Preparing for the Interview
Begin your fellowship interview preparation process by spending some time with the binders of
Student Reports in IEFP’s library. These binders relay the fellowship interview experiences of other
students. The student feedback is often quite detailed, listing the names and interests of past
committee members and the questions they asked, and also describing the general tone of the interview,
which often varies by state, region, or district. Online, you may read student reports of their
and associated interview advice from Reed University.
Make sure that you are very familiar with, and confident about, your application essay(s) since most
likely you will be asked a number of probing questions related to what you wrote. Develop 10-12 likely
Be ready to defend your proposed course of study or research as well as your choice of school or
location. This involves more than a passing familiarity with the school and/or country in which you
wish to study or research. Be able to clearly express why you need to study at a particular
place or school. Beware of listing names whose work you do not know.
Catch up on current events, local, national and international, so that you will have an
informed opinion if questioned by your interviewers. Many students have commented on the importance of
stressing your ability to perform an ambassadorial role. Also, think about what you read for pleasure.
For more general advice see: About the Rhodes Interview and How Interviews Go Wrong
Making a Good Impression:
- Formal dress is appropriate: Suits and ties for men and the equivalent for women.
- Maintain eye contact. Engage the whole panel, not just the person asking you a question
- Try to appear at ease. Greet each person on entering and thank each person on leaving.
- Handshakes are customary before and after most interviews.
- Your posture should be upright but not wooden. It should indicate engagement, confidence,
- Beware of nervous habits: fixing hair, constant smiling, fumbling with fingers or jewelry,
mumbling or raising your voice.
Responding to Questions
Listen carefully to each question. Consider what it invites you to say. (Don't answer what
you hoped the question would be.) Pitch your response at what seems like the most interesting or
insightful level. Beware of the glib, ill-considered response.
It is better to pause to think before you answer than to launch into a response hoping to get to
a clear answer. Beware of using “That’s a good question” as a way to gain time to think; avoid praising
Be honest. If you do not know the answer to a particular question, admit that you do not know.
If you would like to hear a question rephrased or if you would like clarification, ask. But beware
of seeming to use questions to avoid responding.
Well-thought out answers are key. Let your panel see how you think, how you connect and come to
your ideas; often how you get to an answer is as important as the answer itself.
However, avoid rambling.
Provide specific examples or instances to illustrate your points. But be prepared to be
interrupted or cut off. Interviewers may want to shift topics, especially when you feel you
are doing particularly well. This is fine.
Be clear, concise and confident in your answers. When you are sure, stick to your guns; don't
allow yourself to be rattled.
Make clear connections to your larger goals and the goals of the fellowship in your answers.
Prepare a response for an open-ended closing question such as, "Is there anything else you would
like to tell the panel?" This may be as simple as a thank you, but avoid talking about how much
the scholarship means to you. Something brief, honest, and substantive is best.
How to Practice
Engage faculty members or other experienced adults in conversations in which you are challenged
to present and support your plans, your academic interests, and your sense of the major issues behind
these interests. Get their feedback. Observe how you make those talking with you and yourself
comfortable and engaged, even when the conversation is challenging.
Take advantage of interview training offered by UCS, Thursday, September 30, at 7 pm at IEFP.
Participate in practice interviews arranged by your college. Contact your Dean and Master as soon
as you are endorsed to see whether they can set up a practice interview even before you have been
notified whether you have an interview.