Interview preparation tips from a current Chevening Scholar

Current Chevening Scholar and Social Media Ambassador Hafsat Dauda shares her tips on how to prepare for a Chevening interview.

As a first-time Chevening applicant who was primarily driven by passion, I was not expecting to receive an invitation to interview. Therefore, the week following the invite was shadowed by panic, a frantic search for interview preparation materials, and just generally getting myself worked up and overwhelmed. It was completely the wrong way to go about it. So I decided to give it a rest, regain my sense of calm, and re-strategise.

These are the steps I took that worked for me.

First, I re-visited my essays and re-familiarised myself with what I had written. Even though it all came from me, it had been about four months since I had submitted my application and it was important to re-read the points I had raised.

Next, I contacted some Chevening Scholars. They weren’t people I knew personally; I had to search LinkedIn and Instagram. The ones who responded sent me links to join WhatsApp and Telegram groups. Though the groups I joined were not managed or endorsed by Chevening, it was really helpful to hear from people who had been in my shoes. They shared tips, pointers, guides, and links to further reading.

Some scholars will even offer to run mock interviews for you. Mock interviews expose you to what real interviews may look like, helping you to understand what to expect and how to respond. It would never compare to the real deal of course, but it is always a good place to start.

Even though I only had one mock interview for my networking essay (one thing or another always prevented me from holding more), I listened in to other interviews and was quick to learn from the mistakes of others.

Some people hold over five mock interviews before their real one. The advantage is that you get a feel for the process through the simulation. The disadvantage of interviewing too much is that it gets monotonous. You get too mechanical and over rehearsed to the point that it feels robotic. The interviewers pick up on that.

So if you ask me, the most important thing to do is to master your points. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want this scholarship?
  • Why this course?
  • Why this university?
  • Why me?
  • What do I have to offer?
  • How will I go about that?
  • How have I done that in the past?

The interview questions can be tricky so if you are looking out for particular key words, you may end up feeling lost and disappointed. For example, my networking essay question didn’t have any of the key words I expected. It surprised me. I had to think on my feet and locate where my response should lie. You have to be quick, but if you ever get stuck, there’s no harm in pausing for a bit and thinking your answer through.

Here are my final three tips on how to prepare for your Chevening interview – following the three R’s: Research, Revise, Rest

RESEARCH. To help me prepare for my interview, I researched key places, people, and points. I was on the lookout for unique points others might have missed. For example, when asked ‘Why Chevening?’, I not only answered this, but also took it a step further and explained why I wanted to go this year. Having researched the activities that were held for Chevening’s 35th anniversary, I told the interviewers I wanted to be part of Chevening when it celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2023. The panel was visibly impressed…a timely reminder to always be unique and stand out.

Next, REVISE. Revise each essay. Shoot videos of yourself responding to questions. Time yourself. Give the questions to your siblings, friends, or spouse and hold mock live interviews.

Then REST. Stressing yourself too much will do more harm than good. Be well rested. Be relaxed. Be confident and await the D-day!

Wishing you the best of luck.

From Hafsat, With Love.


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