For many national fellowships, there may be a campus interview as part of the nomination or evaluation process. Some of them will also include an interview for finalists, conducted with an external review committee. Below is general advice for a broad range of fellowships. You should speak with Fellowships Advising about additional preparation for specific awards.
- Review your application. The majority of interview questions are likely to be based on your application materials. This is your opportunity to expand on the points you made in your essays. It’s also an opportunity to offer information you couldn’t fit in your essays (for example, courses you’ve taken that inspired or informed your research, experiences you had that influenced your career direction, etc.). Be prepared to discuss all aspects of your application. Review your transcript.
- Anticipate the questions you might be asked, and practice responses. It’s important not to memorize your responses since the exact questions might be slightly different than what you’re expecting. You want to sound confident and natural, not canned.
- Prepare short opening and closing statements. You might be asked to introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your plans for the scholarship year. Be prepared to adapt your response for different opening questions since it might not be a simple, “Tell us about your plans.” Similarly, at the end of the interview you might be asked if you have anything else you’d like to say about your candidacy. In each of these cases, it’s helpful to have a BRIEF response that is unique to you, that can be adapted to a wide range of questions, and that reminds them of who you are.
- Prepare three stories or experiences you want to bring up in your interview. These should be BRIEF stories or experiences that highlight different aspects of your candidacy and should not simply repeat what we’ve already read about you in your application. By having these in your pocket, you’ll be able to pull them out even under stressful circumstances. Generic responses don’t help your interview. Personalized stories do. Be sure to link the stories to some sort of message or point.
- Fighting the World’s Fight. For the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Knight-Hennessy and Truman, be prepared to offer a brief explanation of the positive difference you are working to make in the world, now and in your future.
- Follow current events. Know what’s happening in the world, even for events not related to your main interests. Have opinions that you’re able to defend. If your scholarship will take you to another country, are there any current events linking the US and your host country? Have you read about the US from the perspective of your host country?
- Host country (if your scholarship takes you abroad). Be prepared to show us that you know about the host country besides how it relates to your area of research. Are there aspects of the culture you hope to explore? What will you do outside of your studies to become engaged with your community?
- Review the mission of the scholarship and their selection criteria. Think about how you fulfill the mission and meet their selection criteria. Consider your role as an ambassador. If you are applying for a named scholarship (like Truman or Marshall), know something about who the scholarship was named after.
For the Interview:
- Dress the part. Come dressed as you would for a professional interview. While a suit may not be necessary for the campus interview, dress in nice pants/shirt/(tie)/dress/skirt. Note for virtual interviews: we can typically only see your top half, but dressing the part tends to make you feel more confident.
- Arrive early. The committee may be running late, but you can’t count on it. Plan to arrive a few minutes early. Wait outside the interview room until you are called. Note for virtual interviews: hang out in the Zoom waiting room until you’re called.
- Introduce yourself. Depending on the size of the room, it might be feasible for you to shake hands with everyone. If there isn’t space, then make eye contact and acknowledge everyone while introductions are made. You must play this one by ear. In many cases, lengthy handshakes and intros are not a good use of your time. Follow the lead of whoever walks you in. If they lead you right to a chair, then don’t go and try to shake everyone’s hand. But look up, smile, greet the group, relax. Note for virtual interviews: Ensure your camera is eye level. Simply acknowledge everyone as they introduce themselves.
- Be concise. You want the committee to know all about you, so don’t spend 10 minutes explaining one component of your application. If you catch yourself running on, stop and ask the committee if they would like you to go into greater detail.
- Asked a really hard question? Take a deep breath; ask for clarification if needed. In many cases, committee members simply want to know how well you’re able to defend yourself. There is no way you can anticipate every question—most likely there will be at least one that catches you off guard. Don’t get defensive or flustered. Be confident, be yourself, admit it when you don’t know something, and try to think of the interview like a back-and-forth conversation.
- Be aware of casual language. Avoid using fillers like “uh,” “you know,” “like,” and “um” too much. Avoid slang.
- This is not a test. Try to have fun; try to learn something from the committee members, and let your personality come through.
- Conclusion. At the end of the interview, thank the committee members for their time. Shake hands if there’s time and space.