Upon applying for a scholarship you can be invited to an interview by the awarding organization or institution. As a matter of fact, your answers to the scholarship interview questions will decide your eligibility for the grant.
Scholarship interview questions are usually open-ended questions that would be asked to learn more about you by a representative from the awarding organization or institution.
The interviewer decides, based on your response, whether you are eligible for the grant, and whether your priorities match with theirs.
We’ll send you advice in this post on how to answer 7 of the most popular scholarship interview questions that students are asked each year. Use this list of common scholarship interview questions to help plan your own answers before the interview. Write down key points to plan your responses, and recall them without memorizing them.
1. “Tell us about yourself.”
Although this is actually more of a prompt than a question, the interview process is an extremely crucial moment.
The scholarship committee usually uses this as an icebreaker, allowing you the opportunity to introduce yourself and set you apart from other applicants.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be planning your answer while this isn’t one of the scholarship interview questions with an implicit right or wrong answer. In general, try listing various fascinating things about you so the interviewer has a variety of facts to consider.
It should hint at the one thing you care about the most.
Example: My name is Bryce and I am a senior at Regent High School at the moment. I loved my studies there, particularly the two languages, French and Mandarin, that I get to take. Through summer classes, I spent the past few seasons pursuing my passion of writing, and launching my own literary magazine. I like to spend time with my two younger siblings and my Varsity Soccer teammates, when I’m not reading or writing.
It is a good response because Bryce provides a summary of many passions while at the same time hinting at his primary focus, languages and literature.
2. “Tell us about your greatest strength.”
Don’t mistake your greatest strength for your interest. Make sure you list something you have enough examples of your strength for.
Example: My biggest attribute I would say is my tenacity. When I do something, I want to do it right, so I am willing to put in the time and effort to go for it. Once we had to create an atom model for a school project, so we decided to build the element hafnium. Hafnium has an atomic number of 72, which has meant that the model will be massive. The teacher offered us to change but I did not agree to. So I stayed for an hour every day after school to complete it for a week. I am glad to note that I got an A+ on the project.
A specific case is important here. This student not only selected a good trait to highlight, he also backed up his point with a testimony of how he resulted from his tenacity.
3. “What is your greatest weakness?”
The aim of the next question in this list of the most common scholarship interview questions is to determine whether you are introspective and willing to learn from your mistakes.
Instead of mentioning a repetitive or standard weakness such as “I lose my temper” or “I’m forgetful,” strive to think of an area you’ve defined as a weakness and attempted to change.
Example: Definitely, frustration is something I am trying to work on. When something doesn’t instantly work with me I may get annoyed with myself. I realize that being good at something takes time and I’m trying to learn to be more patient. I took on watercolors as a hobby, for example, but since it’s a new talent, I’m not really good yet and I tend to dislike whatever I make. I’ve been watching videos to counterbalance that, and trying to repaint pieces to make them better.
Often, a specific example serves to show the interviewer that this student doesn’t just say things. Recognizing her mistake and taking the time to reflect on it shows the student is introspective and able to change herself.
4. “Describe your biggest mistake.”
Again, you want to think about an answer which emphasizes that you know how to learn from past experience. You should also mention you’re not stuck in the past.
While admitting that you have screwed up, point out ways you’ve done better as well. This is a good time to mention any disciplinary action that is on your record.
Example: I vandalized our rival school in seventh grade by spraypainting our signature on the walls. In retrospect, I am grateful that I was arrested, even though at the time I got into too much trouble. Besides being grounded and forced on a Saturday to clean the walls, I was excluded from extracurricular activities which meant that I did not go to baseball tournaments with my squad. My coaches and teammates were very disappointed; I was aware that I had let them down. From that accident, I learned a very valuable lesson: Not only do my actions have consequences, but they can have a negative effect on the people I care for. I’ve certainly thought things through before I did them ever since.
Admitting to fault involves introspection. Not only did this student admit to vandalism but she preceded it with the lessons she learned from it. She further stated that mistake and lesson still have an effect on her everyday life. This was not a one-and-done lesson, this changed her life genuinely.
5. “Who has been a role model for you?”
It’s important to choose someone you want to emulate, especially that person who has a very clear trait. Nobody is perfect, so don’t even think about choosing someone with flaws as well. This question is intended to assess whether you can find and appreciate the positive traits.
Example: Sophie Blanchard, one of the first women to fly in a hot air balloon, is someone I really look up to. She used to carry out adventurous journeys, first with her husband, then on her own. She lost consciousness in a hailstorm and eventually died when she was in midair when she attempted to light fireworks from her balloon. I think Blanchard was careless, but at the end of the day I applaud her for trying something different, and not being afraid of her decision. Even if I do go in a balloon with hot air one day, no fireworks!
While this student selected a controversial figure, she was able to explain what she was influenced by about Sophie Blanchard: Blanchard’s bravery. It tells interviewees what the applicant should strive to represent. Scholarship sponsors want to honor students who are, after all, deserving and who will serve as a successful representative of the sponsor’s mission or values.
6. “Why did you choose this school?”
This question, still being part of the frequently asked scholarship interview questions, is intended to distinguish trophy collectors from those students who really want to attend the college or university.
Be sure to come equipped with unique resources or characteristics that will mean a lot to you that this college or university has to offer. Try picking up something you don’t see anywhere.
Example: My mom, aunt, and two cousins all went to the University of Iowa, and from birth I was practically a Hawkeye. But it was their excellent writing system that really drew me to Iowa. There, I went to a few summer writing camps and they cemented my dream of becoming an author. It just felt like home when I was visiting the campus. I sat in on an English class as well and instantly clicked with the professor.
Speaking of English, when it comes to being persuasive, do you remember ethos, logos and pathos? This reply has all three.
- Ethos (establishing authority on a topic): Through the family and summer camps’ personal background she has established a deep association with the university.
- Logos (logical points): The student setting her ambition is to be a writer, to attend writing camps, and that the university has a popular writing program.
- Pathos (an emotional connection): The student stresses, in addition to the family connection, that the campus felt like home and that she was connected with the teaching staff.
7. “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”
Review quickly what you’ve talked about so far.
Is there any big accomplishments that you have forgotten to note (i.e. the top line of your CV, not necessarily anything else)?
Do you, at some stage, think you gave the wrong impression?
This is a perfect opportunity to counterbalance any negative impression you’ve made. It is a nice time on your feet to reflect.
Example: Sure! I would like to say how thankful I am for this opportunity. Your organization’s all about recycling and maintaining our safe and green environment. During the last four years I have enjoyed volunteering during the beach clean-up days. I cannot wait until next year I join the recycling community at your college.
It’s important to thank the interviewer for their time and effort, and this is part of being grateful for the opportunity of the scholarship.
Alternatively, this student took his response back to the sponsor’s own objectives and principles, demonstrating that the student is an ideal candidate who suits the mission of the organization itself.
Conclude the meeting always with a good note. Give a hand-written note to the scholarship committee within 24 hours of your interview, thanking them once again for considering you as the recipient. Such basic touches will differentiate you from other qualifying applicants in a significant amount.
All in all, good luck with all future scholarship interviews! If you are looking to learn more about college scholarships, check out our article in which we are talking about full ride scholarships and how you can study for free.