Tips to Help Students Prepare for Scholarship Interviews

With all of the attention that is being focused on this year’s “early” FAFSA, one component of the financial aid package is getting pushed aside. While it is important to complete the FAFSA early and correctly, students also need to look at the other components of the financial aid package. Winning scholarships can be a huge factor in determining whether a student can attend college at all, or attend a specific college.
Scholarships are considered “free” money in that they don’t have to be repaid.
Scholarships can be sponsored by the college, philanthropic organizations, corporations and other entities, all with the purpose of promoting higher education. In the case of some larger scholarships, or those that require a demonstrated ability in a certain field, the scholarship committee may request an interview with top candidates.
If you are notified that a scholarship committee wants to interview you, the first reaction is usually one of joy at being recognized for your accomplishments. The second reaction, though, is usually one of terror at the thought of actually having to go in front of a committee to answer questions, knowing that your ability to attend a certain college may be on the line. Although you might not have a lot of experience in this type of high-pressure environment, try not to overthink the process.
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5 Tips for Preparing for Scholarship Interviews
Here are some tips that can help you prepare for scholarship interviews:
• Do Your Research: Spend some time getting to know about the scholarship, its sponsor, and the interview committee if possible. Learn about the company or organization that is offering this support, and try to think about why they would want to promote advanced education in a particular field. Look for past scholarship winners, as they sometimes provide information on what they think helped them achieve this honor. If you have to travel, try to determine whether there is a travel grant available to help pay for your expenses.
• Think About the Questions They Might Ask: Based on your knowledge of the sponsor, try to think about what they might look for in scholarship candidates. If they are promoting business, they probably want to know about your interest in the business world. If it is a philanthropic organization, they might be more interested in your charitable work. Develop questions yourself, and then get your parents or school advisors involved in helping you think about what they might ask, so you can be prepared with your answers.
• Practice: Check the scholarship website or carefully review the materials you were provided to determine exactly what happens in the interview. If you need an opening statement, have one prepared, or be ready to answer the dreaded “Tell us about yourself” ice breaker. Go through the list of questions you developed, and think about how you might answer each one. Have some thoughts prepared about what this scholarship would mean to your ability to attend a particular college and to your future. If a performance is required as part of your interview, make sure to choose one that showcases your unique abilities. Practice your responses once you have all the parts in place. Recruit others to play the role of interviewers and set up practice sessions. You might even want to tape some of these so you can review them later to look for areas of possible improvement.
• Relax: Most interview committees will understand that you are a high school student without a lot of experience in this area, and they expect you to be a little nervous. Dress appropriately, relax as much as possible, speak in a clear voice, look directly at people when answering questions, and have a few questions of your own to pose. Be polite, and be sure to thank the committee for the opportunity.
• Follow-up: It’s a little old-fashioned, but sending a hand-written thank-you note to the interviewer or the committee can go a long way in making you stand out from the competition. It shows that you appreciate the opportunity, and are truly interested in receiving this scholarship.