Earning a scholarship is a golden opportunity for everyone, irrespective of their caste, creed, or economic status. However, the path to earning these scholarships can be tricky for it is coupled with an interview to weed out the most deserving students out of the lot. There is a generic set of common scholarship interview questions with answers that a candidate can leverage during their preparation for the same.
A basic yet prime question is “tell me about yourself”, the answer to which should be to the point, accurate, and have zero fallacy in the content.
College scholarships, through third party organizations or directly via the institution’s financial aid portal, are a refuge to many applicants. With numerous scholarships by each college or university, the applicants aggregate to a large sum.
Statistically, an approximate of 6,600 freshmen enroll in Harvard University every year, out of which 55 percent receive myriad scholarships. This equates to a numeric 3,630 scholarship awardees annually. The aforementioned demographic is handpicked, and a scholarship interview contributes to an optimal selection.
We have prepared a consolidated list of the most frequently asked questions in every scholarship interview, conjoined with appropriate answers.
18 Common Scholarship Interview Questions with Answers
An interview for college scholarship concentrates on the broader perspectives of life. It is more personal than technical. The jury or the interview panel mostly seek for a peek into the student’s life, demanding for him/her to demonstrate the intricate, innate qualities that have behaved as cornerstones for the candidate.
A proven tip is to answer as simply as possible. The jury prefers simplicity over complexity any day. The mantra is to pique their interest and weave an amicable, comfortable, and interactive session.
Here are the 18 most frequently asked scholarship questions, with sample answers that can benefit your preparation. The usage of the answers is at your discretion. You may wish to improvise the answers (as and when required) or offer the sample ones.
1. Briefly introduce yourself
This would be the first question of the interview. The jury seeks for a gist of you and your life. Although the question is open-ended and constitutes a broad, variable element to it, refrain from offering a general, universal answer. You must revert concentrating on attributes, experiences, or features that stand out, and are pertinent. Your pitch needs to clean, and clear.
Sample answer - My name is Tanya, and I’m a resident of Long Island, New York. I’m a proud student of Great Neck South High School, currently cruising through my senior year. As the lead vocalist of my school band, I have had the opportunity to participate in national-level competitions and have won 10 out of 12 times. I am fluent in 4 languages, namely, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and English. My dream is to be a top-notch Civil Engineer. I wish to contribute to the development of civil architecture and design throughout the globe.
2. Tells us about your greatest strength and weakness?
Your greatest strength or weakness is not synonymous with your choice of engagements/interests/hobbies. This question is primarily directed towards your interpersonal skills or the lack of any. The jury examines your ability to self-evaluate. You need to introspect, retrospect, and decide the most impacting strength, and a suitable weakness. Your strength must be an attribute you are proud of, and your weakness must be coupled with the promise of alleviation or mitigation of the same.
Sample answer - I believe, I am an active listener. I can listen patiently, comprehend the situation at hand, and be compassionate about it when and where required. This is an ability I have developed since childhood, which had molded into a full-proof skill when I was elected the Student Body President. My listening prowess has guided me to solve innumerable grievances throughout my tenure as the President, and I believe I’m still doing a good job at it.
My weakness is my single-mindedness, which can also sometimes be a strength. Once I’ve set my eyes on my goal, I turn persistent and tenacious towards its achievement. I’m unable to multi-task, and if I do, I’m not up to my optimal. This is a trait I’m working on to alleviate. I guarantee my single-mindedness can help me get over my single-mindedness. It’s a win-win situation for me!
3. Why should we select you for this scholarship?
For this question, you need to be aware of what the institution is demanding in the selected scholarship awardees. You can achieve this by either going through their selection procedure, rummaging through their website reading old testimonies, contacting the admission office, or connecting with an in-house scholarship student or alumni. With this knowledge, draw parallels to yourself and your skills. It is also highly recommended to include your potential contributions to the institution. You need to market yourself and present an account to support your declaration.
Sample answer - I believe, I am in-tune with your requirement for the Berklee Scholarship. I live, pray, breathe music. I have had the opportunity to compete in the Hal Leonard Vocal Competition, and I am the reigning champion in the High-School category for the last 2 years. Your institution has scripted history in music, and I would be highly obliged to be a part of this incredible team of musicians. With my music and your guidance, I can take your institution to great, untapped pinnacles.
4. What are your career goals?
The jury is looking for your course of action or your plan for the future. You must provide a detailed summary of what you wish to achieve and the methodology towards it. It is recommended to involve the contribution of the applied scholarship in your progress.
Sample answer - I aim to open a world-class music institution for the talented yet economically backward students. Over the years, and through my myriad experiences with musicians from all the world, I have witnessed how many extraordinary musicians are deprived of enhancing their skills due to their inability to pay for music school. I want to be a part of the Harvard University Music Society, learn from my fellow musicians and supervisors, and stand at the top of my game. In turn, I want to help other deprived musicians and impart my knowledge.
5. Do you have a role model?
You need to be very specific, and honest about your role model. Your role model can a public figure, a family member, a friend, or your pre-school teacher. You must possess a strong comprehension of your admiration of your role model. Your choice of influence speaks volumes on your perspective of life, and the values you withhold.
Sample answer - I look up to my mother. Her compassion, diligence, and determination make me want to be a better person. She is a renowned Economist, who married my father right after high school. My sister was born a year later. However, her early marriage or the ‘break’ in her career did not deter her from getting back on track. She enrolled in a local institution a year and a half later, completed her graduation with straight A-grades, and moved on to pursue her masters followed by a Ph.D. All this while she had to run a family, I was born mid-career, and perform the duties of a wife and a mother. I am inspired and extremely motivated by her sheer determination.
6. What is one mistake you have learned from?
For this question, you need to share a mistake that has impacted you enough to learn from it, and never repeat it. This can be something from school or the home-front. You must stress the lesson(s) from this mistake, your growth because of the mistake, and how you also do not dwell in the past or dig old skeletons. This question is primarily to test your self-awareness and is often deemed as part of the ‘stress interview’. It invokes strong emotions in the candidates, eliciting powerful answers.
Sample answer - Back in junior year, I let procrastination wrap its grim tentacles on me. I was lazy, procrastinated half of the time, and pushed my assignments ‘for tomorrow’. This landed me in thick soup. I was lagging in my assignments and as the deadlines approached I was buried six feet under pending homework. I managed to submit only a quarter of my total assignments and received detention for the rest. The detention went on for a month. That was the time I took an oath to never procrastinate ever in my life again. I believe it was an unruly phase in my life, and I have successfully bounced back from my set-back. I am diligent, punctual, and strongly believe that time and tide wait for none.
7. What made you choose this institution?
Pour everything you admire about the said institution. Prior to this, make sure you know every aspect, and your fondness aligns with its deliverables. Your choice may stem from diverse grounds. You need to certify that you notify the jury for every reason. Remember to be passionate about the school, and its values. Your speech needs to own genuineness, and demonstrate your dire desire to be a part of the college/university.
Sample answer - I firmly stand with the beliefs of Harvard University. They coincide with my vision. Harvard can be my refuge, my mentor to success. Its greatness is world-renowned and it is nobility in the realm of education. I wish to be a part of its student-force, learn from the expert hands of the teaching staff, and contribute to its growth. Harvard has been my dream since childhood, and I have single-mindedly worked towards being a part of it.
8. Tell us about your proudest achievement
As deemed by popular culture, it is unhealthy to blow your own trumpet. However, this is the perfect opportunity to speak volumes on that one achievement that (still) makes your eyes twinkle with gratification. It should entail your best virtues, and top your chart of achievements. You may wish to integrate your journey towards its achievement in your content.
Sample answer - My proudest achievement combs back to the time I was crowned the reigning champion of the HAL Leonard Vocal Competition for the second consecutive year. I like consistency in life. Music is my passion, and I strive to be at the top of my game. Winning the HAL Leonard Vocal Competition for the first time felt like a dream come true. However, it was the second win that induced such strong emotions. It was my moment of utter euphoria. I realized how hard work pays off. All those nights of burning the midnight oil to procreate excellent music, investing tremendous effort and time to perfect each vocal, and growing in the process will be etched in my memory for a very long time.
9. Brief us on the activities that you were involved in at school?
You are required to enlist the stand-out activities from school. The idea is to demonstrate your balance between academics, and extra-curricular. Most colleges seek students that have all-rounder attributes to their names. The academic performance is not entirely a dependent factor for your admission. It is highly recommended to point out the activities that have earned you the maximum recognition, or activities in which you have contributed tremendously. A wise decision would be to draw parallels to the applied scholarship. You may wish to narrate your list of activities in context to the scholarship.
Sample answer - I am the President of the Music Society in my school. I have been an active member since middle school, partaking in nearly 55 competitions throughout my tenure. When I am not practicing on my vocals, I spend my time on the field as a quarterback for the Cardinal Hayes. In the pursuit of spreading environmental awareness, I also volunteer in the Eco-club of Cardinal Hayes High School.
10. What are your views on leadership? Can you tell us about a time you had the assume the role of a leader?
Educational institutions are the mill houses for leaders. Naturally, they seek students with leadership skills to be a part of their student-force. Your views on leadership must essentially root from your experiences as a leader. Your position as a leader does not necessarily need to be from a school activity, neither does it require to be a hierarchical position for that matter. It might have been as simple as assuming the responsibility of your siblings in the absence of your parents. Substantiate your claims with concrete proof and adequacy.
Sample answer - I believe, a leader is a master nurturer, who invokes the best attributes of each individual in his team. As an advocate of equality in diversity, he/she creates an ambiance suitable for progress at an individual level, further amplifying the growth and efficacy in work. He/she is the epitome of dedication, optimism, and patience.
Working as the Student Body President for a year now has ignited my perspective towards myriad aspects of life. Cultivating the art of active listening, while polishing my skills on empathy, integrity, delegation, and communication has morphed me into a better human being. The past year has witnessed several grievances on the grounds of fund-raising, student reform, and institutional allegiance. It gives me immense pleasure to inform you that all these shortcomings have expertly dealt with. Cardinal Hayes High School is stronger than ever, and as the head of the student body, I will continue to withhold this stature until I retire.
11. Can you tell us about your favorite movie, song, and book?
Your choice in movies, music, and books extend a sneak-peak into your mind. You must offer your best read, a movie that has impacted you, and a book that you would re-visit from time to time. There is no set standard to any of these entities, you must entail on what truly draws you to them. Your declarations must be accompanied by a supplemental narrative.
Sample answer - I am a voracious reader. 1984 by George Orwell is my best read so far. I fancy dystopian literature, and 1984 is a masterpiece. Staged in an imaginary future of mass destruction, propaganda, authoritarian government, 1984 thematically concentrates on the aftermath of the war, mass surveillance, and totalitarianism.
My favorite movie is Pulp Fiction. Directed by Quentin Tarantino, the movie is staged in the backdrop of Los Angeles. It narrates a series of crimes that engulfed the city back in the day. The satirical humor adds to the appeal of the movie.
I am an ardent fan of the Porcupine Tree. Anesthetize is my currently looping in my playlist. I occasionally enjoy Reggae. Peter Tosh is my favorite musician.
12. Where do you envision yourself in the next 5/10/20 years?
This question is only a check on your anticipatory skills. It is impossible to paint an accurate future, hence, a vague projection is acceptable. However, you may wish to incorporate career objectives, personal plans, and goals in your speech. This demonstrates your futuristic perspective and illuminates your ambitious nature.
Sample answer - In the coming 5/10/20 years, I wish to perform in the Broadway Theater. I wish to produce incredible music that tops the charts of the Billboard. Additionally, I envision opening a music school for the musicians, and enthusiasts who have been deprived of training due to their socio-economic statuses. Further, I want to witness my current efforts for the empowerment of women flourish in the coming 5/10/20 years.
13. How will you utilize the scholarship money?
This is an integral question. You need to provide a thorough, definitive answer for it. Your response should outline your goals. You must demonstrate the graveness of your situation and the dire need for the same. Your academic and financial requirements need to be spelled precisely to procreate confidence in the minds of the jury for awarding you the scholarship. It is highly recommended to calculate your budget in advance, to provide numerical evidence to your claims. Further, you may concentrate on your growth through financial aid, both academically, and in your extra-curricular.
Sample answer - The Berklee Scholarship will be my refuge. I am passionate about my music and wish to pursue a career in it. Our meager means could hardly sustain for my music tutorials as a child. I greatly depended on the internet, and occasional mentoring from my friends to reach where this stage. I believe, with your scholarship, I can afford to be a part of your institution and receive the education that I was unable to achieve as a child. My family has an annual income of $16,000, which is insufficient to meet my expenses for school. With financial aid, I can pay for my tuition, accommodation, and books.
14. Can you tell us about an impacting experience or class you’ve had in school?
This essentially requires you to narrate an incident that left a powerful mark on you. You may highlight the lessons learned from this experience, or describe how this incident was a game-changer for you. It does not necessarily need to be an incidence of adversity, it might be something hilarious, and pleasant. The theme of your response should be concentrated on your growth or any newly cultivated virtue.
Sample answer - In my junior year, Bill Gates had visited my school. I was witness to one of the most inspirational, and motivational speeches in the history of speeches. It is incredible to know how he sacrificed a Harvard education in pursuit of his dream, to create Microsoft. As an advocate of humanitarianism, I was deeply moved by his philanthropic efforts. I could realize his fight against life-taking diseases, and his sheer will to make human lives better. This was a turning point in my life.
15. Brief us about a time when you overcame adversity
This question aims to evaluate your response to adversity, and your ability to recover from setbacks. Your answer must be detailed on how you mitigated the situation, bounced back from it, leveraged the experience as a stepping stone, and grew as a consequence. It is recommended to refrain from including academic grades in your content for your interviewers are looking for answers outside the realms of your academics.
Sample answer - I was subjected to racial discrimination back in my sophomore year. I and my friends were judged on color and roots. Every day it was a new form of bullying, and sadly it expanded like a wild-fire. I stood up against discrimination. I did not resort to violence or physical retaliation. Rather, I aced in every field that mattered and more. I was at the top of my class, the best athlete of the year, and I was the reigning champion of the HAL Leonard Vocal Competition. My success was the perfect retaliation against bullying and discrimination. It left a loud and clear message to everyone concerned that despite being a part of a minority demographic, I was the recipient of the majority of the accomplishments.
16. Which is your favorite subject in school?
For this question, you need to substantiate your answer on why do you like the particular subject. The jury wants to evaluate your learning methodology and your passion. Refrain from provisioning answers that concentrate on the grades for that subject. You may love a subject but may fail to attain excellent marks. You must be honest, and sincere in your response.
Sample answer - Math is my favorite subject. I thoroughly enjoy working with numbers, and the elation that follows after solving a sum is incomprehensible. My love for Math had budded way back in my fourth grade when I found out I could carry out extremely swift calculations. It became a challenge within myself to work out mathematical problems in no time. The very fact that I can listen to music, and still work out my sums further intensifies my affinity towards this subject.
17. Do you want to add anything else?
This question is more important than it seems. The jury has granted you additional space to add any supplement to your interview. If you believe the interview did not quite cover all the facets of your deliverables, you may want to add your insights on the same. This is also a good opportunity to thank the panel for their time, and appreciate the institution on its accolades.
Sample answer - I offer my sincere gratitude for your time. It was an absolute honor to be a part of this interview. I firmly support the institution’s beliefs and norms. I would like to utilize this opportunity to throw some light on my philanthropy. I am an advocate of humanitarianism, and an active participant in the United States Fund for UNICEF. I believe in empowering children, for the future of the world lies in their ends. On a personal level, I have contributed to the education of the kids in the Zion of Jerusalem Orphanage through financial assistance. It is my vision to witness children from all of the world thrive!
18. Do you have any questions for us?
Colleges and universities love inquisitive candidates. It showcases their will to know more, and learn more. It is wise to prepare a set of questions for the panel of judges as well. However, you do not need to fire all of them at once, you may pluck out the most relevant question(s) depending on your situation. We recommend you to enlist your questions in advance, to get a clear grip on your concerns about the scholarship, or the institution.
Sample answer - You may multiple questions for your interviewers. These may include,
What are the rules and regulations for maintaining the scholarship for my entire academic career?
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges I will endure in this scholarship?
On the occasion of my selection for the scholarship, how do you suggest I prepare for my tenure in your institution?
Educational institutions keep changing the pattern, style, and content of their interviews. It is wise to expect the unexpected, and mentally prepare for the same. The sample answers are only samples. We recommend you only refer to them and formulate answers from your personal experiences. What might sail our boat, might sink yours. Introspect, retrospect, and create suitable answers. The jury looks for confidence in your responses, and your body language. Consult with family, friends, or in-house students regarding scholarship interviews. We wish you all the best, break a leg!