A few days after his Rhodes Scholarship endorsement interview, Josh Chafetz ’01 said it is important to maintain a sense of perspective throughout the fellowship process.
“Many extremely qualified people applied for very few spots,” said Chafetz, who is applying for the Fulbright, Marshall and Rhodes scholarships. “It’s as much a matter of luck as anything else.”
Fellowship season is in full swing, as interviews for the Marshall Scholarships and Mitchell Scholarships took place two weeks ago, and interviews for the Rhodes Scholarships were held last week. Faculty committees then selected which Yale students to endorse for the fellowships.
“The interview is an evaluation of a student’s proposed project and suitability for the fellowship program,” said Catherine Hutchison, director of the Office of International Education and Fellowships Programs.
Some fellowship programs restrict the number of applicants from each academic institution, but Hutchison said Yale will endorse all qualified candidates.
“Yale students are not competing against each other during the endorsement process,” Hutchison said. “We push them all forward as long as they are qualified.”
Yale uses the interview process to help determine which students to endorse for the Marshall, Mitchell and Rhodes scholarships. Students applying for a Fulbright grant interview only if they wish to study in a non-English speaking country.
“The committee was very friendly and asked pertinent questions to what I had written in my personal statement in the application,” Rhodes scholarship applicant Brian Mullin ’01 said.
A four-member faculty committee ran the Rhodes interviews.
“Questions ranged from the current state of European politics and American constitutionalism to books that had a big impact on me,” Chafetz said.
Students said they felt adequately prepared for the interviews.
“I spent a lot of time writing the application and thinking through why I wanted to apply, so I was ready for the interview,” Mullin said.
Chafetz agreed, saying, “As long as you are seriously interested in your proposed area of study, you should be prepared for the questions.”
From Yale, 38 students applied for the Fulbright, 27 for Marshall, 4 for Mitchell and 37 for Rhodes. The next cut is at the state level for the Rhodes scholarship and the district level for the Marshall scholarship.
“Questions get tougher at each level based on the sample questions that I have seen,” Mullin said. “More preparation will be necessary for the next interview.”
The IEFP will offer practice sessions close to the date of the interviews. Notes from Yale students who interviewed in previous years also will be available.
“Students should know how to handle questions that could potentially be politically explosive,” Hutchison said. “It’s important to respond honestly by turning questions to your advantage rather than trying to blow the committee away with falsehoods.”
Each fellowship has its own time schedule, but students will know if they qualify for the national-level interviewing process by mid-November.