If you have been invited for an interview, congratulations! Reaching the interview stage confirms that your application was successful in piquing the fellowship selection committee's interest; now they want to learn more about you. This is your last chance to make an impression on the committee before decisions are made for endorsement (internal application) or final selection of the fellowship awardees (regional/national application). Understanding the purpose and structure of these interviews will help calm any anxieties and better prepare you for the process.

What to Expect

The Selection committee has three main criteria in mind for the interview:

  • How well you analyze and respond to questions (how well you "think on your feet")
  • How clearly you are able to communicate your ideas and opinions
  • How your person reflects your application documents

On your path to a fellowship, you will encounter two sets of interviews:

Campus-Level Interview with a committee of UH Mānoa faculty from various academic disciplines

  • Purpose is to assess competitiveness for national application
  • Generally completed in one interview session
  • Applicants receive feedback to improve application following interview (where allowable)

Regional/National Interview with a committee comprised of representatives of the sponsoring fellowship agency, alumni, and/or accomplished professionals (eg. doctors, lawyers)

  • Purpose is to determine final selection of fellowship recipients
  • May require multiple rounds of interviews before final awardees are chosen
  • UH Mānoa Scholarships & Fellowships Office will provide mock interviews to help finalists prepare for later-stage interviews

Although interviews differ from one fellowship to another, a general structure is as follows:

  • Introductory question to settle the candidate and interview panel
  • Questions about the candidate
  • Questions relevant to the candidate's field of study
  • Questions related to current events, general knowledge
  • Final question to close the interview
  • Interviews typically last for 20-30 minutes

See Documents/Resources for links to sample questions from previous finalists who have undergone fellowship interviews.

 Preparation for the Interview

Some tips to help you prepare for the interview:

  • Familiarize yourself with your application materials. Be ready to expand on parts of your personal statement or program of study, explain an out-of-place grade on your transcript, or elaborate on a point made in one of your letters of recommendation.
  • Follow national and world news events by reading journals such as The New York Times*, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist.
  • Stay current within your field of study.
  • Know your benefactor, the program you are choosing to study, and the area you will be in for your fellowship. Show your ability to be an informed ambassador.
  • Develop responses to a number of likely questions; have examples ready that could be used for several types of questions. Make sure you use concrete evidence rather than flattering yourself with a list of adjectives.
  • Prepare opening and closing remarks that are polished and engaging, but not overly formal or casual.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Set up mock sessions with different groups to grill you on your application, general interests, and current events. Not only will you get questions from multiple perspectives/angles, you will also learn how to effectively communicate your ideas to diverse groups of individuals.

*Gain free access to The New York Times by visiting www.accessnyt.com, selecting our institution, and creating an account using your @hawaii.edu email address.

During the Interview

Verbal and non-verbal cues communicate a lot about you; here are some pointers for the actual interview:


  • Make connections between personal experiences and your goals/what you plan to study.
  • Listen to the questions carefully and make sure you address all parts of the question.
  • Be genuine and answer in your own voice rather than what you think the committee wants to hear. It is common for panels to ask several follow-up questions, thus you are better off answering based on your ideas/opinions.
  • If you honestly do not know how to respond to a question, do not bluff. You may respond truthfully that you do not know the answer to the question specifically, but attempt to follow that statement by tying the question to something that you do have knowledge, experience, or an opinion on that you can speak about so that you do not leave the question completely unanswered.
  • Avoid using the words "never" or "always."
  • Although the interview may seem fast-paced and you may be interrupted while responding, you do not need to rush your answers. Pause for a moment to organize your thoughts before responding to a question.
  • Treat the interview as a discussion by engaging with panel members, rather than a back-and-forth Q&A or an interrogation. You want to appear relaxed and comfortable with the committee and interview, not overly terse or defensive.
  • Thank the committee at the close of the interview.


  • Dress to impress.
    At campus level - business casual/aloha attire is appropriate.
    At the regional/national level - formal business attire: suit and tie for men, or dress, suit, or nice skirt and blouse for women.
  • Be positive; it will be conveyed through your body language and speech.
  • Relax; remember to breathe throughout the interview.
  • Be early to your interview - give yourself time to settle in and prepare.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Don't fold arms or legs.
  • Give firm handshakes.
  • Make eye contact with panel members.
  • Be aware of nervous habits, such as fumbling, shaking your leg, mumbling, etc.
  • Come off as professional, warm and confident, but not arrogant.
  • Smile!


Tips for Fellowship Interviews (from Swarthmore College)
Tips for Fellowship Interviews (from Reed College)
Sample Interview Questions
UHM SFO Handout - Guidelines for the Interview