The Scholarship Interview: 2 Important Questions to Ask

The scholarship interview can seem daunting when you go in. You filled out an application, and now you have a college representative calling you to meet and decide your fate:

Should we give you thousands of dollars to go to our university, or not?

Should we provide a great education so that your future looks bright, or let you fend for yourself?

Okay, it's not quite that bleak. Let's look at a couple of things you can do to make your interview better, including two questions that should help you understand where you fit.

Basic Preparation

You can find many sources of info on prepping for your scholarship interview. You'll get lots of advice like be early, dress appropriately – which means a suit and tie or modest dress, or similar – and so on.

This is all good advice. Follow it. You want to make a good impression. Don't use slang, and feel free to talk about your strong points, since that's the point of the interview.

You also need to know something about the scholarship you have applied to win. Know the criteria and what the scholarship intends to reward or promote, since you will surely be given a question about how you fulfill that for the college.

Finding Your Focus

During the scholarship interview, after most of the questions for you, you should have an opportunity to ask some questions of your own.

The first question I recommend is to help you find your focus. You probably have answered a lot of questions about your goals, or your experiences, which are fine. But you want to know what will get you a scholarship, right?

So ask this question:What would the ideal candidate for this scholarship look like?

Or:Can you describe the ideal or typical winner of this scholarship?

Listen to the answer carefully. Remember each characteristic. Also remember, you are already in the interview! That means the college thinks you have what it takes!

Now, after the description (wait for the whole thing, let the interviewer finish), describe yourself in the terms the interviewer used. In other words, use the interviewer's answer to describe how you are like or the same as the ideal or typical winner of the scholarship.

Progress Check

Now, how to see where you are during the scholarship interview. You've probably answered all the questions, you have used the question above, and the interview is more than half over, or even at the very end.

You have a chance here to check your progress and see what your chances are of winning that tuition money. You may already know what question I'll tell you to ask:

If you awarded the scholarship right now, would I win?

That's very direct. You can also go a little softer:Based on our interview, do you see me winning this scholarship?

You could go even softer, with something like, Do I have a chance at winning this scholarship? But I don't recommend that.You may think: if I ask that question, I'll get thrown out of the office. But you won't. In many cases, the interviewer will congratulate you on the question.


You might be upset with the interviewer's answer. Don't be! Very seldom will the interviewer give you an outright "Not a chance!"

Remember, you already made it to the scholarship interview. You already made the short list. You may have 5, 10, or 20 people to compete with, but you've already nearly won.

More likely the interviewer will say something like, we'll see, or you have strong qualifications, and in some cases, yes, I think you will win.

You may get this one: I'm worried about… and then the interviewer will say your grades, or your leadership experience or whatever. Once he or she finishes, review how strong your qualifications are or add another experience that strengthens your case.

But never say, Oh great. I knew I couldn't do it. And don't leave. You have nearly made it, you just need to know what to do next, and the question above will help you do that.

I have used the above questions repeatedly in job interviews. They have helped me get several jobs. Just asking the questions here will show you really want the scholarship, making you a better candidate.

Other Chances

Usually the scholarship interview is just one step. You can do this, and you can win if you prepare. Good luck!

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