How to Ace a Scholarship Interview

by Dr. Kelly S. Meier
Arrive 15 minutes early to the interview.

Interviewing for a scholarship is just like interviewing for a job. After all, money is at stake. Just the fact that you were invited for an interview is a positive sign. The committee wants to meet you and learn about the person described in the application. Remember, the selection process is subjective in nature. It is your job to convince them that you are the best choice for the award. Do everything you can to prepare and the interview process will be less intimidating.

Preparation

Review your original application and ask yourself questions that seem appropriate to the scholarship. The application and selection criteria should provide insight into the minimum requirements. They should also give you a hint about what might help you rise above the rest. For example, if community service is a plus, be ready to elaborate about some of your philanthropic contributions. Ask a friend, teacher or family member to interview you. If you can, video tape yourself so that you can study your verbal and nonverbal language. Practicing in advance will build confidence.

Appearance

First impressions make a difference. Wear something professional that will send a message that you are a serious student. Try on your clothes in advance and practice sitting and standing to ensure they are comfortable. Make sure both you and your clothing are clean. If you feel comfortable and confident in your outfit, it will show in the way your carry yourself. Don’t eat or drink in your wardrobe before the interview. Finally, be sure to check your nose, teeth and zipper!

Performance

You are mentally charged and dressed for success. Now, it is time to meet the decision makers. When you walk into the room, personally greet each committee member with a handshake and a smile. Don’t hold back your enthusiasm. Sit up straight in your chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Lean forward slightly to show your eagerness for the experience. Try to answer each question directly and avoid long-winded responses. Make eye contact with each judge, and reveal your passion for the sponsoring organization. Try to turn the interview into a two-way conversation. Building rapport will make the experience more enjoyable.

Close the Deal

When the interview is over, shake hands with each panelist and thank them for the opportunity to interview. Even if you feel insecure about your performance, exude confidence as you walk out of the room. Take inventory of what they asked you, and write some of the main points in a notebook. Even if you don’t get the scholarship, the interview is a learning experience. If you take the time to reflect, you will be even more prepared for future opportunities. Finally, write each panelist a thank you note and mail it right away. You may be the only candidate who initiates this gesture of gratitude, and that could make an important difference.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly S. Meier is a professor and college administrator for a large public institution in Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University and her master's degree and doctorate from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has published more than 15 books on education, group development and diversity.

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