The Scholarship Interview; "Making" It or "Breaking" It
February 15, 2010
by Derrius Quarles
Now that you have made your scholarship list, gotten your recommendations, written your personal statement, created your scholarship application packet and applied for scholarships, you may be receiving e-mails and calls notifying you that you have been selected for interviews. This is it! This is what you worked so hard for! The only problem is, for some students, the interviews will be it, literally. Each scholarship will have a certain number of winners; more students will be invited to interviews than can be selected as recipients. This is why the interview is so crucial; it will be the determining factor of who is in the final group of winners. If you want to be in that final group, you have to set yourself apart, just as you did in your personal statement. Speaking of personal statements, which essentially are essays, I like to think of the interview as an essay. There is an introduction, body, and a conclusion. Like your scholarship essay, the interview says something about who you are, how informed you are of a topic, what your opinions and thoughts are, and how eloquently you can state those opinions and thoughts. So here is the interview breakdown: Introduction - Your appearance, handshake, ability to make eye contact, ability to state your name, posture, and overall attitude all add up to a great introduction.
Body - This consists of the questions that will be asked of you. These can either be very open ended such as: “Tell us about yourself.”Or very direct such as: “What is your potential major?” Not only are your answers important but so, too, are the manner in which you listen and interact with the interviewers.
- In every interview, your dress should be business casual, at the very least. Even if the interviewers did not specify a dress code, it is better to be overdressed than to be underdressed
- The handshake should be firm, but not overpowering or held for too long
- Eye contact is a sign of respect in American society, so always show respect by looking your interviewer in the eye
- You should be able to say your first and last name confidently to each interviewer, maintain a good listening posture, and make the interviewers feel like you desire to be there and deserve the scholarship
Conclusion - The time to wrap up everything you showed during the introduction and body of the interview. This includes keeping the same professionalism and great attitude you came in with, and reinforcing the answers you gave.
- The questions can get difficult, it is much better to pause and gather your thoughts before you answer than to answer prematurely
- When the interviewers are talking give them your full attention and listen actively and be aware of your body language
- Try to answer each question completely and give a complete answer, but do not talk unnecessarily or ramble
- Do not be afraid to be yourself or throw some humor into your answers
In addition to having a good intro, body, and conclusion there are simple mistakes that everyone should avoid, the way you would try to steer clear of spelling and grammar mistakes in an essay.
- When the interviewers are done asking you their questions, they may see if you have any questions for them. Even if they do not ask if you have any questions, politely tell them you would like to ask them some questions. This shows you are interested in them, just as much as they are in you.
- When you get up to leave the interview room, make sure that you shake every person’s hand in the room and thank them for the opportunity.
You worked hard to be chosen for an interview, and you deserve anything that you are awarded. Unfortunately, someone will have to “break it”, so take this advice and come into the interview ready to “make it”.
- Always show up early for an interview
- Turn your cellular device on silent mode or off
- Do not fidget your fingers or give attention to other items such as a pen while others are speaking
- Never leave the interview without showing appreciation and stating that you look forward to communication in the future
Derrius L Quarles is a 19-year-old freshman at Morehouse College. He hopes to go to medical school after he graduates with a degree in psychology and biology and a minor in public health, and to one day work on the public health policies of his hometown, Chicago, and beyond. To help him achieve those academic and career ambitions, Derrius has won more than $1.1 million in scholarships, including a full scholarship to attend Morehouse, since graduating from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy High School with a 4.2 GPA. Derrius was awarded a Gates Millennium scholarship and won a number of other highly competitive awards, many of which he found while searching for scholarships at Scholarships.com. He is the first in his family to attend college, and spent his childhood in the foster care system before becoming the “Million Dollar Scholar.” This is the sixth in a series of posts Derrius is writing for Scholarships.com on how he was able to fund his education, along with advice about the scholarship application process.