anyways, what’s your position on east timor

9/23/09

So let’s do a mitzvah, shall we? The delightful Emma from the comments section has a request. The girl next door to her – a high school junior named Hayley – came over last night and said she’d been nominated for the Morehead Scholarship at UNC. As Emma says:

She is number one in her class, went to governor’s school for science this past summer, and went to Space Camp a couple of years ago. She is the number 2 singles player on the tennis team and plays on the #1-seeded doubles team (which is undefeated right now at 10-0), but her passion is softball. She should be all-conference in both tennis and softball this year. She is also a starter (point guard) on the girl’s basketball team. She serves as one of two students on a juvenile crime prevention committee with other members of the community.

She also has a recruiting video for softball here – which made me think… what if we could YouTube our applications to college? Kids today…

Anyway, Emma wants to put together a mock interview to prepare Hayley for the Morehead and wants to ask the collective wisdom of our crowd, “what questions would you ask a nominee in the interview?”

I’m the wrong person to ask, not just because I wasn’t a Morehead, but because I’ve always had serious problems with the scholarship and the way they run things. I’m not saying it isn’t a great scholarship – all things considered, it has to be one of the greatest opportunities offered to any high school student in America, no lie – but for some reason, it always made me crazy.

Back in the ’80s, I wasn’t the only one who bristled at the cadre of British sub-royalty who owned castles and got a free ride to the University of North Carolina, and repaid the favor by pouring Pimm’s apple liquor on anyone in the way of their drunken rampages. Of course, I changed my mind when I joined them in that pursuit (philosophical consistency not being one of my strong suits at the time) but I still understood the dynamic to be problematic.

Later on, as the leadership of the Morehead changed, the people they brought in as Morehead Scholars changed. The artists, goofballs, crazy thinkers, musicians and self-styled poets that made the program so interesting became a minority as more and more Future Bankers of America moved in. I might as well add that there were a lot more religious types, which I can complain about, because this is my blog.

It reached a defining moment last year when my wife – herself an artist goofball crazy-thinker musician and self-styled poet Morehead Scholar – was asked (like most alums) to go through the nominations and pick out the ones that seemed the most compelling. NONE of the kids she selected went to the next round. Demoralizing.

That said, the Morehead program is still unbelievably valuable to UNC – the outside influence of kids from other parts of the country, and the best and brightest from within the state – largely makes Carolina what it is. Without the Morehead, the Johnston, and the various other scholarships (not to mention el Deano), UNC might have just turned into Michigan with better weather.

So here comes Hayley, a valedictorian with a wicked arm from the crouched catcher’s position, an excellent slide into 2nd, and a degree from Space Camp. She’s the kind of gal we need. What would you ask in your mock interview?

0 thoughts on “anyways, what’s your position on east timor

  1. Megan

    I don’t know about the mock interview questions, but I’d like to point out that only male students were eligible for the Morehead until their board was forced (by some local feminists) to consider female candidates in the early 1970’s. One board member commented that it wasn’t worth giving the scholarship to women because they were “just going to get married.”

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  2. LFMD

    I got nothin’, just wishing Hayley the best. The Morehead is such a wonderful opportunity!
    P.S.: I thought that all the offensive Moreheads from our day were from Canada.

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  3. emma

    Thanks, ian. I definitely think health insurance and medical care will be a topic/question.
    I will sit back and hopefully read some good ideas today.
    Oh and it makes me sad to think aboutan but hayley is a senior this year.

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  4. Tessa

    I can’t get to it until later today but I can definitely tell u what the emphasis of my interview was and what qualities interests the foundation. More to come…

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  5. scruggs

    You are given a time machine for one purpose only: you get to go back and visit yourself at 20 years old for about five minutes. When you arrive, and your 20-year-old self is done freaking out, what exactly do you tell yourself as advice?

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  6. Neva

    Here is a question that I’ve been thinking about. Can you teach someone empathy for others or is it an inborn quality?
    What do you think it means to have empathy toward others and how to you show that in your thoughts/words/actions?

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  7. Lee

    Tessa’s was the best by far! My question (and this was just first level, mind you) was “Compare the hostage situation in Iran with 3rd century Chinese foreign policy.” Or something like that. I just remember everything getting kinda hazy and thinking I was never gonna get outta Wilson. Tessa, do you remember what they asked me??

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  8. janet

    Neva……i think empathy IS of being human(massive…..huge) but that for some…..they meet an early stormy journey to realise just that…………I think those who do not touch so easily on empathy have the storm later………..just as hard to weather……we should be all together xxx

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  9. Tammy O.

    Ian, this is not really an answer to your question (what would I ask in my mock interview), but here are some suggestions based on my experience of guiding juniors/seniors through some very competitive scholarship selection processes:
    Hayley should know the Morehead-Cain scholarship cold: the program, the benefits and the expectations. She should be prepared and feel comfortable talking about her qualifications in terms of the four criteria: moral force of character, scholarship, physical vigor, and leadership. Even if they don’t ask specifically about each of them, she should make sure that she addresses all of those areas in order to present what they consider to be a “well-rounded candidate.” She should know what the benefits of the scholarship are beyond the money – what types of supports and opportunities she has – and be able to speak about how exciting that is, and how she will take advantage of those opportunities. She should know what the expectations of the program are, and be prepared to answer questions about what challenges she could see herself having – either fulfilling the program requirements or general college challenges. (The worst answer to this is to say that you don’t see that you’ll have any challenges.) Although this is not a need-based scholarship, it’s worth it for her to think about the question, “What will you do if you don’t get the scholarship?” I’ve seen need-based and merit-based scholarship interviewers ask candidates this question, just to get some measure of the resilience/commitment of the student.
    Hayley should also be prepared to talk about why (specifically) she’s interested in UNC, what major/career she might be interested in (even if she’s not sure, she should have a few ideas in mind and a reasoning for choosing them) and what she thinks she can offer to UNC specifically. Although it’s a dumb question, some version of “Where do you see yourself after college/five years out of college?” is pretty common. She should allow herself some room to be human in this answer (“I’m not exactly sure, but I have a strong interest in “X” and that’s why I’m planning on pursuing the exploration of “X” in college blah blah blah” is appropriate.) Since they say their focus is on “who” and not “what” you’ll be after college, she should feel free to talk about her personal passions and values, how they’ve informed her choices so far, and how she anticipates they’ll inform her choices in the future.
    Based on the type of interview (individual or group) and the interviewers in the process (are they all Morehead scholars/alum?), she should prep a few questions for them. She should DEFINITELY have questions for them! If they were Morehead scholars, good questions might be along the lines of “How did your Morehead experience impact/shape your career? what did you learn? etc.” (Alternative versions if they’re not Morehead scholars: “What advice would you have for me to ensure that I take full advantage of the Morehead scholarship?”) It’s a hard thing for high school students, but the more conversational she can make the experience, the better. A mock interview is a great practice tool.
    Other good questions to prep:
    – What is the greatest challenge/obstacle you’ve had to overcome and how did you overcome it/what did you learn from it?
    – What is the most important/influential activity/community service you’ve done, and what have you learned about yourself?
    – What does scholarship mean to you? (They have a wonky definition of scholarship – we’re not looking for the student, we’re looking for the scholar – so it’s worth it for her to spend some time thinking about the difference and being able to talk about it. Even if they don’t ask her that specific question, she could really impress them if she brings it up.)
    She should prepare something to respond to “Tell us about yourself” if they ask that as an opening question. The horror! Let’s hope they don’t, but you never know.
    The key to these things is for her to be confident with the potential content of the interview (the questions) while being comfortable in her own teenaged skin. She should bring her personality to the table – she sounds like an awesome young woman – but she should match that personality with articulate answers. She should talk through her practice questions before and after the mock interview (and do at least a couple of mock interviews, and ask for feedback).
    Stepping back from the questions, though, I would also make sure to emphasize the following to her: she has absolutely no control over who the other candidates are for the scholarship. They are not better or more awesome people than she is (after all, she went to SPACE CAMP), but they may ultimately be more appropriate candidates. Therefore, all she can do is kick some serious ass during the interview and use whatever happens as guidance for the next 8 billion interviews she’ll have in her life. Yes, she wants to win the scholarship, but more importantly, she wants to feel that she left it all on the floor, and that she made the rest of those candidates work their asses off to get that scholarship.
    (Am I winning the longest comment contest yet?)

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  10. Caitlin

    I don’t know if the application is different now, but I remember that the jumping off point for the interview was questions about the three short essays. In each of the essays I had written a vignette — laboring under the “show, don’t tell” dictum of my high school English teacher — and people on the interview panel wanted to know more about each of these. Expect follow up questions on these as well.
    I also had written a long essay about my brother (adopted from an orphanage in Colombia after surviving years on the streets of Bogota, when I was two) and there were a lot of questions about my relationship with him and what the experience of growing up together had taught me.
    It is hard to be relaxed when being interviewed by a panel, but the more comfortable you can be, or at least appear to be, the better. Be warm, look around at everyone while you are speaking, don’t be afraid to pour yourself a drink of water from the pitcher if you are thirsty.
    I think they are looking for people who are articulate, confident, and who will take advantage of the amazing opportunities the program offers. It’s OK to be quirky, I think, or at least it used to be. Parenthetically I agree with Ian about the Future Finance People in Khaki Pants. It’s mysterious why they lavish the scholarship on people who are about to go earn a bazillion dollars on Wall Street.

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  11. Emma's big sis

    You all made Hayley’s mother cry. She loves the goodness of strangers helping her daughter. It gives her hope…
    Hayley is as humble as she is talented. She learned that from her parents.

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  12. Anon

    I’m late to the party, but wanted to ease Hayley’s mind, if at all possible. In thinking back over my interview, I don’t remember any questions designed to trip me up or test for knowledge about arcane topics. I remember questions related to my application, questions about me, and a general feeling that they were trying to get to know who I was, and what kind of Morehead I would be. There were no “gotcha” topics – just a genuine interest in me and how I handled the pressure of the situation. Hayley, you are there because you’ve already proven yourself – you are clearly worthy of sitting in that interview seat and they already know that you will be an outstanding scholar and addition to UNC. So, what they’re looking for (I believe) is how well you’re going to handle the rigors of college and of the Morehead; whether you are an interesting person; and whether you’re going to take full advantage of the wonderful opportunity before you. Give some thought to how you would spend your summers – look over the website and take note of the summer opportunities that interest you. You don’t have to have a plan, but show that you know the program and that you’ve given thought to how you would use it.
    I don’t remember everyone in my interview, but I had the venerable Prof. Chuck Stone in mine, and he really seemed to want to figure out if I would bring something to UNC, rather than just being a face in the crowd. You’ve already got that part locked up – it’s clear you are outstanding. You were selected and have advanced to this stage because of your personality and talents – stay true to those, and you’ll be fine. Also, the one question that I felt like I completely screwed up on was the easiest for me – “If you don’t get this scholarship, will you still come to UNC?” I answered honestly and told them that I most likely would still attend Carolina and thought later that it was my doom. It wasn’t, happily. Let us know how it goes!

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  13. Tessa

    The latest to the party yet…
    My experience was similar to everyone else here. I would say being warm and sincere and direct were essential. For what it’s worth, I knew NOTHING about Carolina. I barely knew anything about the Foundation. And I was never asked to defend my scholarship, sportsmanship or leadership. Having reviewed essays of current candidates at the last stage, those qualifications are a given by the time you’re sitting in the final interview.
    The questions that I was asked came from my application and essays. Accordingly, the current affairs questions were in areas where I had already asserted some knowledge. That being said, I did get massively stumped for a minute and then scrambled to bullshit, and then I took a breath and acknowledged that I didn’t know much about domestic issues (I had talked about foreign policy in my essay). I’m fairly sure that was the moment that I was granted the scholarship.
    So, I would say a secure humility and a willingness to not know the answer counts for a lot.
    Full disclosure: I had a horrible flu during finals weekend and my “humility” (which those of you who know me can vouch was in fairly short supply during those years) owed to a cloudy head and a fever. But I will always be eternally grateful for that flu. I loved Carolina – most of the happiness in my adult life comes from the well spring of Chapel Hill – but I definitely would have gone to Brown without the Morehead. I just didn’t know any better.

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  14. eric g.

    Some Brit royalty Morehead wisdom circa 1989: All we need to do is get some tapes, see, and people will dance, and we can save money on BANDS, see.
    I was just a lowly Johnston Scholar, which didn’t require an interview, so I’ve got nothing.
    Good luck, Hayley!

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