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5 Steps for Scholarships Interview Prep

If you’re a fortunate candidate who’s been invited for a scholarship interview, congratulations!

You’ve progressed through some tough competition and are nearing the finish line.

I’ve got some interview preparation advice for you.

It’s imperative to prepare thoroughly for an interview, so you can make an impact in your short meeting with panelists.

STEP 1: Brain Dump

Get started by doing a brain dump on paper of all the details about you, what makes you tick, and so on.  This goes way beyond a cut-and-dry resume. You may want to take your resume out and use it as a guideline but be sure to add categories such as hobbies and interests, “X factor,” “five traits” to describe you, family background, and “fun facts” about you. Take time to think about every aspect of your personality, skill set, values, hopes & dreams, life experiences and struggles & failures.

Whether or not the interviewer touches on these categories is not the point; what matters is having as many facts, skills and experiences you can think of on the tip of your tongue to share, in a smart way, if needed during the interview. This is a valuable preparation practice.

STEP 2: Talk the Talk

Have casual conversations with family and friends to get comfortable talking about yourself. Figure out what makes YOU “you.” Discuss the following topics openly, naturally and authentically.

- personal values

- strengths

- weaknesses

- areas of passion

STEP 3: Jane’s Three Rules

Remember Jane’s Three Interview Rules, and begin practicing them:

- Be honest.

- Be positive.

- Brag politely (Sell yourself confidently and factually.)

I work on interview preparation with students all the time for employment and private school & university admissions. My main goal by the end of a session is to get students to feel confident and able to sell themselves.

Bragging feels icky to most teenagers. Most students believe they should never do it, under any circumstance! However, in the context of an interview, that’s exactly what needs to be done.

So go ahead and brag.

It’s all in the delivery. Share your great accomplishments and experiences! Just do it in a direct, factual and polite way.

STEP 4: Questions

What questions will be asked? 

I can’t answer that! Think about a whole bunch of possibilities.

There are probable questions depending on the job or position to be filled.

Questions very likely to be asked in a job/school interview:

Why do you want this position?

Why should we hire you?

What challenge or failure have you overcome?

Hypothetical questions that can reveal your personality and values:

If you won five million dollars, what would you do with it?

What does a perfect day look like for you?

These questions have no right or wrong answer. I encourage students to be authentic. Share something interesting, thoughtful, even raw about yourself. Don’t reply with comments you think the interviewer wants to hear. Questioners learn a great deal from hypothetical questions. In your reply you’ll share indirectly much about who you are.

Scholarship-specific questions:

Why do you want this scholarship?

Why should we award you?

Do you need the financial assistance this award provides? Why?

How does your life reflect the mission/values of the organization offering the award, and of the award itself?

STEP 5: First Impression 

Practice your first impression and handshake!

You only have one chance, and it only takes 5-7 seconds to make huge impact on interviewers. Master this skill.

For more interview skills tips, check out my video here.

Best wishes as you prepare for this exciting stage in a very long and competitive process!

Remember these important life skills as you go through life. You’ll need them more often than you think!

I wish you success and satisfaction in whatever pathway you choose!

This blog post was originally posted as a Guest Post at Seeking Scholarships, an extremely useful service and website connecting students to scholarships, bursaries, and awards. Founder Glenda Healy also shares regular tips and resources to students about careers and post-secondary planning.

Glenda Healy and Jane Kristoffy present to parent and school groups throughout Ontario, sharing invaluable information to parents and students about post-secondary planning and funding.

Watch both websites for tour details and dates.


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