This page provides advice on interviews. While most of the selection
process for a scholarship is focused on evaluating the application and
not the applicant, during the scholarship interview the sponsor gets
to evaluate you directly. It is their one opportunity to ask you
questions and talk to you in person.
This page is part of the section on maximizing your chances of
winning a merit scholarship.
- Practice. Ask your family and friends to help you
practice for your interviews by staging mock interviews. This will
help you become familiar with the interviewing process, making you
less nervous during the actual interviews. Think of the interview as
being a conversation, not a confrontation.
Good questions for practice interviews include questions about your
background, academic achievements, hobbies and extracurricular
activities, academic and career goals, your upbringing and values, and
any notable awards and activities.
- Be punctual. Do not arrive late for an interview. Try to
arrive a few minutes early for the interview.
- Dress for Success. Wear semi-formal business attire,
such as a suit and tie, to your interview. If you wear a t-shirt and
jeans, you won't win the scholarship. If you don't have a suit, wear
conservative clothing, such as a sweater or dress shirt. Wear a clean
- Be decisive. When answering questions about why you
chose a particular major, do not mention if you were uncertain about
your choice. If you are wishy washy, the selection committee will
wonder whether you will complete the degree. The scholarship sponsor
wants to support students who will graduate with a degree in a
particular major, not students who may switch to another major or drop
out entirely midway through the program.
- Be relevant. When an interviewer asks you to "tell me
about yourself", they don't want to hear your life history and how you
like vanilla ice cream. Instead, tell him or her about your relevant
background and qualifications for the
award. Everything you write in
your application and everything you say should be directed, as much as
possible, toward answering why you are the best candidate for the
award. Be concise in your answers; do not ramble.
- Be positive. Try to avoid being negative, as that will
prime the interviewer to write a negative assessment of your
The only exception is when you don't know the answer to a
question. Either say "I don't know" or ask for a clarification. Do not
dwell on the question, and do not try to finesse your way through the
answer. A short "I don't know" will allow the interview to move on to
- Be polite. Use all the good manners your mother taught
you. Introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Say "thank you" and
"please". Be neat and tidy. Make eye contact. Do not chew gum or
smoke. Sit up straight in your chair and do not slouch. Do not bite or
chew your nails. Thank the interviewer after the interview is over.
- Expect the unexpected. Some interviewers ask unusual
questions or do strange things simply to see how you will react.
It is ok to pause to think before answering any question, so long as
the pause is short.
- Prepare your own questions. Come prepared with a
question or two of your own, but do not ask a question that is already
answered by the application materials.