Updated: Feb 17
Interviewing for scholarships can be intimidating. It's similar to writing an essay, except there's no time to "edit" while you're sitting there. Believe it or not, this part of the scholarship process doesn't have to be as scary as you may think; it just requires a little preparation.
Here are a few key things to help you prepare and interview for scholarships like a pro:
1. Elevate Your Message Using Key Messages
What's a key message? Businesses use key messages to ensure they’re explaining important information clearly and consistently. You should have no more than three key messages that communicate your personality and what makes you unique. Let's say, for example, you're the captain of your baseball team, taking advanced placement courses in math and science, and you volunteer to help with trail maintenance at a local park. Rather than focus on those three activities, consider how those things tie together into a bigger idea about who you are—in this case, that you’re driven and a hard worker. You can still talk about what you’ve learned from each of those experiences to provide evidence for your key message about being a hard worker.
2. Look Forward
Think about what a college admissions counselor or scholarship committee member would want to hear. Sharing that you’re an amazing student isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd. They’ll want to hear how you’ll impact campus culture and the role you’ll play at their university or college. Make connections from the work you’ve already done in high school to the work you plan to do in college. Using the above example, this could mean you share your values as a hard worker and how you plan to be an example of hard work and commitment on campus, perhaps by joining the baseball team or contributing to a group in one of your areas of interest.
3. Ask Great Questions
During an interview, you’ll be asked a lot of questions, but you should also ask plenty of your own. It’s always impressive when interviewees come to the table with thoughtful questions. I can tell you from experience that most students won’t ask questions, or will ask less-than-thoughtful ones like “What’s it like going to school here?” Engaging in this part of the interview process can really make you stand out. Playing off the same example from the last two points, you could ask questions like this:
How could someone with my experience contribute to service organizations at your university?
Do any volunteer opportunities exist to help maintain the campus grounds? I’d love to continue to pursue that passion on campus.
Athletics are a big part of campus lifestyle. What are some ways your current athletic leaders could show up more powerfully? How would you like to see future athletic leaders behave?
In the end, there are no tricks here—it’s all about showing up to the interview prepared to communicate well about your accomplishments and what makes you unique, and how you’ll use those things to contribute to your future college.
If you need help identifying your key messages, integrating your past experiences and your future potential, and identifying show-stopper questions, contact me at email@example.com or read this article for more tips on how to interview like a pro and, ultimately, land acceptance into the university of your dreams.