years and scored at or above the minimum requirement of 100 (TOEFL-IBT), 600 (TOEFL-PBT), 7.0 (IELTS), or 68 (PTE Academic). If
    applicants qualify for a waiver under this exception, they must upload a
    scanned copy of their score report to the online application to ensure
    their application is eligible for review. If they did not score at or
    above the required minimum or no longer have a copy of their old
    results, they must retake an English proficiency exam.

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