Interviews can be scary for anyone. Sitting across from people you don’t know and talking about how great you are is no easy task. For students applying for high-profile scholarships, the interview process can be intimidating. Thankfully, there are plenty of easy tips you can follow in order to make the process easier.
1. Practice for the scholarship interview.
Get a friend or family member to interview you and practice answering common questions that are asked in interviews. Eastern Illinois University provides a list of common scholarship interview questions that you can start out with.
“Tell us about yourself” is one common question during both job and scholarship interviews. It may seem too vague or open ended, but it allows you to set the tone for the entire conversation. Plan out your response ahead of time. Start with a vague statement and work your way to more specifics. As always, stick to positive characteristics and relate them to the scholarship you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a scholarship just for future theater majors, talk about your history and love of acting.
You might be asked “Why do you deserve this scholarship?” Make sure you can express how this money for college would help you achieve your future goals. Try to formulate a response that helps you stand out from the other applicants. What do you have that they don’t?
2. Think about your answers before you speak.
You might be inclined to ramble when you’re nervous, but think about what you’re saying before you say it. Don’t be afraid of silence. Speak clearly and answer the question thoroughly, but resist going off on tangents about unrelated things. Rehearsing some common responses ahead of time can help with this, too.
Also, listen to the questions completely and make sure you’re answering what they’re asking you. Communicating effectively means listening and responding appropriately.
3. Dress appropriately.
Your interviewer(s) will probably notice your appearance before anything else. “First impressions matter” is almost a cliché expression, but it’s true. The American Psychological Association cites a 2009 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, which shows that first impressions are made through a number of factors, including how one is dressed. Although most of the APA’s advice is for job seekers, college students interviewing for scholarships should keep them in mind, too.
Some people interpret “dress appropriately” as “dress for the job you want.” In your case, dress for the future you want. Don’t wear jeans and a t-shirt. Groom yourself neatly and wear clothes you would wear on a job interview or a meeting with a boss.
4. Be early or at least on time.
If you’re not familiar with the site of your interview, you may want to make the trip ahead of time. Figure out where to park, where to enter the building, etc. On the day of the interview, give yourself extra time to get there. It’s better to wait in the lobby for a few extra minutes than to run in the interview room at the last minute.
Show your interviewer(s) that you’re serious about the scholarship by arriving in a timely manner and not making them wait for you. Their time is valuable and they will not think well of you if you don’t take that into consideration. They may be working on a tight schedule of interviews, so you’ll also make the other students behind you wait as well.
5. Don’t fidget.
Many of us fidget when we’re nervous. Resist the urge to click your pen or rip a corner off your resume as you’re speaking (it happens!). Keep your hands folded in your lap if you have to. Fidgeting is an outward sign of nervousness that may be interpreted as a lack of confidence. The same goes for tapping your foot or shaking your leg. Notice when you’re exhibiting one of these behaviors and make a conscious decision to stop them in the moment.
Most of these tips boil down to showing your interviewer(s) that you are confident in your abilities. If you’re struggling with some of them, put yourself into a “fake it til you make it” headspace. Dress, walk and carry yourself with confidence, and soon you’ll be speaking with confidence, and hopefully, winning all of those scholarships, too!