Looking to acquire a few scholarships to help pay for your tuition?
Chances are you’ll have to go through an interviewing process before you can get one.
Scholarship interviews help reviewers determine who is the best fit for their awards, evaluating which student best fits the standards set by the scholarship’s ideals and guidelines. Some scholarships tout academics, others award certain extracurricular pursuits, and many recognize characteristics such as leadership, service, or application to a certain program of study.
Various scholarships are geared toward minority groups, low-income qualifiers, or military personnel. Whoever the scholarship targets, the interview may have specific questions. The top 50 questions we’re going to cover here can help you prepare for any college scholarship interview.
If you arrive at the interview and are unprepared to answer the more common questions, you might draw a blank. While a short, thoughtful pause is fine, a complete loss for words is not. It could imply that you didn’t care enough to prepare, or that you are uninterested. Avoid these issues by planning an answer. If you practice stating the answers out loud, you’ll decrease the chances of stumbling over your words. Choose your words carefully, and don’t ramble. Speak with confidence to impress your interviewer.
To help you out with planning responses, we’ve included some response suggestions after each question. Some questions are simple, while others take more thought. If a question has an obvious or simple response, no advice has been given.
Who are you?
Interviews help to sort out the person from the resume or application, especially in the questions that get at your core personality and behavior. These indicators can help the interviewer determine if you’re the right person to represent the scholarship’s ideals and if you’re likely to succeed in college.
1. Tell us about yourself.
This may be the simplest but most difficult question of all in terms of expressing an answer. If you can’t think of how to describe yourself, ask others to describe you. Take notes and highlight the positives in your reply. Don’t dwell on the negatives.
Good: “I’m very social and a good athlete,”
Bad: “I’m a partyer.”
Good: I enjoy playing and excelling at sports.
Bad: “I’m not into classes, but want to focus on basketball.”
2. How would a friend or family member describe you?
If you ask, request honesty and don’t be defensive if the responses aren’t what you want to hear. Take what’s valuable to help describe your best qualities and run with it.
3. What’s your greatest strength?
Don’t be shy to talk about your strengths. Choose a discussion that shows you can be successful in college and, if possible, relates to the ideals of the scholarship.
Example: “I know when I can best lead a group or follow someone else’s lead. In community service, that’s important to provide the planned service.”
4. What’s your biggest weakness?
We all have weaknesses. Try to turn your weakness into something that could be a strength.
Example: “I’m a perfectionist. Sometimes, I get so caught up in every little detail that I can’t call a project or assignment ‘done’. On the other hand, it means I’ve paid attention to a lot of important details that will make the assignment a good one.”
5. Leadership experience is important. Tell me about your experience.
Some people have direct leadership experience, such as being class president or the captain of a team. If you don’t, you might express being a role model for siblings or other students, or discuss your role of acting as an informal leader who influences situations without taking a formal position.
6. Tell me about a big mistake you made during the past few years, and describe what you learned from it.
The important part of the response to this question is how you recovered, corrected your mistake, and learned from it.
7. Describe a situation when you faced an obstacle or adversity and overcame it.
Respond similarly to the question above on mistakes.
8. Describe a personal achievement or proud moment.
Relate your choice back to an event that connects to the scholarship’s ideals, or a moment that points out good qualities in you.
9. Were you involved in any activities, clubs, or sports at school or in your community?
Provide a few key activities but not a long list of everything you’ve ever done. Think of activities that show service, leadership, teamwork, and professional and academic interests.
10. What is your favorite book/movie/song?
11. What book, teacher, or class has changed the way you think? How?
Be positive in your response.
12. What are your opinions on topic X (X means they provide the topic)?
Stay away from controversial stands unless they would appeal to aims of the scholarship.
13. Who is your role model or someone you look up to, and why?
You can choose someone personally or professionally connected to you as long as you choose to say something that reflects your best self and aspirations.
14. Describe a person or an event in your life that shaped you somehow.
You can choose a positive experience that shows a sudden change or shaping over time, or a negative experience that made you change for the better.
15. What have you learned from someone who is very different from you?
This is a question to really think about beforehand. A great answer showing flexible thinking and the ability to learn from anyone can really impact the interviewer.
16. What do you consider the most urgent problem in the world today? Why?
Try to avoid very controversial or political topics unless those topics fit the ideals of the scholarship. If the interviewer expresses an opposing viewpoint, listen with empathy and without arguing.
17. What languages do you speak? Write?
18. Have you traveled outside of your home country? Where have you visited?
Tell about your experience in another country, focusing on what you learned. What cultural, linguistic, historical, or other elements did you learn while you were there? Think about what may most apply to the ideals of the scholarship.
What are your academic and career aspirations?
Interviewers want to grant scholarships to students they believe will succeed in college. Many will look for past high academic performance and extracurricular and leadership activities. Sometimes, certain young adults haven’t been able to achieve what others have. Maybe they’ve had to work to help their families or have had life issues holding them back from learning. Consider the questions carefully and develop answers that address your situation and that highlight the positives. For example, you probably got more out of a job waiting tables or working at the grocery store cash register than you realize. Reflect on it.
19. What is your favorite subject in school?
Pick something that you can link to your plan for future study, especially if the scholarship is linked to the field. An education major would benefit by choosing either education classes or classes in their specialty area.
20. What is a meaningful school experience or class experience that you’ve had?
You can choose from many things here. Relate the experience to a good quality of yours, your choice of major, a service opportunity where you appreciated giving, or something that influenced personal change.
21. Why did you choose this university, college, or school?
It’s important to keep it positive and to not say anything bad about other institutions.
22. How did you choose your planned program of study?
Even if you’re unsure, it’s best to craft an answer rather than just saying, “I had to pick something.”
23. How do you see yourself using your degree?
Some young adults know exactly what they want to do in life. Most don’t know for sure. Choose a likely future path to discuss.
24. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Connect this to the response in the career goals question.
25. Aside from your college degree, what do you hope to gain from your college experience?
One of the most common answers to this question is “I want to make a lot of friends.” While making new friends is great, it’s best to expound on that thought: “I want to make a lot of friends who might become great connections throughout my life and career.”
26. What are your most important academic achievements?
You can talk about an obvious achievement if you have one, such as becoming Valedictorian. Explain how you achieved the goal to make it more meaningful. If you don’t have an achievement like this, you might talk about overcoming a learning disability, doing well in certain subject areas, or working hard despite personal challenges.
27. What is a new skill or experience you hope to leave college with?
The response can be directly or indirectly career related. Many interviewers can relate to developing soft skills such as “overcome shyness to become a better communicator,” no matter your chosen field.
28. What’s a meaningful academic class, project, or other experience?
Your response should go beyond academic achievement and into how it impacted you, how much you learned, or what surprised you.
29. What do you think will make you successful in college?
Good responses include excellent study skills, dedication to your field of study, and past academic performance.
30. What have you liked and disliked about school, and how would you change it?
This can go in many directions. The key is don’t bad-mouth anyone, even if you passionately disliked your biology teacher. There are plenty of ways to be civil when discussing qualities that you don’t like or agree with.
31. How would you plan to contribute to your college or university?
Here, the interviewer gives the opportunity to cover extracurricular and professional activities, working at the school, and volunteering.
32. How do you spend your free time outside of class?
Do you remember the response to question #1? No one wants to know that you plan to stay up until 4am every night or spend every spare second playing video games. Think about things that you can spend your free time doing that are positive and will better align with the ideals of the school/scholarship.
Why are you the best candidate for this scholarship?
Scholarship committees get a lot of applicants, and many of them have similar achievements on paper. The interview can make all the difference, enabling you to stand out as the best choice. The key is to create responses that will appeal to the interviewer based on the goals of the scholarship.
33. What can you tell me about this scholarship?
There’s NO EXCUSE for not doing your homework on the scholarship. Read the scholarship paperwork and find out more online. If the award is named for a particular person or organization, know who they are, what they stand for, what they do (or did), and what their ideals are.
34. Why did you apply for this scholarship?
Financial need is only part of the equation to this question. Talk about your level of need and the impact the money would have. Otherwise, think of the aims of this specific scholarship and how they relate to your life. For example, if a scholarship focuses on students in music, focus your answer on what getting a music scholarship means to your life and career to explore your potential.
35. Why do you deserve this scholarship?
Start by recognizing that there are many deserving students, then state how you stand out in the crowd.
36. How would you practice the ideals represented by this scholarship?
Throughout this article, you’ve read recommendations to relate your responses to the ideals of the scholarship. Take it further here with some specific examples of how you’d put it into practice during school years and beyond.
37. What would you do if you didn’t receive the scholarship?
Be honest. If it means that without a scholarship you can’t afford school, say so. If you want to sound motivated, tell the interviewer that you’ll exhaust every possibility to earn money so you can attend college.
38. What is your financial need?
Honesty is the best policy here.
39. How will you spend the scholarship money, if awarded?
Some scholarships come to you in a check or direct deposit, while others may go directly to tuition. You may use the money for tuition, supplies, transportation, or whatever the scholarship allows – read the application so you give an appropriate answer.
40. What awards have you won?
Name any that are relevant to the current scholarship or that show your accomplishments.
41. How will you serve your community?
This is included under the “best candidate” section because many scholarships have ideals that include service. Define your community as you wish: your hometown, college, special interest group, etc.
What would you like to know?
Flipping the script, it’s important for you to ask some intelligent questions of the interviewer. It shows your interest and may be helpful during follow up. You may come up with some of your own that are specific to the scholarship. Listen intently to responses, don’t interrupt the interviewer, and make notes if needed.
First, you may be asked:
42. Do you have any questions for me, or would you like to add anything?
This is a good lead-in for your questions. If the interviewer doesn’t ask for questions, it’s still good to ask a few, unless time is sensitive.
43. What are my chances of receiving the scholarship?
44. What are the next steps in this process?
45. How and when do you expect to notify me of the scholarship determination?
46. Would you like to see my portfolio of work (if it applies to your field)?
47. Are the scholarships cash awards, or will they be paid directly to my school?
48. Is this scholarship for one-year, more than one-year, or renewable with certain criteria each year?
49. How well do I seem to fit the most important criteria of the scholarship?
50. Is there anything else I can tell you to help you consider me as your top candidate?
Ready for the Interview
If you’ve gone through these questions and developed and practiced answers, you should be set for almost any scholarship interview! In addition to these items, you may get field-specific questions, although that’s more likely in a college or job interview than in a scholarship evaluation.
All that’s left is that important, “Thank you.” Say it at the end of the interview and send a “Thank you” email or letter on the following day. Follow up on the award status a few weeks after the interview, if it seems appropriate. If you get invited to a second interview, you get to do it all over again, but you’ll be ready.