How Yale Guided Me to the Rhodes Scholarship

Aminé securing his bag, just as Yale helped me to do!

Even if I wished that Yale could last forever, it sadly cannot. Eventually, one does have to prepare for life after Yale, which can be a very daunting task. After all, I’m in no rush to begin “adulting”, whatever that means. So, last fall I found myself meeting with the Yale Fellowships Office, a decision that (no joke) would end up changing my life forever.

A man professing his love.
Me anytime I get to talk about the Fellowships office

The Yale Fellowships and Funding office has one main responsibility: to connect Yale students and alumni with funding opportunities for postgraduate education, research, and work. I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy free things, so it seemed like a great place to start when thinking about life after graduation. I scheduled a meeting with the advisor for the Truman Scholarship, a postgraduate scholarship for current juniors interested in a career in public service.

The meeting was pretty straightforward, and extremely helpful — the advisor walked me through the application timeline, offered some guidance on finding recommenders, and gave me general advice on balancing the application with all of my other work. Later in the semester, she read over my essay drafts and returned them with comments. When I was offered an interview to receive Yale’s nomination for the scholarship, she even conducted a practice interview with me. Even though I didn’t end up getting nominated, the entire application process gave me a more specific idea of my educational and career goals after graduation.

So, I was ready for this past summer, when I began applying for another round of postgraduate scholarships. I was interested in the Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright Scholarships, all of which can fund postgraduate study in the United Kingdom. If you choose to pursue these opportunities, remember the name “Rebekah Westphal”, as she will be your guiding light throughout the entire process. Rebekah advises all applicants to UK scholarships, and I think we’ve met no less than 7 times over the last year or so. Our early meetings were spaces for us to work through my motivations for applying for specific scholarships, finding the best fits for my career plans.

A fish holding up a heart.
Rebekah, if you see this, I appreciate you endlessly

After I was lucky enough to receive Yale’s nomination to apply for the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, I received comprehensive notes on my Marshall application (the Rhodes Trust doesn’t allow you to seek feedback on your personal statement). And, after I was selected as a Rhodes finalist, the Fellowships office set up a mock interview panel for me to practice ahead of the real thing. The practice interview was thoughtful and rigorous, and I walked out of it much more confident (if a little shaken up). Plus, my panel gave me extremely detailed feedback, and they were warm and encouraging the entire time.

So, when it came time for my actual Rhodes interview, I felt as prepared as I could be. In fact, I think my nervous sweating was down at least 50%, which was a huge victory. The year I spent working with the Fellowships office left me more confident and self-assured in my goals, and (I think) I was able to communicate this in my interview. So, I certainly cannot take the lion’s share of credit for being selected as a Rhodes Scholar earlier this month — I owe a great deal of that to my family, friends, mentors, and of course the Yale Fellowships Office.