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Scholarship Interview Questions – Impress and WOW the Judges

You’ve made it to the interview phase, so do your research and be prepared with these winning tips!

Scholarship Interview Questions - Impress the Judges

The scholarship interview is a way for the judges on the committee to find out more about the student, especially details that are not shared in the scholarship essay, resume, and/or application.

They are looking for the WHY that will help them choose the best student who they feel deserves their company or organization’s scholarship money.

If you or your student has been invited to a scholarship interview, congratulations! The committee made a choice for a reason, and the scholarship money is one step closer.

It will pay to learn what is expected in a scholarship interview and be as prepared as possible to answer the most common questions.

Just like the extensive research that is found in the How to Win College Scholarships ebooks, learning how to WOW the judges in a scholarship interview is just plain SMART.

Students, first and foremost, SMILE!

Remember, there was a special reason that made you stand out from the rest of the applicants, so try to relax and give the judges more of what made them choose you in the first place.

Here are many common scholarship interview questions.

Get ready and prepared to further impress the judges with your answers by knowing ahead of time what you will share. Be sure to spend a little extra time becoming familiar with the organization that chose you and know what they value. Find their mission statement and use it wisely. Learn how to do this here: College Scholarship Tip: Love the Provider.

Please tell us about yourself. 

Sharing some of the information that is found on the scholarship application is fine, then give them something new. Something quirky and memorable that shows personality and highlights a specific strength will set you apart immediately.

What was the last book you read?

This was an actual question on one of my son’s scholarship interviews! Have your answer ready, along with why you chose that book and something that you like about it. Also popular is asking students about their favorite songs or movies.

What is your favorite class or subject in school?

Get very specific here. If math is your favorite subject, share how solving calculus problems in Mr. Smith’s class is a challenge and working through every single problem in your homework really gets your blood going. Also, think about the theme of the scholarship. If it is engineering, math is a great choice (if you truly love it). Art-themed scholarship? Art class! Describe something you have created and how it made you feel while working on it.

[Be sure to readThe Secrets for Dressing for College Scholarship Success]

What are your future goals?

Aim high and be truthful. Give them the goals and the why behind them. Share a true story that helped you choose your path and what you are planning on doing to get there.

How to dress for college scholarship success - the scholarship interview

Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

Keep your answers filled with confidence. Instead of saying, “I hope to be in medical school” or “Maybe I will be a full-time engineer,” say something like, “I will be a 2nd-year medical resident at [insert dream school] university” or “I will be working for [insert dream job] engineering firm designing robotic arms for people who have lost limbs.” The key here is to be able to show how you can be of service to others as a result of your hard work and perseverance.

How will you use this scholarship money?

To help pay for college is the typical answer, but go a step further and share true numbers. For example, “This $1000 scholarship award will pay for all of my textbooks for an entire year and bring me one step closer to my dream of becoming a teacher”.

What is your greatest strength? Weakness?

Be proud of what you have accomplished so far, and point out the specific strength that helped you do it. Be honest about a particular weakness (something you are actively trying to overcome) and think about the theme of the essay. If it is volunteer-based, don’t talk about how you wish you had more time to help people. Rather, share how time management is something you struggle with but how it has not hindered your ability to juggle school and your community service commitments.

Who is your role model, and why are they important to you?

This is a person you look up to and whose values you hold dear. Tell the judges a story of an interaction with this person that meant a lot to you, or if it is a historical figure or someone you haven’t actually met, explain why you chose this special person.

Why should we choose you to receive our scholarship money?

Remember, they have already picked you out of hundreds, and possibly thousands, of applicants and acknowledge that fact humbly. Now share how you have a clear plan to reach your goals and how the scholarship money would be a big step in helping you achieve them. If there is a personal connection that you have with the company or organization, this is the time to share it. (*See the true story below)

[You may also like to readOne Simple Rule to Win More College Scholarships]

What obstacles have you overcome?

Don’t feel like you have had to discover the cure for cancer for this question. The committee simply wants to know how you handle adversity. Think about a time in your life when you felt overwhelmed but dug deep and persevered. Don’t tell a sob story, but do use your true emotions when sharing your feelings. Avoid common obstacles such as trying to get good grades or writing so many scholarship essays that you thought your head would explode. <wink>

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If you had a free day to do anything at all, what would you do?

This one could easily stump you, so think about it and have your answer ready. Always remember the theme of the scholarship and the organization’s mission and weave them into your answer if at all possible. Make the judges laugh with something quirky and unexpected! A similar question is, “Describe your last 24 hours.”

What questions do you have for me/us?

Have questions ready. An example would be, “Do you have any advice for me as I begin my college journey?” Another good one is to ask about something you learned in the interview about one of the judges, such as, “As a former scholarship recipient yourself, how did the money make a difference in your career?”

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Is there anything else you would like to share with me/us?

This is the time to share something you want the judges to know, but the opportunity did not come up as the previous questions were asked and answered. Be sure to thank them for the opportunity to be their chosen scholarship winner, and SMILE, they have narrowed down their choices and want to help a student like you succeed.

Make sure you send a handwritten thank you note with a memory shared from the interview the very next day. Little things like this are very impressive, memorable, and appreciated!

Many scholarship interviews are conducted remotely via applications such as Zoom.

Here are important tips to keep your virtual interview running smoothly and as distraction-free as possible.

  • Dress to impress and not just from the waist up
  • Use a strong internet connection
  • Look into the camera, and don’t forget to smile often
  • Choose an uncluttered background
  • Use a room with lots of natural light
  • Make sure your surroundings are quiet
  • Keep your phone on silent and out of the room completely
  • Know how to use the mute button
  • Have notes beside you organized and ready
  • Use a computer or laptop instead of a cell phone
  • Make sure your device is fully charged and the Zoom app updated
  • Close all windows on your computer to avoid notification sounds and alerts
  • Let your family know about your interview to avoid extra noise, distractions, and a weaker internet signal
  • Be familiar with how Zoom works by entering a test meeting within the app

*True story:  I know of a student, ok, total honesty here, one of my own sons, who was selected for a big national scholarship and made it all the way to the scholarship interview. This was back in 2009, and we had to drive four hours to get to the location for the interview. Because it was early on in my scholarship research, I did not make it clear enough to him how important it was to share a personal story that tied him to the theme of the scholarship.

It was the Ronald McDonald Scholarship, and his essay was about how his parents actually stayed in a Ronald McDonald House several times when he was younger, and he would visit while his little brother was hospitalized multiple times.

He did not bring it up once in his interview and was ultimately NOT awarded the scholarship.

I don’t know for sure if this would have swayed the judges more in his favor, but I will always wonder and wish that he had mentioned it. Lesson learned! (Don’t worry, though; he went on to win over $100,000 in scholarships! Find out how he did it right here.)

Do you have any scholarship interview questions to add?

Please leave a comment and share your experience to help students win as many scholarships for college as possible. That’s what I’m all about!

Heather from our Scholarship Help and College Talk for Parents group on Facebook adds:

A couple that my daughter wasn’t expecting…

Speak about a current event

What is the biggest challenge facing teens today?

Students, think about those scholarship interview questions and have answers ready.

Also, an extremely important tip is what Leigh Anne (another parent and former scholarship judge) shares:

I used to be on the panel for scholarships at a university. Make sure all social media is on point. They really look at that, especially if they have a tie.

Having clean and impressive social media accounts is vital for scholarships, internships, and job interviews.

A few more interesting scholarship interview questions from members of the group that might surprise you (and your student!):

What kind of tree would you be, and why?

What is your favorite kind of cereal, and why?

If you had to choose a personal theme song, what would it be?

What mistakes have you made?

What are your thoughts on AI? (Artifical Intelligence, ethics of use and implications on the future)

If you could be a superhero, which one would it be and why?

What is your superpower?

If you had a brand slogan – what would it be?

Good luck with your scholarship interviews!!! Monica Matthews

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