Fellowship Weekend: 6 Tips to Help You Nail the Writing Test, Ace the Interview and (Yes, It Is Possible) Actually Enjoy Yourself

Ok, so you just got invited to Fellowship Weekend at the University of Arkansas Honors College. Pretty exciting, right? Believe me, just getting invited is quite an honor, especially since we had close to 850 applicants this year. I know most of you have a million questions going through your mind. What will the interview be like? What can I do to prepare for the weekend? Should I be prepared to discuss the philosophical underpinnings of the most recent installment of The Hunger Games? Knowing that this can be an anxious time, I wanted to provide a few tips to our finalists:

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Before you come to Fellowship Weekend, take time to review your application to make sure you’re comfortable discussing all of its components. Like any interview setting, a good number of the questions that you will be asked will relate in some way to your application. From my experience, the easiest place for students to trip up is when they are asked about their list of three works. Believe me, if you wrote about The Great Gatsby and you don’t have a clue about who shot Gatsby and how Fitzgerald described Gatsby’s funeral, it can make for an uncomfortable conversation with your interviewers.

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Polishing up your interview skills is a great way to prepare for the fellowship interview. To do this, ask you school’s counselor if it would be possible to set up a mock interview for you. Request a similar format to what you’ll see at Fellowship Weekend: a 15-minute interview with three to four individuals conducting the interview. A few days before, you should share your fellowship application with the practice interviewers so they can formulate some questions.

On the day of the practice interview, dress like you would for the interview. Once it’s completed, ask your interviewers to provide some constructive criticism on everything from your responses to your posture to your handshake. It may sound silly, but every little thing counts when you’re trying to make a first impression, especially in an interview setting. You can also practice with family members at home, especially on the “Tell us about yourself” question that launches many an interview.

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The dress code for Sunday is comfortable and casual; jeans are fine. On Monday, most finalists in the past have dressed in professional attire, but that decision is left up to the student. We do recommend, however, that you dress in a manner that makes you feel confident, but won’t distract your interviewers.

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The timed writing exercise is not designed to cause an anxiety attack.

Here’s how it works: when you register for Fellowship Weekend, you will be given an opportunity to choose a designated time to complete a timed writing exercise. On that day and time, you will receive an email from the Honors College with detailed instructions on how to submit your essay. The email will also include 5-7 prompts and you will be asked to write a response to one of them in 45 minutes using your computer. The essay prompts will primarily come from “big picture” current event stories.

When I say “big picture,” this can include areas like the ramifications of a divided U.S. government or the best ways to combat childhood obesity. You won’t, however, be expected to give an informed opinion on whether or not Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen will be able to keep together his coalition government  (although kudos if you can!).

Basically, if you are staying up to date on current events and large-scale cultural news, you should be able to write a thoughtful, coherent response to at least one of our prompts.

I would also recommend that you review your response prior to Fellowship Weekend. Our interviewers will receive your essay response, and there is a good chance you may be asked to expand about what you wrote during your interview.

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Fellowship weekend mentors are current fellows who have volunteered to be a resource –– use them. Your mentor will be contacting you prior to the event, and you’ll get to meet him/her at the Gearhart Hall Open House on Sunday evening. Your mentor will let you know what it’s like to be a fellow in the University of Arkansas Honors College, and what to expect throughout the rest of your weekend.

Remember, your mentor was in your shoes only a few years before and obviously had a successful Fellowship Weekend. Our recruitment staff is always happy to answer your questions, but do be sure to get the inside perspective from your mentor.

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You’ll notice on the schedule that although most of the events are mandatory, there is some flexible time available, especially on Monday morning. During that time, you will have the option to do a number of different things, such as touring Hotz Honors Hall and attending a class. Take advantage of these opportunities, especially if this is your only chance to visit the University of Arkansas. We want you to be as informed as possible about the opportunities available to you in the Honors College, so that you can pick the school that will be the best fit for you.

I hope these tips a) help you prepare for Fellowship Weekend and b) feel a little less stressed about the event. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

P.S. Want the inside scoop on Fellowship Weekend from one of our fellows? Read Hannah Breshears’ “Fellowship Weekend: Revealed.”

P.P.S. —

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