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The Dreaded Scholarship Interview

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No one likes interviewing. Not professionals. Not kids getting their first job. Certainly not college students trying to convince the “powers that be” to give them a scholarship. Unfortunately, to be considered for many scholarships requires going through an interview. Not fun, I know, but it doesn’t have to traumatic either. The key to “acing” a scholarship interview is adequate preparation. Why? Because if you are prepared, you will be more confident. And if you are more confident, you will do the best job of representing yourself. So, let’s get you prepared!

First, a few basics:

Know Where You’re Going:
Use MapQuest or call for directions at least ONE DAY IN ADVANCE. The last thing you want to be doing is driving in circles looking for a place you can’t find. This will invariably make you late. And being late is never acceptable.

Be on Time: Better yet, be early (by at least fifteen minutes). This has two advantages: One, you will impress your interviewer; and two, you will allow yourself time to settle in to a new environment.

Don’t Be a Mouse: Make eye contact with your interviewer, shake their hand (firmly!) when you introduce yourself, SMILE. Studies show that if you portray that you are the right person for the job/position/scholarship you are more likely to land it, and the more personable you are, the more the interviewer will respond to you. Believe in yourself! And then make the interviewer believe in you.

Manners, Manners, Manners!: No scratching, chewing gum, cracking knuckles, or smoking. If you do smoke, do NOT smoke right before the interview (as many people associate smoking with lax personal morals). Sit up straight. Use “Ma’am” or “Sir” when addressing the interviewer. Say please and thank you. You know the deal.

Dress Nicely: If you’re a girl, wear a skirt. If you’re a guy, wear a button down and slacks. No jeans. No shorts. No tennis shoes. The key here is to make it look as though you actually put in some thought into your appearance because that shows the interviewer that you are taking this opportunity (and their money) seriously.

Do Your Homework!: If the Fraternal Order of Police is sponsoring your scholarship, take a few minutes and read their mission statement on their website. The same goes for all other organizations. If you are going to be given a scholarship with the expectation that you will be contributing a tradition, it is a good idea to know exactly what that tradition is. Interviewers appreciate a little investment in their organization by applicants.

Be Honest!: This means that if you don’t know the answer to a question, say you don’t know. Do not try to “snow” your interviewer or make something up. You never know the background of who is interviewing you, and the last thing you want to do is inadvertently offend or make yourself look dumb by trying to pretend you know something you don’t.

Focus on the Positive: You really hated your high school? Fine, most of us did. But the last thing an interviewer wants is to listen to you rant about it. Instead, find one good thing about your school to talk about. Just one. And then elaborate. The same is true for life experiences. Find that silver lining and then tell it to your interviewer.

Know your application!: Read over your scholarship application once or twice before you go to your interview so that you remember what you wrote when you are asked about your responses during your interview (which you inevitably will be).

OK, so now that you’ve been prepared in terms of appropriate interview etiquette, let’s go over some topics that are often covered in scholarship interviews so that you won’t be blind-sided when they are brought up.

First, the interviewer will want to know about you, all about you. He or she will most likely ask you questions about where you went to school, what your parents do for a living, how many brothers and sisters you have, what part of town you’re from, etc. Don’t let these questions make you uncomfortable: there is no right or wrong answer. The interviewer is simply trying to make sure that you are a good fit for their organization’s money.

You will also be asked about your contributions, both in the academic arena and in the community. Again, there are no right or wrong answers here. Honesty is what counts. Chances are, you have already written most of this down on your scholarship application, so as long as you remember what you wrote, this will not be an issue.

There will certainly be questions about your future. What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you have a career in mind? Why is it that you’ve decided to go to college? These are good questions to ponder BEFORE you go to the interview, so that you can answer with assurance and without a lot of “ums” and “uhs”. Along with these questions, there will probably be questions about why you think something is important or why you want to be a doctor or a teacher, etc. These questions are aimed at finding out something about your value system. Don’t take offense: once again, the interviewer is simply trying to make sure you are a good fit.

Lastly, you will almost certainly be asked why you need a scholarship. Be honest. If your family is unable to afford college and you won’t be able to go without scholarships, tell the interviewer! This is nothing to be ashamed of. In all reality, the interviewer expects you to be broke. Otherwise, why would you be asking for money?

Interviews do NOT have to be awful as long as you prepare yourself properly! By familiarizing yourself with interview etiquette and the kinds of questions commonly asked in scholarship interviews, you can lessen the chances of being caught off guard in an interview. And the smoother your interview goes, the better your chances are of getting that lusted-after scholarship!

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