By now you have likely applied to a lot of scholarships. Some will reply with good news and some may not give you the news you want. But what about when they ask to do an interview? 🤔
Your nerves may be going crazy and your stomach could be starting to turn cartwheels. For years I advised students on how to prepare for job interviews and have taken my favorite tips and adapted them to help you with your scholarship interviews.
#1 Know what you are up against
It surprises me how little students know about who they are talking with on interviews. This is going to take a little bit of your time but you should be able to Google the organization giving away the scholarship. That way you know why they are giving away the money, their mission, and how it relates to your history.
The best interviewees will take it a step further and research the individual doing the interview. Don’t be creepy about it. I was on an interview once and was asked what my favorite memory was in college. I knew where the guy went to school and that he was a big basketball fan. Turned out my alma mater beat his school’s arch rival so my response was “watching my Rams beat the Spartans.” It sparked some off-script conversation that would help separate me from the other candidates.
#2 Prepare for the expected and unexpected
Let’s piggyback the first tip with making sure you practice. “Tell us about yourself,” “what are your strengths,” “why should you get this scholarship” are all typical types of questions that you need to be ready for. Use what you learned in your research to craft responses that relate to their mission and goals but also accurately reflects your personality and experience.
Take time to prepare for less-common questions. While you may not get asked “if you could be any animal in the ocean what would you be,” preparing for how you will answer this will help you think on your feet better. Sometimes how you act when replying is more important than what you say.
#3 Dress the part
You have probably heard this tip a lot, but it does make a difference. The challenge is finding the right balance. The general rule of thumb is to dress better than the interviewer, but I have always had a hard time figuring out what that step is, and it doesn’t help that I am fashionably challenged. The general guideline is for guys to always wear a shirt and tie, jacket is optional. A few people I asked sent me this website as a guide for the ladies. Make sure whatever you decide to wear is comfortable, you don’t want to appear uncomfortable to the interviewer. Also, you should dress up for phone interviews. It sounds odd, and I know they can’t see you, but it’s a mental thing and in my experience, it does make a difference.
#4 Leave with a clear picture of the next step
Many students leave the interview without a clear idea of what to do next. Don’t follow that lead. Make sure you find out if the organization will do a follow-up interview. Most don’t, but then you will want to know how and when you will be notified. Some students will also want to know how the provider will communicate and transfer money to their college of choice. This tip is just to make sure you know what to do next.
#5 Say “Thank You”
Regardless of what you expect to happen after the interview, make sure you send a thank you note to everyone involved. Your first priority is to send a letter to the interviewer. The most effective interviewees will send letters to others involved. For example, I once sent a letter to the receptionist. I showed up early to my interview and she chatted with me for more than 45 minutes. I know the focus is on how this will help you secure that scholarship, but you also just want to be a nice person. Make sure they know how much you appreciate that they took time to consider you. You’ll be tempted to send emails, I’ll will always suggest that you send an old-school letter instead. People get thousands of emails, but they don’t get many letters.
Those are some tips to help you with your upcoming scholarship interview. We would love to hear about your experiences, you can post in the comments or tag @EducationQuest on social media. Good luck!