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Robertson Scholarship – Introduction

In this “How to Win a Robertson Scholarship” guide, we’ll cover merit-based scholarship opportunities for high school seniors. Specifically, we’ll talk about how to win the Robertson Scholarship for North Carolina’s top schools: Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill. We’ll discuss Robertson Scholarship eligibility, the funding it can provide, how to apply, and tips on how to become a Robertson Scholar!

Firstly, this guide will give you an overview of merit-based scholarships, as well as the Robertson Scholarship. Once we’ve looked at the financial and non-financial benefits of the Robertson Scholars program, we’ll explore the Robertson Scholarship acceptance rate

Then, we’ll share the eligibility criteria for a Robertson Scholarship. We’ll give details on the Robertson Scholarship requirements for the Duke Robertson Scholarship and the UNC Robertson Scholarship. This includes any necessary Robertson Scholarship application materials, the academic scholarship requirements, and the Robertson Scholarship deadline and notification timeline. 

This Robertson Scholarship guide will also include the following:

  • The history of the prestigious Robertson Scholars Program
  • How the Robertson Scholarship compares to other merit-based scholarships  
  • Frequently asked questions about the Robertson Scholarship 
  • Tips on acing the Robertson Scholarship application process 

Advice from College Advisor on other scholarships for college

Merit-Based Scholarships– A Quick Overview

As the cost of college increases, it is more important than ever for students to consider applying for merit-based scholarships and other scholarships for college. 

So, what is a merit-based scholarship exactly? Merit-based scholarships are financial aid awards that have no repayment terms and are awarded based on a student’s academic, personal, and/or leadership experiences. Other scholarships for college might be based on region, unique personal hobbies, or winning a research project or essay competition. You can never have too many scholarships for college, so it is critical to begin researching early!

Robertson Scholars Leadership Program

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, also known as the Robertson Scholarship, is one among many competitive merit-based scholarship awards. Merit-based scholarships for college can vary in the amounts awarded, competitiveness, and eligibility. For families concerned about the cost of college, merit-based scholarships and other scholarships for college can provide huge savings on the total cost of college. Merit-based scholarships are awarded by colleges and universities as well as private and non-profit organizations.

The review process for merit-based scholarships can take place during the general admissions application review. Alternatively, merit-based scholarships may have a separate application process like the UNC Robertson Scholarship and the Duke Robertson Scholarship. Scholarships for college typically require some sort of formal application or essay.

What is the Robertson Scholarship?

The Robertson Scholarship was founded in 2000 by Mr. & Mrs. Julian Robertson. As natives of North Carolina, the Robertsons wanted to encourage collaboration between Duke University and the University of North Carolina. These schools were prestigious, but they were missing an opportunity to work together. The creation of the Duke Robertson Scholarship and the UNC Robertson Scholarship was an important first step in this collaboration. 

In addition, the Robertsons wanted to create a merit-based scholarship for students who had the potential to become exceptional leaders – helping them with the cost of college. The Robertson Scholars’ program graduated its first cohort in 2005. Since then, it’s forged both business partnerships and research projects between Duke and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Want to compete for the UNC Robertson Scholarship and the Duke Robertson Scholarship?

To begin with, you need to make a competitive general admissions application. Each institution uses a holistic approach to review admissions applications as well as merit scholarship applications. A holistic review approach allows admissions and merit scholarship committees to look beyond GPA to identify well-rounded applicants. The Robertson Scholarship acceptance rate can be intimidating, but there are some key ways to stand out. 

The UNC Robertson Scholarship and the Duke Robertson Scholarship look for four key character traits in applicants. These are purposeful leadership, intellectual curiosity, strength of character, and collaborative spirit. Successful applicants to the Robertson Scholars’ program demonstrate these Robertson Scholarship requirements throughout their application. 

Purposeful leadership means that students are fearless and innovative. Reflect on your high school career to identify times when you displayed vision and determination. Students who display purposeful leadership are often motivational and inspiring to those around them. 

Beyond academics and leadership

In addition to the academic scholarship requirements, applicants to the Robertson Scholars’ program should display intellectual curiosity. Students should maintain good grades in class. Equally important, they should be critical thinkers, showing the potential to be thought leaders in their fields of interest. Merit scholarship reviewers are often looking for students’ potential to contribute to their future college community.

Strength of character is also an important trait of a successful Robertson Scholarship applicant. Students must display confidence, compassion, empathy, and a strong ethical compass. The Robertson Scholars’ program values these traits because of the strong emotional IQ needed to step into leadership roles. 

Finally, in the spirit of its founding, the Robertson Scholars’ Program is seeking students who have a collaborative spirit. Robertson Scholars are bridge builders in their communities and embrace opportunities to learn from others. The Robertson Scholarship application is a perfect place to showcase your passion for leading and serving. 

The Benefits of the Robertson Scholarship

So, we know what the Robertson Scholarship requirements are. But what exactly does the Robertson Scholarship award students?

If you win this prestigious merit scholarship, you’re in store for a number of life-changing benefits, both financial and non-financial. 

Each summer, scholars take part in international and domestic experiences. These are designed to foster community and help them explore their interests and passions with a culminating professional project. During the school year, members of the Robertson Scholars’ program receive mentorship from program alumni and attend funded academic conferences. They also have structured monthly networking experiences with other Robertson scholars, UNC and Duke faculty members, and program alumni and mentors. 

How much money is the Robertson Scholarship?

In addition to a wealth of non-financial benefits, the Robertson Scholars’ program also provides a full merit scholarship. This covers tuition, room and board, and the majority of mandatory fees. A full merit-based scholarship can significantly reduce the cost of college for students and their families. 

duke robertson scholarship
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The Robertson Scholarship does not include additional personal expenses outside of the tuition, room and board, and other fees mentioned above. In contrast, a full-ride merit-based scholarship allows students to explore the full scope of what college has to offer without worrying about the cost of college. 

The summer enrichment experiences included in the Robertson Scholars’ program also have financial value. Scholars will receive full funding for academic conferences, two study-abroad semesters, and three additional summer enrichment experiences. Not all scholarships for college are packed with this many benefits. 

“Dual citizens”

All Robertson Scholars are “dual citizens” – which means they can immerse themselves in both Duke and UNC campuses. They can take advantage of the UNC Robertson Scholarship and the Duke Robertson Scholarship simultaneously. Students can spend time on both campuses, learning and socializing. In addition to the Robertson Express bus that shuttles students between campuses, students can take part in “campus switch”. For this switch scholars spend an entire semester at their neighboring institution during the sophomore year. 

When a student is awarded the Duke Robertson Scholarship or the UNC Robertson Scholarship they are joining a long lineage of scholars. Through regional events and alumni mentorship, Robertson Scholars’ Program participants can network with more than 550 alumni

How competitive is the Robertson Scholarship?

The Robertson Scholars’ Program is a competitive program. There are several thousand applicants each year. Thousands of applicants then turn into a few hundred semi-finalists. Even fewer finalists will ultimately compete in the final round of interviews. The final cohort of scholars includes around 27 recipients of the UNC Robertson Scholarship and the Duke University Scholarship. 

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The Robertson Scholars’ program provides strong professional and personal development. Alumni of the merit-based scholarship program are often incredibly successful beyond graduation. The UNC Robertson Scholarship and the Duke Robertson Scholarship have prepared hundreds of leaders to excel in the fields of business, medicine, politics, education, and law

Randall Drain (Duke ‘05’) credits the Robertson Scholars’ program for preparing him for the Mitchell Scholarship & Yale Law Journal. Alumni David Spratte (UNC ’17) and Kasper Kubica (Duke ’17) were Campus Switch peers during the Roberts Scholars Program. Upon graduation, Kubica and Spratte launched a joint business venture, building off of their summer experiences with the Robertson Scholars’ program.  

Find out more about all of these successful recipients of the Robertson Scholarship here

Am I eligible for the Robertson Scholarship?

The Robertson Scholars’ Program is open to current high school students applying for undergraduate admissions at UNC-Chapel Hill or Duke University. Students must enroll at one of these institutions in order to receive scholarship funds.  

The Robertson Scholars’ Program also grants scholarships to college students currently enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill or Duke University. Current students who are awarded the UNC Robertson Scholarship or Duke Robertson Scholarship will receive tuition and room and board for six semesters instead of eight.  


In addition, transfer students are not eligible to apply for the Robertson Scholars’ Program. 

Further, current students at Duke and UNC are eligible to apply for the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. If granted the scholarship, students will have their tuition, room and board, and other fees covered for up to six semesters. They are also eligible for the same summer funding opportunities.

Some eligibility for international students too

International students of all nationalities and citizenship are eligible to apply for the Robertson Scholarship Program as long as they are able to obtain a Visa to study in the US.

In addition to meeting the Robertson Scholarship requirements, students must also meet the academic scholarship requirements. Applicants must have an impressive academic record that includes consistent grades in the most challenging courses available at their high school. 

How do I apply for the Robertson Scholarship?

Applying to the Robertson Scholarship Program is a separate process from the normal application process for Duke and UNC. To apply to the Robertson Scholarship, you must apply to either UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, or both universities by their published deadlines. You must then meet the Robertson Scholarship deadline and complete the separate Robertson Scholarship application. For domestic students, this is November 15th.   

robertson scholarship

The Robertson Program application does not require an official transcript. However, students will need to provide an official transcript as part of their admissions application to UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke.  

Each year the Robertson Scholars’ program releases a series of essay prompts for prospective students to complete. Aim to produce a polished, college-level essay that showcases all facets of your personality. 

The Robertson Scholars program does not accept test scores of any kind.

Self-reported academics

The academic scholarship requirements only include the self-reported grade point average. Students must have access to their academic transcript to provide accurate self-reported grades.

Compelling recommendations are another important part of the Duke Robertson Scholarship and UNC Robertson Scholarship application review process. At least one letter should come from a teacher who’s witnessed you in the classroom setting. The other recommendation should come from someone that can speak to your character outside of the classroom. This could be a coach, employer, or mentor that has guided you professionally. You can use the same letters used in the Common Application. 

When do I apply for the Robertson Scholarship?

For domestic students, the Robertson Scholarship application opens on August 15th of each year. At that time students can start filling out their application and their recommenders can begin sharing their letters of advocacy. The Robertson Scholarship deadline is November 15th

The application window is very narrow and is only open for two months. If you prepare ahead of time, you can submit your merit scholarship application ahead of the Robertson Scholarship deadline with little stress. For example, you can begin soliciting recommendation letters and crafting a personal narrative that shows how you relate to the mission and values of the Robertson Scholars’ program. 

In addition to meeting the Robertson Scholarship deadline (November 15th), you must also meet the admissions deadlines for Duke and UNC respectively. 

When is the Robertson Scholarship due?

It’s very important to begin compiling your application materials prior to the Robertson Scholarship deadline. The spring of junior year is an excellent time to begin preparing for scholarships for college. Identify recommenders who’ve seen you in an academic setting as well as those that can speak to your character and potential to be a leader. Giving your recommenders a current resume or “brag sheet” is a great way to begin this process. 

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Once applicants submit their Robertson Scholarship application, the Robertson Scholars’ program will select the semi-finalists. All semi-finalists will participate in a round of virtual interviews and a final round of interviews. Then, the review committee will announce the Robertson Scholarship finalists.  

Applicants interested in the Duke Robertson Scholarship should decide if they are planning to apply Early Decision or Regular Decision. The Duke Early Decision deadline is November 1st and the Regular Decision deadline is January 2nd. The Robertson Scholarship requirements do not favor one deadline over the other.  

Applicants interested in the UNC Robertson Scholarship have the option to apply Early Action or Regular Decision. The Early Action deadline for UNC is October 15th and the Regular Decision deadline is January 15th

So, get organized and mark your calendars with your admissions application deadlines as well as the Robertson Scholarship deadline! 

Robertson Scholarship – Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Robertson Scholarship requirements:

Can I send updates to my application throughout the academic year? 

The Robertson Scholarship application allows you to make an update after the initial submission. Updates can be sent to [email protected]. With only one update allowed, it is important to make sure you understand all Robertson Scholarship requirements before submitting your application. 

Am I eligible for the Robertson Scholarship if I applied Early Decision? 

Yes, students are eligible to apply for the Robertson Scholarship no matter what decision timeline they choose. The most important detail to remember is to meet all application deadlines for your institution and the scholarship program. 

Is there special preference given to in-state students applying for the Robertson Scholarship program? 

The Robertson Scholars’ program does not prioritize admissions based on regional or national location. 

What is the acceptance rate for the Robertson Scholarship program? 

The Robertson Scholarship acceptance rate is not published. However, each cohort typically consists of fewer than 30 students from each institution. Applications come from across the world. In light of the large application pools for both the Duke Robertson Scholarship and the UNC Robertson Scholarship, it is fair to assume that the program is very selective. 

Can a family member or a family write my recommendation letter? 

The recommendation letter should come from at least one teacher and the second should come from someone who can speak to your character. The Robertson Scholars’ program committee suggests you avoid recommendations from family or family friends. That’s because scholarships for college are typically awarded to students based on their performance in a professional and academic context. 

Don’t forget to have your recommender submit their letter before the Robertson Scholarship deadline! 

Robertson Scholarship vs. Jeffersons Scholarship at University of Virginia

The Robertson Scholarship is one of many prestigious scholarships for college. The Jefferson Scholarship at the University of Virginia is another comparable merit scholarship. This merit scholarship is designed for students who’ve demonstrated excellence and potential in leadership, scholarship, and engaged citizenship.

Unlike the Robertson Scholarship, Jefferson scholars must be nominated instead of applying directly for the merit scholarship. After the nomination process, prospective scholars enter a series of interviews that culminates in a national public competition

The eligibility requirements for the Jefferson Scholarship are more restrictive than the Robertson Scholarship. The Jefferson Scholarship also requires students to compete in public venues based on their geographic location. The Jefferson Scholarship interview process is in person, in contrast to the video interviews required for the Robertson Scholarship. The Robertson Scholarship acceptance rate and the Jefferson Scholarship acceptance rate are roughly equal. 

5 Tips on How to Win the Robertson Scholarship– Final Thoughts

This “Robertson Scholarship” guide has shown you how to apply for the Robertson Scholars’ program. Finally, here are five tips on how to win the Robertson Scholarship!

  1. Prepare for the Robertson Scholarship application by getting organized early and having conversations with your advocates well in advance of the Robertson Scholarship deadline. 
  2. Attend an informational webinar to learn more about the Robertson Scholarship requirements and read Robertson Scholars’ program alumni bios to gain more insight into what the committee is looking for and how you can present a compelling application.
  3. Spend some time being introspective and craft a personal narrative that demonstrates the sought-after qualities of a Robertson Scholar. These traits are personal leadership, strength of character, intellectual curiosity, and a collaborative spirit. 
  4. Choose recommenders who can speak to both your academic background as well as your leadership and personal traits. It is important for the Robertson Scholars’ program committee to see an applicant that is well-rounded and purpose-driven in addition to meeting the academic scholarship requirements. 
  5. Don’t stress too much about the Robertson Scholarship acceptance rate! There is no blueprint for what a Robertson Scholar looks like. The best approach to a successful application is to be authentic and tell your story in your voice. 

More CollegeAdvisor Merit-Based Scholarship Resources to explore!

Looking for high-quality information on scholarships for college? Here at, we can help you compete for the Robertson Scholarship and other scholarships for college! partners with students as early as their sophomore year to begin preparing for the college admissions and merit-based scholarship process. In addition to one on one appointments, hosts free informative webinars to help you learn more about scholarships for college. Through a dedicated financial aid team, can help you develop your personal narrative, identify merit-based scholarships, and get organized before your senior year. 

Be sure to check out other merit-based scholarship guides from! The guides cover everything, including the Vanderbilt, Coca-Cola, and USC merit-based scholarships. 

Finally, and most important, good luck!

Zell Miller Scholarship

This article was written by Chelsea Holley. If you want to get help with your college applications from Chelsea or other Admissions Expertsregister with today. Also, check out our other guides to Merit-Based Scholarships as you embark on your college application journey!