This year for the first time in my life I decided to apply for Scholarship programs in my country and I ended up submitting my documents to Fulbright Scholarship. I was shortlisted as a semi-finalist and invited to the most awaited fulbright scholarship interview with a three-person panel which later turned out to be a five-person panel. Anyway, even though I did my homework and prepared for the interview well in advance I failed it, unfortunately,
But I am not giving up here. I will be applying again next year and I will probably apply to other scholarship programs from my country and/or via We Make Scholars. If you have already applied for any kind of scholarship programs or if you have already been invited to one, today I am sharing with mistakes I have made that lead to failure during my interview.
And you as my reader stay safe and successful. I decided to share my experience with you and possibly add value a to your future.
So let’s go!
This is an e-mail notification and invitation I got from US embassy in Tashkent. I received it on 25 June 2015 and I submitted my application on 27 May 2015 (deadline was 30 May 2015). I always try to manage my time well so that I am well in advance from any deadlines.
Dear Fulbright Foreign Student Program Applicant:
We are pleased to inform you that the selection committee for the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the US Department of State, has reviewed your application and selected you as a semi-finalist.
This was a very competitive selection process and it will continue to be so throughout the final selection stages.
You are now invited to an interview with a three-person panel on July 7-9, 2015. Please send us a scan of your passport, so we can provide you access to the embassy on the day of the interview. Interview date and time is not negotiable and you will be informed of it, when we receive your passport copy.
For applicants from the regions, accommodation and transportation expenses will be covered by the program. To qualify, you need to inform us which region you will be traveling from, and request to reserve a room for you (if you need one) by July 1, 2015.
Once again, congratulations on becoming a semi-finalist and we wish you the best of luck on your upcoming interview.
Public Affairs Section
U.S. Embassy Tashkent'
Then on 14 July, 2015 I received this e-mail saying that I had not been selected to participate in the next level. My interview was on 7 July 2015. So I heard from them after 7 days. They were quick and very efficient.
Thank you for applying to the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the US Department of State.
The selection process this year for this highly prestigious program was especially competitive. We interviewed many impressive candidates and we regret to inform you that after careful consideration you have not been selected for participation in the 2016-2017 Fulbright Foreign Student Program.
Thank you again for your interest in the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. We wish you the best in all of your future endeavors.
Finally, here are the reasons that made me fail:
1. Having wrong expectations of interview format
I have attended a lot of successful job interviews and I have successfully coached some of my friends. But I guess interview for scholarship program should be different. So as soon as I entered the room and took my seat, I was asked the first question which was rather direct, I thought. I actually expected the panel members to welcome me, briefly introduce themselves, and ask a few questions about me. That would help me to familiarize myself with a new place and people around me easing the tension that I had.
2. Taking panel members’ attitude too personal
But something that really killed my spirit during the interview was how panel members looked in general. To me, most of them looked tired, bored and disinterested in what was going on. This is something for which I was not prepared, to be honest because well Fulbright is an American scholarship program. And most of the Americans are very open, approachable and smiling, right? But that was not the case that day. Maybe it was part of their strategy or maybe they were really and really tired because the interview was held 3 days from 7 to 9 July. So if they spend 30 minutes for each semi-finalist, they interview about 10-12 people per day. And I can tell you as a teacher of English that bores a lot of people to death, really.
3. Not paying attention to day & time
It also slipped out of my mind that if I am invited to a second day of the interview at 4 pm which is end of the busy working day I should have prepared myself accordingly. I should not have expected for the panel members to be enthusiastic, energetic and interested. I should have told myself to take the things easier and ignore how they would look and how they would react and pay more attention to questions and answers that I was supposed to give.
4. Running out of ideas too quickly
I was also in a difficulty to keep talking about my ideas when I was asked questions during the interview. But on the flip side, the nature of the questions was also not so much thought provoking, I would say.
For example, questions asked at the fulbright scholarship interview are as follows:
1. Why do you want to take part in Fulbright Student Program?
2. How will you know if a specific university is suitable for you or not? Do you have any criteria?
3. What will your language center do when you go to the USA to study?
4. How often do you blog?
5. What challenges do you think you may have while studying in the USA?
6. What will you do after you return to your home country?
7. Are you still a member of Uzbekistan Teachers of English Association?
8. Is the content you create 100 % original?
9. Who is your audience?
Questions I actually expected:
1. Why should we award you over other applicants?
2. Why do learners in Uzbekistan need your website?
3. Why do you blog? How do you manage blogging and teaching at the same time?
4. Can you tell us more about your project and challenges you are facing developing it?
5. What skills do you want to learn and develop studying in the USA?
6. What is the core goal of Fulbright scholarship programs?
7. Why did you decide to become a teacher? Do you like your job?Why?
8. Why do you blog?
9. Why did you choose US for higher education?
10. What is your biggest significant achievement so far?
11. When was the last time you failed? What did you do?
12. What is your greatest weakness?
13. Why do you think now is the right time to do MA?
5. Not having a prior mock interview
I had a close friend who thoroughly helped me with my application process and together we made sure that my application was as perfect as possible. Together we did everything we could to ensure that selecting committee would have no choice but shortlist me and invite me to an interview. Same friend also suggested having one or two mock interviews before a real one.
To be honest, I was a bit skeptical because anyway I would not take my friend that seriously and I would not work hard to give best answers. And I was also afraid of presenting myself as a coached and fake applicant during the real interview. So I said it would be better if we could just meet, brainstorm possible questions and talk about answers I could give. And we did it and I thought that would be enough. I just thought that I should be natural and be myself during the interview. But I guess I was wrong. Maybe I should have done that mock interview anyway.
6. Keeping too many thoughts in mind
I also had too many things going on in my mind, to be honest. I have my kids, family, flat to sell, house to build, language centre, groups to teach, my website redesign, first e-book, guest posting, online courses I am taking and so on and on and on. Maybe, that’s why I could not collect all my thoughts and come up with brilliant ideas during the interview.
Like I said above, I was running out of ideas and in between, I even became silent until one of the panel members asked extra questions to keep the conversation going. That is a negative sign. As a person attending the interview to get a scholarship, I should have talked non-stop and create an impression that I was just bursting out of a lot of endless extraordinary ideas and so on.
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