Columbia College


The final stage of the most competitive fellowships is the interview. Some fellowship committees, after reviewing all paper applications, call finalists in for interviews with a committee panel. All finalists that get to this stage in the application process are considered equally viable candidates to the committee, and the interview is a way for the fellowship committee to choose the most appropriate scholars for the fellowship’s directive.

The first step in preparing for interview questions should be to re-read carefully your application as well as the specific fellowship’s website. You may be surprised to find how much you have changed since completing the application; you do not want to surprise the interview panel by seeming inconsistent or ungrounded in your goals. You also want to refresh your knowledge of the fellowship’s philosophy. Interview panels are interested in finding a candidate that will best embody, and instill in others, the values of the fellowship. Because of this, you should be fully prepared to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of those core values as well as your future intellectual and professional goals’ compatibility with them.

Other good ways to prepare include reading the newspaper everyday as current events can often be springboards for interview questions, participating in practice interviews with peers in your discipline, identifying your own weaknesses and strengths, and practicing through mock interviews with the Office of Fellowship Programs. Once you are asked to an interview, the Office of Global Programs and Fellowships will help you prepare by first meeting with you to discuss the format of the particular fellowship’s interviewing strategy and then by arranging mock interviews followed by constructive feedback. Panels for these mock interviews will consist of administrative staff, faculty members, and past winners in order to simulate the setting of a rigorous academic interview.

Questions asked during the interview can range from strictly discipline specific questions to anything derived from the written application to current events or even seemingly random inquiries. The goal in preparing with mock interviews is not to be able, in the end, to answer all questions correctly, but rather to be able to answer each question clearly, concisely, and directly.

On the day of the interview, you should arrive early, allowing extra time for traffic or delays. You should wear formal business attire, meaning a suit and tie for men and a suit or nice skirt and jacket for women. You carry yourself confidently, sitting with a straight but not stiff posture. Because the interview will consist of a panel, be prepared to make eye contact with all member of the panel and not just the member asking the question directly.