The Gates Scholarship Disaster (and Its Quick Recovery)


Michael Grijalva

Christian Montalvo-Yanez views the Gates Scholarship on his laptop.

Nael Alzalde

The Gates Scholarship is an annual, very competitive scholarship funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, first started in 2017. Through their own description and background, The Gates Scholarship identifies as a “highly selective, last-dollar scholarship for outstanding, minority, high school seniors from low-income households. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to exceptional student leaders, with the intent of helping them realize their maximum potential.” 

The 2022 Gates Scholarship period had been quite normal up until January 15th, 2023 during phase II for the semi-finalists when in the last 3 hours of phase II the site was completely down. Rendering thousands of semi-finalists unable to submit their applications due to the server not being able to handle so many last minute log-ins. Thousands of complaints came through on peoples ends to fix the site and allow them to complete their applications for phase II. However, an unexpected surprise occurred after this incident occurred. The Gates Foundation after an hour period gave everyone an hour to turn in their applications for phase II due to the 3 hours long issue and a whole extra day to send in their 2023-2024 Fafsa verification materials. Being one of the first times a scholarship of this magnitude has done something like an extension for the applicants after acknowledging that the server was unable to support so many applicants at once. A pleasant yet wholesome surprise for those who were in extreme panic over the situation, worrying that they were not going to be able to finish their phase II application due to something that they had no power over.

If there are any final takeaways to have from this situation is to always work on the application, especially the essay prompts, ahead of time. One will never know if they will be kind enough to give another opportunity like this ahead of time, regardless of the issue, and it is better overall to dodge any unnecessary trouble or situation that can be prevented from simply working ahead of time. With your extra time tailor your applications, customizing your application to match the unique prompts of every application, and highlighting how your experiences alongside qualifications align with the specific criteria of the scholarship alongside being thorough. Especially in selective scholarships where your essays can make a tremendous impact on whether you get the scholarship or not. 

Regardless of this issue though, I do believe that scholarships should be able to handle the capacity of the amount of applicants that they are expecting to have, especially in a popular, competitive, and selective scholarship like Gates.