Acing Scholarship Interviews
Many of the large, more specific and prestigious scholarships will require an interview before any awards are given. In addition to a detailed application, an impressive essay and letters of recommendation, the scholarship board will want a chance to meet with you personally to assess your character and personality. Application judges want to determine that the application fits the applicant, and that you are a prime candidate for the scholarship that is being awarded. These interviews are conducted for academic, merit-based scholarships in which a substantial amount of money hangs in the balance.
Preparing for these interviews can be stressful. Students unused to the interview process may find the prospect daunting, but there are some basic tips and skill sets that will help you prepare for a successful meeting with the scholarship review board
Have Someone Interview You
Practice interviews are a good way to hone your skills before you face the scholarship review board itself. Have a family member, friend or trusted teacher walk you through a mock interview, asking the type of questions you will be given during the actual interview process. Some of the common topics you will be asked to address in your scholarship interview include:
- What is your biggest academic achievement?
- What extracurricular activities do you take part in?
- What large obstacles have you overcome, and how?
- What are some awards that you have won?
- What are your professional goals following graduation?
- How do you see yourself using your degree?
Be On Time
This can not be stressed enough. The review boards first impression of any applicant can color any subsequent interview. Being late to the interview only shows a lack of respect for the interviewer, and a lack of interest in the scholarship being offered. Allow plenty of extra time to arrive at your interview, and try to be a few minutes early. Professionalism is the key.
Be Conscious of Your Behavior
Interviews of any kind can be nerve wracking, but it is important to appear calm and self possessed while speaking with the review board. Try not to fidget or appear nervous. Sitting still, making eye contact and maintaining good posture gives you the appearance of a calm, collected and professional student. Be confident in your answers, avoid sounding indecisive and speak clearly and to the point when answering the questions that are put to you.
First impressions are important, and as the saying goes “you don't get a second chance”. Dress presentably for all of your interviews. While it is not necessary to dress formally, semi-formal attire is appropriate for all scholarship and college board interviews. Men should consider slacks and a dress shirt, or even a suit and tie, and should be well groomed and professional looking. Female students may want to opt for a dress or business style suit when attending their interviews. The important thing here is to appear professional, able and earnest.
Beyond being aware of your posture and your appearance, be conscious of what you say. Be clear and concise in your answers to the interviewer, and avoid wavering from the point. A rambling interviewee may seem charming, but he or she does not impress the review board. Stay focused, and keep your answers pertinent and on topic.
If you find yourself without a satisfactory answer to a question, don't try to bluff your way through. Ask for clarification, or simply be honest and say you do not know. Interviewers prefer and honest interviewee who is aware of their own knowledge over someone who attempts to bluff or deceive. Above all be cordial, attentive and answer the questions clearly and concisely.
Ask a Few Questions
Don't be afraid to ask questions during the interview process. Inquire about the company sponsoring the scholarship, or ask about particulars regarding the scholarship itself. Being able to engage the interviewer with questions of your own shows that you are prepared and comfortable, and highlights your interest in the award and in your ultimate college career.
It is nonsense to tell students to relax during their scholarship interviews. It is a nerve wracking process, and much hangs in the balance. But interviewers understand, and expect a certain level of nervousness on the part of scholarship applicants. As long as you are well prepared for your interview, the battle is half way won. Remember, not every applicant gets to the interview process. Your application, essay and student history were impressive enough to get you this far. That should help boost your confidence when the time comes for your scholarship interview to begin.