Archive for April, 2016

Daniela Estrada, Truman Scholarship Winner: Application and Interview Process

Applying for the Truman has been an amazing experience. Prior to receiving notice that I was a Truman Scholar, I was already beyond grateful for all that I had learned throughout the process, which helped me grow significantly. This scholarship made me address very specific questions about my future in public service and ultimately made me more dedicated towards being a public servant and more confident in my ability to achieve my academic and career goals. Having gone through this process, I feel a lot more certain about what I want to do in the future and more importantly why I want to do it.

 The Truman Scholarship Application

After my professor told me about my nomination for the Truman Scholarship, I remember looking over the application and thinking twice over whether I was going to apply or not. The application is daunting at first. There are a lot questions and to make matters worse, they are really specific. The application requires you to sit and think critically about your goals, interests, and passions. The recognition and rewards of this scholarship are so high, I knew I had to apply.

You are required to start the application process months before it is due. The long process gave me ample opportunity to revise my application. I have never revised any of my writing this much before! The SOP office was extremely helpful at guiding me through the application by giving me suggestions as to how I could make my application stronger. All the time and editing paid off because I became a finalist.

Becoming a Truman Finalist

A couple weeks after turning in my final application, I was notified via email that I became a finalist. I was extremely excited and because the finalist interviews were a couple weeks away, the SOP office arranged mock interviews right away to help me prepare. I had two mock interviews.

I have to admit that my mock interviews were a lot tougher than the real one, mainly because the mock panel asked me questions regarding a variety of issues that did not necessarily pertain to issues I addressed in my application, while the Truman panel focused on issues only addressed in my application. I know that other Truman finalists were not as lucky. Many got questions regarding issues that they were unfamiliar with and that their application never addressed. The mock interview was especially helpful in preparing me to answer questions regarding how I would fund and enforce my policy proposal. The Truman panel grilled me on both of these questions and I was glad I was prepared with an answer.

Overall, I think after dedicating so many hours to preparing for the interview, the best advice I can give to others is to be confident and to know that the Truman panel does not expect you to be an expert. I definitely over studied, believing that I had to know everything there was to know about my policy proposal. Obviously it is essential to do your research, but it is also important to know they do not expect you to be an expert.

Truman Scholarship Dinner:

The night before the interview, I attended a dinner organized by past Truman Scholars for Truman Finalists. Both Truman Finalist and past Truman Scholarship winners attended the dinner. I was so glad I decided to attend; it was a great way to relax before the interview and to get advice from past winners. The dinner was optional, but highly encouraged.  There was about eight Truman Scholars that attended and almost all of the Truman finalists attended. It was a really casual setting and really fun.

I took this opportunity to socialize with Truman finalists. Everyone was a lot more at ease than the day of the interview, so we were able to chat more freely. The day of the interview, I did notice that those who attended the dinner seemed a lot less nervous than those who didn’t.

At the dinner, I also got great advice from past winners. Most of the Scholars were from 2006, but they still vividly remembered their interviews. They gave really sound advice that made me feel a lot less intimidated and more relaxed about the interview the next day. Many of them expressed how they did not have a perfect interview. One Scholar even recalled not being able to answer the first question asked and simply answering “I don’t know.” But they all stressed being confident and genuine. They spoke about the judges playing devil’s advocate and advised that you must defend your proposal with conviction.

Truman Interview:

The interview took place at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco. When I arrived, I met up with the other finalists, we were given a nametag, and we were escorted to the room where we would spend the next eight hours or so. They placed us in a medium sized conference room and they provided snacks and beverages. Shortly after we were escorted to the conference room, the judges came in and introduced themselves. The interviews started immediately after. The order of the interviews was already predetermined. The judges gave us our interview times right after they introduced themselves. The judges themselves strongly recommended everyone to enjoy the process and get to know each other. For those eight hours I got to chat with the other finalists, which was extremely enjoyable. Most of us looked over our notes before our interview, but for the most part we were all chatting the entire time.

Editor’s Note: Daniela has graciously provided more details about the interview to SOP staff. UCI undergraduates who are interested in applying for the Truman Scholarship may contact the Scholarship Opportunities Program at to register their interest and learn more about our past winner and finalist experiences.”

Becoming a Truman Scholar:

Becoming a Truman Scholar was so unbelievable. I am overjoyed with excitement over what the future holds because I know that I can gain so much knowledge and opportunities from this scholarship. As of now, I look forward to the Truman Scholar Leadership Week held in Missouri which I will attend in May.

Truman finalist photo for blog

The 13 California Finalists. Photo was taken after the interviews at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco.