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Scholarship Interviews

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Advice for the Interviewee

  • Make eye contact with everyone in the room.  When responding to a question, look at all panel members and not just the questioner.
  • Frontload your answers.  Do not start with a general descriptive answer.  Instead go right to the specific point and then, if given more time, begin again and elaborate in a more general way.  Always close with a reiteration of that specific first point.  Prepare “sound bites” that you can use to introduce topics.
  • Take time to think before you answer.  Breathe.  It’s better to spend 10 seconds preparing a frontloaded answer than to make the panel drift with you through your thoughts. 
  • Do not guess at details.  It’s better to avoid a detail than to be wrong.
  • Use your hands naturally but avoid big or frenetic motions.  Do not pick at anything or groom yourself, including your hair.
  • Avoid defensiveness or over deference and aim for engagement.  Speak as a colleague.  Try to create conversation.
  • Be prepared.  What five “soft” questions might they ask you?  “Soft” questions are very general questions that ask you to reveal something about yourself.  For example, “Why do you want to participate in our program?”  To prepare for these, have a reserve of things in mind that you want to work into the interview at some point.  Think about the things you want the committee to remember about you.  What makes you a unique candidate?  Depending on the specific question, frame these qualities or memorable events in an answer.  Practice doing this ahead of time.
  • The interviewers may object to something you’ve written or said in order to see how you react to criticism or to provoke you to demonstrate critical thinking.  Expect this and engage as a colleague.
  • The interviewers may purposely interrupt you to see how you react.  Expect this and be gracious.
  • The interviewers may give you a hypothetical situation.  Answer this question by first listing the components.  Here it is acceptable to think aloud while you explain which factors you would take into consideration in formulating a response.  Then specify what that response would be, given the factors you’ve listed.

Tips for Conducting a Mock Scholarship Interview

  • Try to get the interview materials in advance. Google search the student's region of interest and policy area so you can ask questions about it. You don't need to know much - just enough to ask a question.
  • Rhodes interviewers are famous for interrupting, so it's good for the interviewee to front load the answer (most important part first).
  • Be willing to be stern in the mock interview. Interrupt to ask follow up questions.

Examples of Truman Interview questions

  • Why will your policy proposal actually make a difference?
  • If you could have taken part in any social movement of the 20th century, what would it have been?
  • Name a prominent public figure whom you admire or who inspires you.
  • What makes you happy?  What ticks you off?
  • If you could be a President for one day, what one policy would you attempt to pass, other than your policy proposal?)
  • What did you learn from a recent failure?
  • What do you think are the 2-3 most pressing problems facing America today?
  • What would you be your alternate “life plan” if the one you have charted does not work?
  • Assume that it is now 2025 and you are being recognized by your college or university.  How would you like to be introduced?

Here’s a worksheet with questions, space for "Strengths" and "Ways to improve" for Fulbright applicants.