If you succeed in reaching the interview stage of the scholarship application process, be proud of yourself – this is a great achievement! This puts you in a group of final contenders for the award and means that the funding organization is keen to find out more about your plans for using the scholarship to achieve your academic dreams and career goals.
The idea of an interview can be stressful, and questions such as “What will they ask me?” and “What if I can’t think of anything to say?” are likely to be running around in your head. However, with the right preparation, the scholarship interview will be a breeze. Use this guide to ensure you understand the types of questions you will be asked and know the best way to answer the questions. It is essential to use this opportunity to make a good impression on the funding organization and share your aspirations with them.
A good structure to use when answering interview questions is similar to the writing of an essay. Think about a point you want to make, make that point concisely and clearly, and then back it up with evidence and examples.
Generally, in interviews, if the interviewer needs more information, he/she will ask for it. Therefore avoid waffling and talking at great length – if you do this, you will lose the clarity of the point you are making. Instead, be concise, and if the interviewer wants or needs additional information or details, they can ask for further clarification.
Find below the most common scholarship interview questions and our tips on how to answer them.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: This question is often used as a warm-up for candidates. By asking such an open-ended question, the interviewer is allowing you to start talking about an area for which you will have lots to say and feel comfortable – yourself! However, you still need to consider what the interviewer is looking for in this response.
They definitely don’t want to hear in detail about every key event that has happened in your life. Nor do they want you to take them through all of the information they can just as easily read on your resume. When answering this question, try to focus on something that distinguishes you from the other candidates – something that is going to stick in the brains of the interviewers once you have left the room and ensure that they remember you.
For instance, if you have a quirky hobby, such as rock climbing or building model boats or salsa dancing, share this and don’t be afraid to bring it into the conversation in a light-hearted way that also reveals some of your personality.
In addition, this question also provides an excellent time to highlight any particular skills, qualifications or achievements that you have in the field in which you wish to study. Just be careful, however, not to tell the interviewers everything of note in this section, or you will just end up repeating yourself for the remainder of the interview!
Q: What is your greatest strength/weakness
A: Watch out for this type of question! The interviewer isn’t genuinely asking what your biggest weakness is, and if you say “Sometimes I get very distracted and don’t complete my work on time” it is likely going to result in a big cross next to your name. Instead, what this question wants you to do is show that you are reflective and aware of yourself.
If you are asked about your strengths, think about your greatest achievement to date and think about what it was that you did or had that made that possible. For example, if you successfully organized and ran an art auction for charity, tell the interviewer about this and say which strengths you have that led to you successfully doing this, e.g. “This showed me that I am a very organized person” or “Through this, I saw that I was very successful in managing other people”. Use it as an opportunity to really show off, without just saying “I am great at…”.
If you are asked about a weakness, you need to find a way to take a weakness and turn it into a positive! For instance, you could say “Whilst I was organizing a charity art auction, I realized that I had focused so much on organizing the artists and curation of the art, I forgot to organize the catering until the last minute.
This shows me that in the future I should write a list at the very beginning to show every job that needs to be done, or delegate certain parts of the organizing to other people and not try to do it all myself!” Again, you are sharing about something awe-inspiring you did and are showing yourself to be self-aware in your reflection.
Q: Why do you deserve this scholarship?
A: Avoid answering this question with a discussion of your academic abilities. It is likely that most students who have reached this stage will have a very similar academic ability. Therefore, think of something else that makes you stand apart from the crowd and makes you more deserving of this money. Link your answer to your passion, enthusiasm and dedication, or something you have done so far that sets you apart. Try not to tug on the heartstrings of the interviewer by discussing how this is your only hope for attending university – even though it may be true, that, again, is likely to be the case for many applicants to the fund.
Q: How will you use the scholarship money?
A: Think carefully about your response to this question – the awarding committee is going to want to know that the money they gift is going to go to good use. It’s not enough to simply answer that you need the money to pay for college. You may want to prepare a budget that you can share in advance with the committee, and also let them know if you are applying for other scholarships – this shows a real dedication to securing funding to support your academic journey.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Another question to be careful with. Don’t tell them about your hopes for your living situation, what car you hope to drive or your dreams for your relationship status. Instead, focus on a response that shows you have clearly thought out the next steps ahead of you in relation to your academic studies and/or career. Try, as much as you can, to link your answer to the scholarship and how it will be helping you to achieve that goal (those goals). Showing that you have a rough idea of how long you will stay in college, what internships you would like to pursue and other projects and activities you can involve yourself in along the way to achieve this. It will all sound very impressive to the interviewer.
And one last tip – although I have referred to the interviewer (singular) throughout this article, don’t be surprised to walk in and be faced with a panel of interviewers! Don’t let this throw you. Remain calm and confident. You only need to make eye contact with the person who has asked you the question when you are responding.