While those of you seeking a scholarship for post-grad work have likely had some previous experience in this department, for jobs and colleges, many college-bound applicants may be facing their first encounter with what is an understandable source of anxiety: the interview. Interviews can be a nerve-wracking ordeal for everyone — from high-schoolers on up to corporate executives. After having virtually unlimited time to answer questions in the application, you're forced to think on your feet while smiling and sitting up straight — all in the presence of a member of the scholarship board.
Scholarship interview questions can be a big source of stress. Trying to anticipate what you’ll be asked and how best to answer scholarship interview questions is a critical part of successfully winning a scholarship or grant. In order to help you in the process of getting a scholarship, we have compiled a guide to common scholarship interview questions.
Read on to find out some of the more common scholarship interview questions and learn scholarship interview tips to help you tackle them.
Preparing for Scholarship Interview Questions
One of the most important things about interviewing is anticipation, because it's anticipation that will save you the squirm-in-the-seat agony of trying to answer a totally unexpected question. Before going to the interview, prepare basic answers to common scholarship interview questions. Be ready to answer some of these types of college scholarship interview questions:
1. Tell Us About Yourself
By far, this is the most common scholarship interview question that you’ll encounter. It may seem easy on the surface, but most scholarship programs want you to answer it in a certain way. Don’t approach this question as though you’re giving a full biography of your life. Instead, focus on your achievements, skills, experiences, and personality traits that are related to why you’ll make an ideal candidate for the scholarship you’re pursuing. One of the best scholarship interview tips for answering this question is to approach it like you would a college essay prompt. Construct your answer to cover the following areas:
Your long-term goal(s)
Your short-term goal(s)
Your achievements that relate to your goals
This is a good place to provide a brief overview of your personal history in terms of education, employment, and extracurricular activities.
2. Are You Involved in Any Activities at Your School or in Your Community?
This is one of the more typical interview questions for scholarships that you’ll encounter. Often, the scholarship board is trying to find out, not only if you’ve taken part in extracurricular activities and programs, but also if you display any leadership qualities in the process. Thus, when answering this common scholarship interview question, focus on aspects of your activities in which you demonstrated leadership. This can be in the form of starting a program or organization, showing that you served a managerial role in terms of people and projects, demonstrating that you helped grow an organization you joined, or how you helped contribute to the community. Be sure to denote specific, tangible ways you showed leadership in whatever activities or organizations you are involved with — don’t be vague.
3. What Is Your Greatest Strength?
This is a question often asked in job interviews and is one of the most common scholarship interview questions you may face. By securing a scholarship interview, you have already shown the scholarship board that you’re worthy of being considered. And this question is a good place to really show off your best qualities. If you’re an exceptionally good math student, this is where you can spell out how strong your skills are in the field, your strategies for being such a good math student, and ways in which you helped others improve their abilities, such as being a tutor to fellow math students. Once again, demonstrating leadership adds a lot to simply laying out how good you are at a certain subject.
4. What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
Once again, this question is very common during job interviews. It’s also one of the most common scholarship interview questions asked by scholarship boards. This question is best approached with honesty — highlighting a specific weakness of yours — as well as the ways in which you have either overcome this weakness or are actively working on improving on it. An unfortunately common, and not helpful, answer to this question is saying that your weakness is being a perfectionist; likely every scholarship board has heard this answer and knows that it’s a cop-out. Instead, be honest about your greatest weakness and show the board how you’ve overcome this weakness through concrete examples of working on it.
5. Why Do You Deserve this Scholarship?
This is one of the most important, and common, scholarship interview questions. Don’t get too inside your own head about this question, which could lead to you doubting that you truly deserve the scholarship. Instead, construct an answer that includes concrete reasons why you chose this scholarship specifically. Thus, do not focus on facts like your GPA meets the scholarship’s requirements or that this particular scholarship is the key to going to your most desired school. Rather, acknowledge that though there are tons of applicants who deserve this scholarship, your specific experiences and values align with the objectives of the scholarship, and how being awarded the scholarship will further your short- and long-term goals (mentioned in response to the first question).
6. What Is Something About Yourself No One Else Knows
Despite the wording of this question, this does not want to answer it with a dark secret you’ve been hiding from everyone. Instead, this common scholarship interview question provides an opportunity to highlight a piece of information that really represents you in the best light possible. Your answer shouldn’t be a secret, but something that’s interesting or unique about you personally or your personal experiences that sets you apart from other people, especially other scholarship applicants. Your answer to this question shouldn’t be too personal, but focus on a hobby, talent, interest, or achievement that isn’t common among most people.
7. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
Again, one of the most common scholarship interview questions is also extremely common for job interviews. It is understandable if you haven’t constructed a complete roadmap for your entire life. This question, instead, is more about if you have a general scheme for what you plan to pursue and how you plan to carry it out. Some scholarship interview tips to answer this question is to figure out — ahead of time — what you plan to accomplish while you’re in college, what you plan to do after graduation, and link these plans back to your goals, experiences, and values you may have already laid out in previous scholarship interview questions.
8. What Are Your Career Goals?
For a scholarship interview question like this, you should plan your answer to be in line with how you’ve answered questions about “where do you see yourself in five years?” and “why do you deserve this scholarship?”. The point of this scholarship interview question is to gauge whether or not you have worked out some kind of plan for your life after college. One of the best scholarship interview tips for this question is to link getting the scholarship to getting closer to your career goals. Conveying what your career goals are to the scholarship board helps provide it with your concrete long-term and short-term goals, and how winning the scholarship directly relates to your career path after college.
9. How Would You Describe Yourself?
Though this may sound like a retread of the first question in our list, this question is more about highlighting qualities that will make you an asset to the scholarship organization and colleges you’re applying to. For instance, if you are someone who has created their own organization or extra-curricular activity, then you can describe yourself as an innovator and leader. If you’re someone who has improved dramatically in a certain subject, you can describe yourself as an overcomer-of-obstacles. If you’ve worked at a company or played on an athletic team, then you can highlight yourself as a team player, and ideally also, a leader. There are many ways to answer this question, but you should try and condense various achievements and personality traits into one coherent answer.
10. What Is/Are Your Greatest Achievement(s)
Another one of the most common scholarship interview questions, this one is a great place to really brag about something you accomplished. Ideally, whatever achievement you highlight should both make you seem unique and relate to the scholarship you’re applying for. Achievements to single out can be things like winning an academic award, leading a sports team to a championship, creating and growing a club or organization, establishing and growing your own business, becoming the president of an organization, graduating as valedictorian, or helping lead fellow students to success in some way. Again, if you can tie your greatest accomplishment directly to the principles or goals of the scholarship, the better your chances of giving the best answer.
11. Who Is Your Role Model?
The main point of this common scholarship interview question is not to focus on your role model. The point of it is to demonstrate which qualities and values you admire. It wants to find out who has inspired you or shaped your interests, making you the person you are today. Thus, who you say your role model is can be anyone, whether it’s a well-known public figure or historical person, an impactful teacher or mentor, or even a family member. By explaining who your role model is and why, you can display what interests and values you hold most dear. And you can use it to tie back once again to the specific values and purposes of the scholarship you want.
12. Tell Me About a Mistake You’ve Made
Like many common scholarship interview questions, this is related in some ways to other questions, like “what is your greatest weakness?”. The main point here is to make sure the scholarship applicant is aware of their own flaws. Since no one is perfect, not having a ready answer to this question could be a red flag. In anticipation of this question, you should identify a mistake you’ve made and then articulate how you learned from it. Demonstrating your capacity for growth and learning from failures is the most important part of answering this common interview question for scholarships. Introspection is a very important trait and a marker of maturity.
13. What Is Your Favorite Book and Why?
In terms of what this scholarship interview question is trying to figure out is similar to the question about your role model. The book you answer with is less important than why this particular book appeals to you personally and how it has contributed to your success. Once again, if you can choose a book that links your answer to your overall goals and the purpose of the scholarship, then you’ve got an ideal answer for the scholarship board.
14. Why Are You Choosing this School?
This is one of the more common scholarship interview questions when it concerns a scholarship that’s specific to a certain college you’re applying to. Fortunately, you probably didn’t just choose this college at random. There’s likely a good reason you’re choosing to apply to whatever college the scholarship is for. Thus, this can be one of the easier scholarship interview questions to plan for and answer. Don’t say something simple like one of your family members went to the school. Instead, highlight why you’re passionate about wanting to go to your college of choice. Emphasize your desire to specifically attain a degree at your chosen college. And connect attending this college to your long-term personal goals and career goals.
15. Do You Have Questions for Me or Anything to Add?
It is crucial that you do not answer this question with a blithe “no, not really.” As with many of the other common scholarship interview questions, this one is also very common at the end of job interviews. It is a great question for you to show your strong interest in both the scholarship program and the school you want to attend. Come ready for this question with incisive questions about the details of the scholarship program, about what other students have said is the best part of the program, about what previous winners of the scholarships have gone on to do, and similar questions. If asked if you have anything to add, provide an answer that wasn’t covered in previous questions that emphasize why you’re most deserving of this scholarship.
The Bottom Line on Scholarship Interview Questions
When it comes to the actual day for the scholarship interview, make sure you arrive punctually. Make sure you dress appropriately, namely, formal or semi-formal attire. Always be sure to make eye contact, sit up straight, and give a firm handshake. Try and answer all questions as briefly and candidly as propriety allows. And definitely avoid rambling. If you've prepared sufficiently, the answers will already be on the tip of your tongue. If you're confused by a question, don't hesitate to ask the interviewer to clarify. It certainly beats a grasping, directionless response. Always be positive and enthusiastic about the scholarship and about your own future. Afterwards, get the name of the interviewer, and send along a thank you note, mentioning something discussed casually in the interview, to help keep your face with your name in the mind of the interviewer.