If you have applied for a lot of scholarships, you likely have a few interviews lined up. While attending an interview can be slightly intimidating, there is no need to be alarmed. If you want to win those coveted awards, you need to know what to expect so you can put yourself in the best position for success. The best way to do that is through thorough preparation, and that’s where this article comes in.
If you’ve never gone to a scholarship interview, our list of helpful tips can help you get through the entire process without a hitch.
While it’s always a good thing to be yourself, you should also put in some preparation for the interview. This way, it won’t seem like such a mystery to you. There is a lot of advice floating around about scholarship interviews, but the most crucial part of them is to be ready.
Here are our top suggestions for making the most of the experience:
1. Do Your Preliminary Research
The research you conduct will vary according to each scholarship you are applying for, but should generally begin with a couple of basics:
The Requirements of the Scholarship
Scholarships can be quite competitive, and if you have been chosen to appear at an interview, this means your application stood out in some way. You will want a thorough understanding of what each committee is looking for. Most prefer students who have excelled not only in academics but in extracurricular activities as well. Be sure you understand upfront what the specific requirements are for each scholarship so you can have any necessary paperwork and documents ready.
A Thorough Understanding of the Organization
You want to go into a scholarship interview just as you would for a job interview—with a good understanding of what the organization itself is all about. Take the time to look at the webpage of the company or group and find out about their activities and mission statement. Make sure their values and priorities are in alignment with your own.
Pay attention to any recent company news or press releases so you can display that you have some knowledge about the organization as a whole. Check out the LinkedIn profiles of key company players so you have some idea of who you may be meeting with when the time comes.
2. Prepare for The Interview
For some scholarships, the interview will be held locally. However, more high-dollar scholarships may require you to travel to a company headquarters for the interview. Many organizations will offer travel grants, but some will not. You will want to make sure you can afford to attend the interview if it is away from home. If attending a meeting is out our reach financially, let the organization know. You never know. There may be some limited funds available to help, especially if they are very interested in you as a candidate.
The circumstances of the interview itself can vary quite a bit. Small organizations may have you meeting with one individual for an hour or so who will get to know you better. More substantial scholarships might require you to meet with a committee of several people over the day. No matter what format an organization uses, you will generally know far in advance how long you should expect to be there and who you will be meeting with.
3. Practice Your Answers to Key Questions
You will likely be asked many questions during the interview, so you should practice answering well ahead of time. Enlist a friend, family member, or teacher to help you conduct a mock interview, where you will answer questions similar to what will be asked during the interview. It can be hard to know what the committee or individual is going to ask, but coming prepared to answer some of the following questions is a good start:
What are your favorite extracurricular activities, and why?
What do you consider your biggest achievement when it comes to academics?
What are your career goals for after graduation?
How do you want to use your degree to make the world a better place?
What are some personal obstacles you have overcome?
4. Have Your Portfolio Ready
Many scholarships have an artistic component to them. If the scholarship you are applying for requires you to submit a portfolio, make sure you have your best work ready and available for viewing.
Artists and creatives may need to submit physical copies of their work, and at times the committee may want digital copies or CDs. They may even want to see links to an online portfolio, so be sure to have all these things prepared. Generally, a dozen of your best pieces will be enough, and you should choose them carefully. Pay attention to precisely what is being requested. If the committee wants to see your work with a specific medium, make sure that that is exactly what you submit.
5. Come With Your Own List of Questions
During the interview, it’s perfectly acceptable and even preferred to ask questions about the organization or company offering the scholarship. Not only will this help you get a better idea of what is expected of you, but it can help demonstrate that you are interested and curious about what the organization stands for.
Inquiring about the organization’s goals in offering the scholarship or asking how you can help them achieve their core mission shows initiative and motivation. You might want to ask if they provide help after graduation with things like job placement, or if you will get a mentor to guide you.
6. Follow Up
At the completion of the interview, You will want to do what has hopefully become a familiar ritual by now—follow up appropriately.
You should send a thank you email to each interviewer or committee member, but it’s also worth noting that a handwritten thank-you is more memorable. Make sure you have all the contact information you need for each connection at the end of your interview. Don’t wait too long to reach out. It’s best to make contact within a day or two of the meeting so you remain fresh in the minds of those who will be making the final decision about the scholarship.
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