If you’re in the running for a competitive scholarship, an interview can be the one thing standing between you and a seriously reduced (or even free) college education. If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you already stand an impressive shot at that scholarship – but your work is far from over. Many schools invite finalists to campus and host interview programs that can span several days. These programs can be taxing, but keeping in mind these tips can held reduce your stress and improve your shot at the scholarship.
Before the interview program
First and foremost, by the time you get to campus, make sure you’ve done your research. You don’t need to be able to recite the school’s history, but it’s a good idea to be familiar with some of programs that fit your interests. It shows you’re proactive, curious, and hard-working.
Second, come to campus ready to work. I know high school can be incredibly busy, but carve out the time you need to be well-rested and mentally prepared for your interview. During your program, in addition to multiple interviews, you may also be asked to write essays on the spot or solve various puzzles in groups. It’s incredibly important you’re at the top of your game for every part of the program ahead.
During the interview program
Once you’re on campus with a few dozen other finalists, it’s your job to make yourself stand out. Imagine the ‘you’ you want to be – the ‘you’ your application reflects – and try your best to be that you. Stand up straight, look people in the eye, and be interested in the campus around you. Make an effort to talk to the faculty and staff you come across – especially if there is some sort of reception during your program.
In other words, be prepared to sell yourself a little bit. I know it seems inauthentic, but it’s incredibly important to leave a good impression during your time on campus. Just demonstrating your interest (and perhaps sharing why you are interested) can go a long way.
Finally, be on your best behavior all the time: even when you’re not in a formal interview, it’s very likely you’re being watched. You shouldn’t feel paranoid about it, but you should recognize that your behavior during the entire program – not just during the interview – counts. No matter how good your interview is, you’re going to have a much harder time winning the scholarship if you’re a jerk to the other finalists.
During the interview itself
Scholarship interviews are a little different from other college-related interviews. The stakes are higher, and you’re no longer being compared to the average college applicant – now you’re up against several dozen other highly qualified candidates. Being “good enough” won’t be good enough. You need to stand out.
One way to do that is by answering tricky questions honestly, even if that means sharing thoughts and ideas you might otherwise be afraid to express. Don’t say anything stupid or careless, of course. But if you can back up your statements with frank humility and thoughtful reasoning, you’ll be much more memorable than you would be had you offered some bland platitude.
In general, it’s important to be honest in your interviews. Often interviews are conducted by a group of very smart and experienced interviewers, and the chances aren’t great you’ll be able to fool all of them. Additionally, many school-specific scholarships are also awarded based on character, which is where honesty can earn you some points.
Finally, no matter how cliched this advice is, it’s important to be yourself. If you’ve been selected as a finalist, it’s because you’ve done something right so far – and someone wants to know more. If you’re attending an interview program, don’t be surprised if the school spends at least a little of its time trying to pitch itself to you. Regardless of the outcome of the scholarship interview, your presence there is a recognition of all the hard work you’ve already done – and an indicator of your potential future success.