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McKnight Scholars Leadership Program

Ross and Billie McKnight


Letter from the McKnights 

As longtime residents of the rural Texas town of Throckmorton, we understand the benefits students receive from a public school education. We also have a great appreciation for the leadership skills that students develop through various activities – especially those activities that require a significant commitment of time and effort such as the National FFA Organization.


We funded the McKnight Scholars Leadership Program Scholarship at Oklahoma State University to annually attract 50 of the best leaders from rural communities to Oklahoma State University. Both of our children were leaders during their high school years, during their time at OSU and have continued that path as adults. Our son Trent was National FFA president in 2000-01. We will forever remember the words of our daughter Meggan as she introduced Trent at the National FFA Convention. She stated: “Most people go throughout life without truly knowing what they believe. They go down the easy trail and choose the path of least resistance. But real leaders go where there is no trail and lead a path for others to follow.” Our goal with the McKnight scholarship is to attract students with leadership potential as exhibited by their high school activities to Oklahoma State University where they will be developed to become the ethical leaders who will help “lead a path for others to follow."


We are pleased to make this gift to our alma mater to help defray the cost of an education. Oklahoma State University means so much to both of us. In addition to receiving an excellent education, we also met at OSU. Without Oklahoma State, we would not be where we are today. As students from rural communities, we discovered the same welcoming and friendly environment at OSU that we had experienced back home. To this day, we are both grateful to Oklahoma State, and we remember fondly members of the faculty and administration who took an interest in us and challenged us to be more than we thought we could be.


This gift reflects our appreciation to OSU and also our desire to help students from rural communities attend OSU. Not only will these students find a path to success like we did at OSU, but they will also make a significant contribution to OSU while in school. OSU taught us to live with courage, work with pride, speak with honesty, and keep our promises. These are values instilled in rural students in their everyday life and values that will help them grow as the future leaders of our state and our country.


Go Pokes!

Ross & Billie McKnight

Program Details

The McKnight Scholars Leadership Program begins with the selection of extraordinary undergraduate students that have demonstrated their potential for academic success, leadership, and impact. Upon arrival to OSU, the scholar group is provided exceptional benefits and shared. 


Experiences such as:  

  • Exclusive access to leadership courses
  • Involvement in off-campus experiences purposefully designed to broaden student perspectives
    Individual mentoring from junior level McKnight Scholars
  • Out-of-state tuition waiver and significant funding
  • Access to an exclusive community of McKnight alumni
  • Fully-funded, short-term study abroad program exclusively for McKnight Scholars

McKnight scholars become keenly aware of their values, learn strategies to turn those values into action, analyze local communities to identify needs, inspire others to take action, and develop a global perspective - all intended to develop the capacity to make profound contributions to society.

How to Apply

Applicant Timeline
  • November 1st (midnight) - First round application and nomination deadline.
  • December 31st - First round selection notifications are made (selection, denial or movement to the next round for re-consideration).  
  • February 1st (midnight) - Second round application and nomination deadline.
  • March 31st - Second round selection notifications are made (selection or denial).
About the Application Process:  

The McKnight Scholar Leadership Program begins with the selection of a diverse community of out-of-state students with a passion for service and extraordinary potential for influence. The 2023-2024 McKnight Scholars Leadership Program cohort (Class XII) has been filled. Applications for the 2024-2025 cohort are currently open and can be found by following the links below.

New Student Application

Current/Continuing Student Application


Selection Criteria 

Typically, approximately 35 students are chosen each year based on the following requirements:

  • Out-of-State, Rural, First-Year Student 
  • Acceptance to Oklahoma State University
  • Proven Leadership Ability 
  • Committment to Service

Additional criteria that is considered but not required includes:

  • 27 ACT or 1220 SAT scores
  • 3.75 GPA

It is the expectation that McKnight Scholars become more aware of their passions and aptitudes, gain skills to foster collaboration in following those passions, understand how communities grow and improve, make an impact on their home community, and prepare for influence beyond graduation. The program seeks to compliment the scholars’ entire Oklahoma State University experience bringing a rich context and focus to their academic journey.

Frequently Asked Questions


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