The Knight-Hennessy Scholars

UCI (Big 10 Pre-Application) Advising Deadline:

April 6, 2020 at 12:00 noon Pacific Time (U.S. & all other countries of citizenship) for Fall 2021 admissions

Access the Big 10 Pre-Application between late February – early April annually to begin the optional advising process.

Consult our Sample Pre-Application

For Reference Only: 2019 Application Process Overview


The Knight-Hennessy Scholars representative will present an online information session for our campus on Wednesday, April 8, 2020! If interested, please visit Events to sign-up.



The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program fully funds graduate education in any major at Stanford University. The program aims to make a substantial impact on global social issues by bringing together future leaders in government, business, and nonprofit careers to enact change through collaboration. While completing their graduate degrees, Knight-Hennessy Scholars will participate in the King Global Leadership Program and co-curricular activities at Denning House on the Stanford campus.


Applicants from every country of the world are eligible to apply within four years of graduation from their undergraduate institution. You must apply separately and be admitted to your graduate program at Stanford through the standard selection process prior to receiving a Knight-Hennessy scholarship.

Begin the process during the spring before your final year on campus by submitting a Big 10 Pre-Application. Current seniors or recent UCI alumni may also apply. You must finish your bachelor’s degree before enrollment. However, you do NOT need to have earned a bachelor’s degree by the time you apply.

Candidates should have outstanding records in academics, leadership, and community service, as well as sustained and energetic participation in other activities, such as athletics or artistic pursuits. Recent recipients have had exceptional academic achievement and demonstrate strong preparation for the proposed course of study at Stanford. The scholarship itself does not stipulate a minimum GPA. However, to be competitive, applicants should have at least a 3.7 GPA, and for many Stanford graduate programs, a 3.9+ GPA and significantly above-average test scores (such as GRE, MCAT, LSAT or GMAT) will also be necessary to achieve admissions. Applicants must also be able to demonstrate professional competence and dedication to the field of study through leadership or founding roles in academic or service organizations, entrepreneurial ventures, publications or performances, and/or significant work experience/internships related to the major.

Please note that external scholarship agencies will consider all of your credit-bearing coursework from any college or institution as part of the review process (including CSU, community colleges, private colleges or other UC campuses/Extension programs, and including units earned while in high school). Grades from other colleges will be included in calculation of your overall GPA for eligibility purposes.

Because both the Stanford admissions application and the Knight-Hennessy Scholars application require distinctive letters of recommendation, competitive candidates must also have sufficiently strong relationships with at least three academic mentors (instructors or research supervisors) and at least two mentors who can attest to the applicant’s strengths in service activities and leadership potential, in their letters of recommendation.

We should note as well that Stanford’s doctoral programs typically fully fund at least three years for their students, regardless of whether you receive the Knight-Hennessy scholarship. Students who are applying for Ph.D. programs at Stanford and want to become Knight-Hennessy Scholars should demonstrate excellence in research, as well as be able to demonstrate the capacity for positive social change in the practical sense, beyond knowledge-building contributions that have indirect social impacts.

UCI graduate students: contact the Graduate Resource Center for advising.

Degrees Funded

Knight-Hennessy funds Scholars across all of Stanford’s seven graduate schools, including M.A., M.S., M.B.A., M.P.P, M.F.A., and other master’s level degrees and also J.D., M.D., Ph.D., and other doctoral degrees (as well as joint degree combinations). See the full list of available graduate degrees.

Selection Procedure

Working with SOP advisors is optional, but encouraged. Campus endorsement is also optional. To begin the SOP advising process, juniors, graduating seniors, and alumni within 1 year of graduation complete a Big 10 Pre-Application. In April and May, SOP staff review Pre-Applications and meet with potential applicants to discuss their candidacy and subsequent steps. For detailed information about each stage of the application process — including the roles of campus endorsement and evaluation — please view the Application Process Overview.

After completing the Pre-App and meeting with SOP staff to discuss your candidacy, you will work on multiple drafts of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars application as well as prepare your graduate admissions application. Your supporting documents, including two non-academic letters of recommendation, will be due this summer. If you would like to earn campus endorsement of your Knight-Hennessy Scholars application, you will also be required to participate in an endorsement interview in August where the campus committee will determine whether to nominate you.

The electronic application includes an application form, test scores, 2 letters of recommendation, a resume targeting the Knight-Hennessy selection criteria, two essays,  and a brief video response to a creative prompt. You will also need to apply separately to your department at Stanford University.

After both Stanford graduate programs and the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program review application materials, shortlisted candidates are invited to interview and participate in group activities at “Immersion Weekend,” held on the Stanford campus in Winter Quarter (late January or early February).

Recent Recipients

Across many majors and diverse cultural backgrounds, Knight-Hennessy seeks to find students with the potential to succeed in highly visible leadership roles and demonstrated capacity to create positive change. The official selection criteria are “1) independence of thought, 2) purposeful leadership, 3) civic mindset.”

The Scholar biographies posted online can help in understanding how these broad criteria apply to specific academic disciplines and are enacted concretely in leadership achievements and career trajectories. UCI does not yet have a Knight-Hennessy Scholar.

51 Knight-Hennessy Scholars were funded in the first cohort (2018), and the class size will gradually increase to 100 in future years, with about one-third of the awards going to students from the United States.

Knight-Hennessy scholarships include three years of graduate funding, optional research or social entrepreneurship funding, and a stipend for on-campus housing, health insurance, books and supplies, travel to/from Stanford, and other basic living expenses.


Philip H. Knight, MBA ’62, provided the founding gift to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program. He was excited by the opportunity to partner with Stanford to launch a transformative program and wished to honor John Hennessy’s 16-year tenure as president of Stanford University. Co-founder and Chairman emeritus of Nike, Inc., Knight wrote his business plan for Nike while a graduate student at Stanford. He has since been actively engaged at the university and a generous contributor to its programs.”

Knight-Hennessy is a fantastic, if highly competitive, opportunity for students whose ambitious career goals are a good fit with Stanford’s graduate majors and who seek to actively collaborate with an interdisciplinary, international cohort of scholars to work on major global problems.

For More Information
Please consult the Knight-Hennessy website.

Access the Big 10 Pre-Application between late February – early April annually to begin the application process.

SOP is able to advise competitive undergraduate candidates at UC Irvine only.

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