Interviewing for Scholarships

The idea behind any interview advice is that you can improve your skills through practice and reflection. Here are a few tips to help you get in a proper frame of mind and prepare to maximize your chances of doing well.


  1. Bring your ID and whatever the panel has asked you to bring.
  2. Pack everything you need. Print a good travel checklist from the web if necessary.
  3. Scout the location well ahead if possible.
  4. Build flextime into your travel schedule. Allow for the unexpected.
  5. Arrive early.
  1. Dress like you want to succeed. This means conservative professional attire.
  2. Consider packing two options for clothing.
  3. Your clothes should feel comfortable.
  4. Test drive them prior to the day.
  5. Do they need to be cleaned and/or pressed? Do you need to polish your shoes?
  6. Eat healthy food in moderation to avoid the pitfalls of being stuffed or being hungry.
  7. Consider taking an early walk or run.
  8. Discretely take some slow deep breaths before you enter.
  1. Spend time in advance reflecting on your goals and interests.
  2. Work through this Names You Should Know checklist far in advance.
  3. Spend years cultivating an engaged interest in contemporary issues and world events.
  4. Talk with others about issues that matter, including your aspirations, so that the terrain covered in an interview is not new and unfamiliar.
  5. Review a copy of the application you submitted.
  6. Know the scholarship. Know the organization that gives the award.
  7. Read the newspaper that morning.
  8. Look forward to the challenge of difficult questions. Plan to enjoy the intellectual give and take.
  9. Visualize a confident meeting where you successfully present yourself like the person you aspire to become.


  1. Smile when you enter and when you leave. At least.
  2. Make eye contact. Spread it around evenly.
  3. Show an interest. Let them see an engaged candidate.
  1. Do not swivel just because your chair does.
  2. Sit erect even if your chair leans back.
  3. Lean slightly forward to communicate interest.
  4. Pull up to the table when you sit down. The table is the playing field.
  1. Keep them away from your face.
  2. Avoid repeated tics like picking at the edge of the table.
  3. Let them out of your lap. Hidden hands seem tentative.
  4. Some gesturing: not bad. Makes you seem animated.
  5. Same gesture over and over again: bad. Makes you seem automated.
  6. Shake hands with a firm grip. Present your hand with confidence.
  7. The gesture is incomplete unless you smile and make eye contact.
  1. Remember that interviews are not lethal and they do not determine your worth as an individual.
  2. More deep breaths if the jitters hit you.
  3. Remember that every interview is practice for the next one.


  1. Make sure you are clearly heard. Articulate carefully. Project across the room.
  2. Avoid jargon and slang.
  3. Try not to pepper your speech with "like" or "um" or any sort of repetitive filler.
  4. No chewing gum.
  5. Budget the time you spend on any single answer.
  6. Pause to collect your thoughts as needed. Keep your brain ahead of your mouth.
  7. Especially pause before you begin an answer to make sure you know where you are headed.
  1. Listen carefully to each question.
  2. Follow general statements with concrete examples. Particulars. Details. Instances.
  3. Realize when you have no more to say. Dead air beats rambling. Thinking of coming to a full stop as a way of hitting the ball back over the net to your interviewer(s).
  4. Show respect for opposing views as you articulate your own.
  5. Have an introductory or concluding comment ready. Read the situation if asked for one.
  6. Admit it if you don't know an answer. Provide the facts or context that you do know.
  7. Look for opportunities within broad questions to reveal your expertise and knowledge.
  8. Look for opportunities to focus in on what you are passionate about.
  9. Negativity and cynicism never play well.
  1. Move on if you botch an answer.
  2. Almost all questions are an invitation to talk. Yes or No is insufficient.
  3. Filter your strengths through your experience and goals. No bragging.
  4. Don't try to guess what the judges want to hear. Show them how you think.
  5. Ask for clarification if the question is unclear or too broad.
  6. Try not to introduce topics about which you are unprepared to talk.
  7. Do not ask the judges topical questions. It eats your time if they answer.
  1. Thank the judges for the opportunity to talk with them.
  2. Show your positive side.
  3. Make it feel more like a discussion. Less like an oral exam.
  4. The judges want to get to know you through the discussion. Let them.
  5. Have the confidence to sound as sharp and insightful as you really are.

Please contact Beth Powers at if you would to talk further about how to prepare for interviews associated with merit scholarships.