What are your thoughts about Truman scholarship interviews?

I’m a rising junior considering applying for the Truman Scholarship, but I’m really nervous about the interview process. I know I’d have to compete with other juniors for a nomination and then potentially be chosen as a finalist. My concern is that if I do make it to the finalist stage, I’ll mess up the interview and take away a spot from someone who might do better.

I’m outgoing, passionate, and quick on my feet, but interviews are my kryptonite—I tend to blank out. Despite knowing I’d get plenty of preparation, I’ve read that interviewers sometimes ask questions just to see how you think on the spot, which makes me nervous. I ramble, have bad anxiety, and struggle with concise answers due to my ADHD.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has gone through the Truman interview or similar ones like Rhodes or Marshall. Is it as intimidating as it sounds? Is risking potential embarrassment worth the chance at $30k and the network? Sometimes I wish they’d evaluate us based on a project over a weekend retreat instead. Any advice or insights would be greatly appreciated.

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I didn’t make it to the final interview, but I did make it to my school’s mock interview to choose their finalists for nomination. My school is very competitive about this sort of thing, so the interviewers were tough. If you get chosen, trust that you earned it. Don’t worry about taking a spot from someone else. I knew people who yelled and shouted in their interviews and still ended up being nominees.

The thing I got points and praise for afterward was my poise, even though I tend to ramble and have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder. What helped me was the mindset that “losing my composure is not an option.” I went back to my room and cried into a friend’s shoulder afterward, but during the interview, I kept my cool. It’s a finite moment in time that you can and will get through, and it will genuinely make you a better speaker and thinker.

I don’t think you’ll embarrass yourself, and even if you do, it’s much better than never trying. It’s worth a potential $30k and the huge opportunities it brings. Even after failure and tears, I have no regrets. Please find all the possible weaknesses in your application before the interviewers do and be prepared to discuss them. Have multiple friends review your application, and make sure your advisor gives you honest feedback.

Even if you don’t get the scholarship, you’ll learn a lot about your values, argumentation style, and areas for improvement. And lastly, talk slowly. It’s not a race; you can take a moment to breathe and think about your answers. You’ll be okay.

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The interviews are meant to be difficult to evaluate how well you perform under pressure, to the best of my knowledge. You can prepare as extensively as you’d like, but ultimately, it’s a comprehensive process, so they will consider all aspects of your application. If you don’t attempt it, you’ll never discover what might have been. If you do attempt it and fail miserably, you will still gain a lot from the experience.