How To Answer Scholarship Interview Questions

Guide to answering scholarship interview questions
April 26, 2024
7 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Looking for tips to help you nail your interviews for the scholarships of your dreams? To help you prepare, this article outlines common scholarship interview questions and how to answer them.

Most students need scholarships to help get them through school. Tuition, living expenses, books, and other supplies all add up and often result in hefty student loans. Scholarships, however, can ease a lot of financial burdens. 

Some scholarships are one-time payments, while some are renewable. Either way, there is a lot of money at stake that can provide you with opportunities you may not have had access to and potentially change your life. 

With all this being said, you’ll want to perform your best to nail your scholarship interviews. 

Common Scholarship Interview Questions

Every scholarship is tailored to a specific program or aim. Some scholarships, for example, offer financial assistance to underserved and underrepresented communities and groups (i.e., Indigenous student scholarships). 

Others, like the National Merit Scholarship, recognize outstanding academic achievements and aim to support high-achieving students on their educational journey. There are scholarship opportunities like the Fulbright Scholarship that provide opportunities for international exchange and academic collaboration.

Whether you’re shooting for the Ivy League or pursuing your education at a local college, there are tons of other scholarships available. Some are more unique than others, which can help with tuition expenses and reduce your student loans.  

Here are ten common scholarship interview questions and how to best answer them, so you can nail your interview. Read through them and start brainstorming some sample responses to scholarship interview questions to get the ball rolling. 

Female student being inerviewed

1. Tell Us About Yourself

For this question, you should discuss your interests, work, and accomplishments that relate to academia. For example, you can describe your academic interests and projects that you are currently involved in or have completed. 

However, you should also discuss personal attributes and characteristics that would impress college admissions committee members. Here are some traits that often lead people to be successful in college: 

  • Driven 
  • Motivated 
  • Innovative 
  • Accomplished 
  • Dedicated 
  • Resourceful 
  • Inspired 
  • Confident 
  • Committed 
  • Supportive 
  • Eager 

These are just some adjectives you can use to describe yourself that will show off valuable, interdisciplinary skills. Funders and donors want to award the money to someone who will be successful and dedicated to their academic career, so describing yourself with strong adjectives that demonstrate your ambition and hardworking nature is key. 

2. Tell Me About Your Greatest Strength/Weakness

While talking about your weaknesses with interviewers can be intimidating and make you feel vulnerable, it is important to be honest and open with your answer to this question. 

While you shouldn’t skip past your shortcomings, you should spend more time focusing on your strengths rather than weaknesses. Answer this interview question strategically by turning your weaknesses into opportunities for personal growth. 

Don’t be ashamed of your weaknesses; the interviewers are not expecting you to be perfect. Instead, let your interviewer know that your weaknesses do not define you. Demonstrate your commitment to working on your weaknesses in order to grow as an individual. 

3. What Do You Want To Do With Your Career?

When you answer this question, focus on continuous career development and growth. Demonstrate that you are motivated and ambitious. It is also important to highlight achievements you want to make in your career. Whether personal or professional, share the work and impact you wish to achieve. 

Some scholarships honor accomplished individuals that gave back to the community in various ways. The individuals who decide who should receive the award will be looking for someone who also wants to give back to their community or at least do good work in their career. 

This doesn’t mean you have to change the world or make unattainable promises. Just be honest and genuine about your intentions and goals and how your goals relate to the broader community. 

4. Why Did You Choose This School Or Program?

Make sure you have done your research before going into the interview. Talk about program highlights, campus life, faculty, and other unique services the school and/or program offers its students. 

5. Why Do You Deserve This Scholarship?

Firstly, highlight your academic accomplishments. If you have high grades, definitely point that out. As well, explain how you plan to use the scholarship to achieve your long-term career goals. You should try to relate how achieving your goals will also make a difference in your community. 

Try to gauge your answer to the purpose of the scholarship. If you are interviewing for a scholarship for leadership, bring up specific examples of times you demonstrated strong leadership skills. 

If the scholarship is an athletic scholarship, talk about your sports involvement. If you have strong athletic abilities and a high GPA, you may want to consider looking into the collegiate athletic recruitment process. Colleges will often offer athletes high-value scholarships and grants. 

Female student shaking hands with man

6. What Activities Are You Involved In?

Share what activities relate to academia and other skills and attributes that make a good scholar. This could include sports, leadership experience, and any high school clubs you are involved in. Highlight the community service and volunteer work you have done. 

Even if the activity is not directly related to your school and/or program, interviewers will also be looking for well-rounded students who are involved in their community and do other important work outside of school. 

For example, sharing your experiences volunteering with youth or community centers is extremely impressive and demonstrates your integrity and ethics. Integrity and ethics are appealing to scholarship interviewers because they want to make sure the money goes to someone who is not only a good scholar but a good person as well. 

7. What Has Been One of Your Greatest Achievements?

Be sure to humblebrag as you answer this question! There is a balance between being proud of yourself and sharing your accomplishments and being off-putting and obnoxious. 

8. How Will You Spend the Scholarship Funds?

Explain how you will spend the funds on school-related expenses, including tuition, books, and other supplies. Also, explain how the funds will help your academic performance. 

Perhaps you’re an out-of-state student who faces higher tuition costs, and the scholarship will ease that financial burden, allowing you to focus more on your studies. Or, perhaps you plan to use the scholarship to participate in valuable extracurricular activities or research opportunities related to your field of study, enhancing your overall educational experience. 

9. Tell Me About a Mistake You’ve Made

Again, this can feel like a difficult question. It may be tricky to answer and leave you feeling vulnerable. As a result, you may be tempted to disregard your shortcomings in an effort to make yourself look as good as possible to the interviewers. 

However, no interviewer wants to hear that you have never made a mistake because that simply isn’t true; we all have. People appreciate honesty and self-reflection. 

As you answer this question, turn it into an opportunity to turn the mistake into a learning opportunity. The most important thing to come out of this question is not the mistake itself but your ability to take responsibility and accountability and make a commitment to self-growth. 

10. Is There Anything Else You Would Like to Add?

Take this opportunity to boast about yourself and your hard work. This question is also a chance to bring up anything that you didn’t get to bring up during the interview.

11. Why Are You Applying for This Scholarship?

Use this opportunity to show your enthusiasm for your chosen field of study. Explain how the scholarship perfectly fits into your educational goals and emphasize how the financial support will enable you to pursue your education and make meaningful contributions to your future aspirations.

two people shaking hands

How To Prepare for a Scholarship Interview

Understanding how to respond to essay questions for scholarships, and the ins and outs of the application process is challenging. But the scholarship interview is a different ballgame, and being prepared is key. Here are some steps to help you prepare.

1. Research the College Attributed to Your Scholarship

Donors will want to know that you are actually aware of the scholarship you are applying for. It is important to know not just about the scholarship but the school as well, especially because you may get asked about it during the interview. 

Conducting research and being knowledgeable about the scholarship is a good chance to show off your scholarly skills. 

2. Research the Donor of Your Scholarship

Being knowledgeable of the donor of your scholarship demonstrates that you actually care about the scholarship you are applying for. 

It also demonstrates a level of respect and recognition of the generosity of the donor. 

3. Network With Past Scholarship Recipients

Reach out to past scholarship recipients and ask them for any tips they can share with you. If you don’t have any contact information for past recipients, look around schools’ websites and see if they have a page that shares past essays or other application materials of previous successful applicants. 

Read whatever materials are available to you, as there may be useful information on what the donors and/or school is looking for in an applicant. 

4. Be Ready To Be Evaluated On Your Behavior

Your answers to the questions are important, but just as important is your behavior and how you present yourself. You can ace the question portion of the interview, but if you come across as disingenuous or unpleasant, you will likely put off the interviewers. 

As you go into the interview, dress professionally and appropriately. And it should go without saying, but be respectful. 

Most importantly…be yourself. A lot of money and time are at stake here, and interviewers want to know the person they are giving the scholarship to. 

5. Be Confident and Stay Positive 

Don’t go into the interview with a negative mindset. If you have a negative mindset, the interviewees may pick up on that and be off-put by it. Stay confident and positive. You may still be awarded a scholarship if you do well on your interview and prove why you deserve it, even if you aren’t the most accomplished scholar. 

If the interview didn’t go as well as you had hoped, that is okay! There are always more opportunities out there.

Male student being interviewed by woman

FAQs: Interview Questions for Scholarship

Still have questions about the specifics of scholarship interviews? Keep reading the answers to some frequently asked questions.  

1. Is It Really Possible To Get a Full Ride Scholarship?

Yes, getting a full-ride scholarship is possible if you excel in academics and extracurricular activities. 

2. How Do I Prepare for a Scholarship Interview?

Do your research on both the school and the scholarship itself before the interview, and begin to prepare some answers to common interview questions. 

3. What Should I Expect in a Scholarship Interview?

You should expect to be asked about your background, academic achievements and accomplishments, extracurricular activities, and why you deserve the scholarship. 

4. How Do I Nail an Interview for a Scholarship?

Simply put, be yourself! Interviewers will want to see authentic, genuine candidates.

Other tips to impress the interviews include:

  • Show up prepared and on time 
  • Introduce yourself and give a firm handshake 
  • Have a professional but friendly demeanor
  • Be knowledgeable about the scholarship and donor
  • Bring a notebook, pen, and if possible, an application form or information sheet on the scholarship 

How you present yourself is as important as your academic achievements. Scholarship interviewers will be looking for someone who not only is a strong scholar but who is also a professional yet friendly person. 

5. What Do Scholarship Interviewers Look For?

Scholarship interviews will look for a candidate who is dedicated and successful in their academic career and someone who is motivated and demonstrates strong leadership skills and work ethic. 

There is a lot of money at stake with scholarships; donors will want to give scholarships to someone who is committed to their studies and future career. 

6. How Do You Answer the Question How Will This Scholarship Help You?

To answer the question "How will this scholarship help you?" you should focus on your educational and career goals. Explain how the scholarship will support your studies and enable you to achieve your ambitions. Be specific about how the financial aid will impact your academic journey and future prospects.

Final Thoughts

The most important takeaway is to be honest, be genuine, and be yourself. Interviewers will respond best to, and want to help out, people who are friendly and sincere.

Do research, read over the list of common scholarship interview questions, and think about how you can respond with specific examples. If you follow these tips, you’ll be ready to take on your interviews! 

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