NSLI-Y Interview Tips & Advice

So I heard the big news. NSLI-Y Semifinalist notifications came out! I am so proud of everyone that received their notification, you worked so hard! And to the ones who did not, do not stress about it for more than a little while. There were a couple of people on my NSLI-Y program who didn’t make semis when first applying and then for their second time applying, they made it all the way to Seoul, South Korea! And if you are too old to apply again, there are a lot of other opportunities for college students to study abroad. Actually, CLS is a program just like NSLI-Y but for college students. Anyway, now that I got that out of the way, it is time to talk about the tips I have for the interview. I have been interviewed for NSLI-Y twice. Once during my freshman year of high school (For the 2015 Korean Summer Program) and then the second time was during my sophomore year of high school for the 2016 Korean Summer Program which I was accepted to. For the sake of the length of this blog post, this post will be about my tips and advice for the interview while my next post or so will be about both of my experiences with the NSLI-Y interview. (Both of them were very different from each other including the questions asked.) I will link that post here once it is posted.

Before The Interview~ 

Dress For Success

For the interview, I highly recommend that you dress professionally. Try to look your best. The majority of people I saw at the interviews (both times) were dressed nice. There was only one girl I saw that was wearing a t-shirt and dark jeans. Boys should probably wear suits with or without the suit jacket. Ties are not necessary but plain colors would be the best. Every guy I saw at the interview was wearing a nice button down shirt and a vest or tie. Girls, in my opinion, have more freedom when it comes to how they can dress. You can wear suit pants and a nice blouse, or a skirt, or a nice dress. Just make sure that the dress or skirt isn’t too short and that the blouses are modest and not too low cut.

For my first interview I wore a gray and black polka dotted dress with a long black cardigan. For my second interview, I wore a brown polka dotted blouse under a cream sweater and then a black skirt.

Prepare Yourself

If you aren’t 100% sure why you want to study abroad, you will not survive the interview. You have to be able to explain in concise sentences why you want to go and why you deserve the opportunity. If you left out anything in your essays, use the interview as a chance to get those things in. Interviewers will write down things that you say and your answers to required questions they have to ask you and so the evaluators will see what the interviewer writes. Also, prepare stories from your life that can act as examples of a time when you persevered through obstacles or were flexible in a hard situation. They will most likely ask questions about times when you showcased a certain trait that a person needs to have in order to have a good study abroad experience.

Probable Topics include

  1. Strengths
  2. Flexibility
  3. Leadership
  4. Willingness to try new things
  5. ability to cope with disappointment/ shattered expectations
  6. Problem-solving
  7. Teamwork

Arrive Early

It is important to arrive at an interview earlier than the time in the email. Some interviewers require you to fill out a questionnaire while others may have their interviewers ask for their interviewees early. I know at my interview they had alumni from NSLI-Y and AFS programs in the waiting area that chatted with us and answered our questions which helped my nerves. I would recommend arriving 20-30 minutes early. (Also, this can also help you in case you get lost driving to the location or experience car troubles.)


During The Interview~

  • Don’t stress! I know being calm and relaxed is a lot harder than simply saying it but if you stress yourself out, then you will overthink the questions and possibly make slips ups like talking too fast or stuttering. You don’t have to be a perfect speaker but you will come across better if you are calm. Remember the job of the interviewer is not to trip you up or try to disqualify you. The point of the interview is to make sure you can handle the opportunity and that you really want to learn a new language.
  • Don’t worry about sounding like an A paper. Interviewers will summarize what you say and so they won’t pay attention to your word choice. Focus on being calm and talking like you normally do (unless you talk in slang and text acronyms all day) rather than trying to speak in a manner to impress your high school English teacher.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer questions and get into a conversation. The interviewer will most likely write better things about you and remember you if you include them in the conversation. Most interviewers have had study abroad experiences. (During my first interview my interviewer studied abroad in Austria in high school and then in America during college. My second interviewer hosted several students in her lifetime and she had studied abroad in Spain during University.) Whether your interviewer seems to be a descendant of Scrooge or a grumpy granny, asking them questions will make your interview less of an “interview” and more like a conversation.
  • Be yourself AKA BE HONEST. Don’t lie about what extracurricular activities you do, how long you have studied the language or about an amazing event in your life that seems unbelievable. (Even if it did happen… maybe you should leave out the resourcefulness you showed when you saved your baby cousin from falling into a well in your backyard.) The interviewer will appreciate all kinds of people. They will want a chill, bookworm or an athletic AP student rather than a person trying very hard to be quirky and unique and just comes across as robotic.
  • Be confident! Smile and keep eye contact. Think before you respond to questions. They will not penalize if you take a minute to think of an appropriate answer. Do not rush. You got this.
  • Don’t be afraid to laugh. Cracking a few jokes at the interview will create a good environment that will make both you and the interviewer more comfortable. Don’t push it though. You don’t want to be too cheesy and look like you are trying too hard to be funny. Just be yourself like stated earlier.
  • Remember to thank your interviewer. They are taking time out of their day to help you out on your study abroad journey (hopefully) so make sure you let them know you appreciated the sacrifice they made to be here for you and the other semi-finalists. Just don’t be too much of a kiss up.

And now all you have left to do is wait. Some will find out in February (If you applied for Russian Summer or Hindi Summer you will probably find out that you were accepted late February or early March.) and others will find out in April. (All year programs will find out in April according to past years timelines.) My next post (maybe) will be about my interview experiences and I hope to put it up late next week. I want to get the post up before the majority of people have their interviews as I believe the majority are done during Christmas Break and in the month of January. Hopefully, it will give you an idea of how an actual interview is conducted (well how my interview was conducted). Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post. Hopefully, it helped and if this was all common sense… at least you feel more prepared reading this blog post right? I know before I had my first interview, I read all the blog posts and watched all the videos I could find on the subject of a NSLI-Y Interview.

  • Emma (엠마)

4 thoughts on “NSLI-Y Interview Tips & Advice

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