Most Important Fulbright Interview Questions
Recently I had a chance to talk to around 17 of my students who went in for the Fulbright interview in October 2014 and secured the scholarship. Nearly all of them were a bundle of nerves as they entered the interview room – all of them had just travelled from their home cities to Islamabad and were obviously jittery. At the interview, sat 3-4 Fulbright officials, some asking questions, some scribbling notes and some just observing. Here are some common and extremely important observations and questions that these 17 students shared with me.
Also Read: Fulbright Interview Experiences
Generally the interview started with a light probe but for some it tested mental toughness. The initial phase of the interview is a process of getting to know the applicant in a professional and personal manner. The interview ranged from 5 to 25 minutes, which ended with the interviewers asking if the applicant had any questions to ask. There were some obvious questions such as “Why do you want to do a Masters?” to the rather unpredictable “What will you do if you don’t get the Fulbright?” The Fulbright committee also discussed in detail the personal statement, study objectives and the resume for most of the applicants and for a couple of applicants they even discussed the recommendation letter.
The most important and common questions asked and those that future applicants must prepare are as follows:
• Introduce yourself to the Fulbright panel.
• Why have you made the choice of choosing your undergraduate college and your major as well as your employer and your career?
• What do you think is Pakistan’s biggest problem right now? How do you plan to resolve it or help in resolving it?
• What is your greatest weakness?
• Why do you think this is a right time to do a Masters?
• How you will adjust in US? What you want to see in US and what challenges you may face there?
• How will you share your experiences in US with your people in Pakistan? What would you do to help promote mutual understanding between the people of US and Pakistan?
• What did you learn by working on the project or for the team you described in your essay?
• How do you go about solving problems or leading people?
• What would you do if you were offered a job in the U.S. after graduation?
• Do you think Pakistan has any future in the area you have chosen? What is currently being done in Pakistan to promote your field?
• Why did you have a low Quant score (163) in your GRE exam considering that you are an engineer?
• What can you tell us about yourself that would surprise us?
• How are you different from the other applicants we’ve interviewed?
• What do you think you can add to the Fulbright cohort?
• What is the first thing you would do in your field after returning to Pakistan?
• What’s one question you wish you were asked if we had more time?
Unusual questions come up frequently. However, there are a no trick questions for a person who is being honest and self-reflective. The interviews are generally very friendly and professional but sometimes they do get a little awkward. In almost every interview, one interviewer will always be cold and seemingly unimpressed – sometime harsh too but that is just how the interview setting is. In many interviews, they will joke with you and make fun at things you have said. Don’t take anything personal or derogatory – the interviews are designed to test your traits and personality. One of the applicants told me that he had a 331 on the GRE and one of the admissions panel members said that isn’t this too low a score? The student thought it must have been a sarcastic remark but none of the admissions panel laughed about it – they were all too serious.
Or how about this one? “What Pakistan problems break your heart the most? What news struck you most in the past two weeks?” If you’re well informed, those questions are invitations to show how engaged you are with Pakistan and its key challenges.