Most college scholarships don’t require an interview, but when they do, the scholarship interview carries a lot of weight in the selection process. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind to help you crush your college scholarship interview.
- Create a list of all of your extracurricular activities, accolades, and academic achievements, as well as your hobbies, career goals, volunteer history, and personal values
- Practice your answers
- Film your practice so you can note areas of weakness, such as
- Brush your teeth
- Shave, or if you have a beard, trim and groom it so it looks neat and professional
- Don’t over-caffeinate. If you normally drink a cup of coffee in the morning, that’s fine, but if not, don’t pick today to start. It may make you more jittery, and will make you need to visit the restroom more frequently.
- Remember to avoid carbonated beverages as well. (No one wants to hear you burp during an interview.)
- Dress to impress with your scholarship interview attire
Tip: We all love our own personal style, but it’s not always appropriate to flaunt it, and it may distract the interviewer. You want them to focus on you and why you deserve the scholarship. Pretend you’re interviewing for a job on Wall Street. That’s the outfit you should be wearing.
Don’t be late. That said, don’t show up more than 10 minutes early. They have a scheduled time for you and showing up too early can be an inconvenience.
If they offer you a beverage, feel free to accept a glass of water. It can be helpful if you tend to get a dry throat in situations that make you nervous – but don’t chug it!
Pay attention when the interviewer tells you their name. If you use it soon after the introduction to address them, it can help you remember. Err on the side of formality and refer to them as Mrs., Ms., Mr., Dr., or Prof., with their last name unless otherwise instructed (i.e., if you’re interviewing with Dr. Jane Smith, refer to her as “Dr. Smith” unless she requests you call her Jane).
Always have a few relevant questions prepared. Keep the questions professional. Some examples include: “Why did you get into this field? What are the most important challenges facing newcomers to the field? What advice would you offer someone in my position?” This gives them a chance to talk about themselves (which most people love), and gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your strong listening skills.
If it seems appropriate, ask for business cards from your interviewers. This is helpful for remembering names later and provides you with contact information for a personalized, handwritten thank you note. That’s right, we said handwritten. The extra effort can make you stand out in the field of candidates.
Don’t be afraid to take a brief pause before answering. Later on, if you need a little additional time to respond to a question, it won’t seem odd.
Most interviewers want to have a conversation, not conduct an interrogation, but some will try to challenge you to see how you respond in uncomfortable situations. They may interrupt you, criticize your response, or deliberately ask you a question they think you will have difficulty answering.
Don’t get flustered. Remain calm and retain your composure.
Try to respond with more than just a yes or a no. This helps to keep things conversational and allows the scholarship interview to progress naturally. A complete answer carries a lot more weight, and helps keep the conversation moving.
Most interviewers have a lot of experience interviewing candidates. If you don’t have an answer for a specific question, it is okay to say “I don’t know.” If you try to bluff your way through the answer, it will probably be obvious.
Tip: Keep your answers positive. This will encourage the interviewer to write a more positive assessment of you.
Using technology to keep the cost down is a pretty common occurrence. Here are a few things to keep in mind if your interview is not in person.
Have your phone or laptop set up in a room where you know there will not be background noise or distractions.
Make sure your webcam image is clean and clear. Do a test to ensure there’s not gunk on the lens.
Position your webcam so that it is eye-level. It can be helpful to position the video window of the interviewer in a location that allows you to keep your eyes in the same location. You want to establish a sense of eye contact with the interviewer.
Avoid using a speaker phone, if possible. This can sometimes be problematic for the person on the other end.
Take advantage of the situation to have some notes handy to help you jog your memory. If it’s a webcam interview, tape the notes in front you where they can’t see them. Don’t script out your answers, though - that will be obvious.
It may seem like a lot of formality, but following these tips will help you make a positive and lasting impression, and place you in more competitive standing to win the scholarship!