Advice From a Truman Finalist
Don't try too hard. Just go with the goal of interacting with some pretty neat fellow interviewees and panelists, and I guarantee if you do that, you won't be disappointed.
Don't go overboard. Read a little, brush up on what's happening in the world, but don't go nuts trying to digest every article in the New York Times, reading 10 Truman biographies, and absorbing sixty years worth of Congressional hearings on hydroelectric power over the next few weeks. Bottom line: be comfortable with who you are and what you know.
Relax. Bring a favorite book or a deck of cards in case you draw a late interview time. Don't let a long wait increase your nervousness.
Be familiar with your transcript. A good number of my interview questions derived from classes I took (for example, panelists saw I'd taken Environmental Policy from Bowersox, and as a result I was asked about the breaching of Snake River dams). I don't suggest you reread every book from every class you've ever taken. Go over your transcript class by class and brainstorm some possible questions, perhaps with the help of a professor or two.
Be ready to shoot from the hip. I guarantee that one-third to half of the questions will take you somewhat off guard (in spite of all those mocks). Having a successful interview doesn't mean being ready for every question; it's being able to deal confidently and conversationally with questions that you don't expect.
Your interview attitude is just as important as what's between your ears. Expect a rigorous and fun conversation with some smart and curious folks. Don't view the interview as a test-you'll probably flunk.
Have fun. For goodness sake, you're a finalist for a Truman Scholarship! Do you have any idea how many thousands of applicants in the history of this scholarship never even got to this level? That's a distinction no one can take from you.
Don't go in thinking you have to win. That attitude will start you on an emotional roller coaster-very bad for your self-confidence. When I played baseball, what I loved more than anything was my crusty old coach who would yell, "Way to be!" every time I was on the field. Willamette is already proud of you; the rest is gravy.
Written by Dustin Buehler