Common Scholarship Interview Questions

  • Common scholarship interview questions usually will focus on the student’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, personality, and academics.
  • Others may ask about motivation, stress management, and extracurricular activities.
  • No matter what the scholarship is for, a scholarship interview requires preparation and practice.

You’ve gotten to the Interview for your scholarship. That in and of itself is a huge accomplishment. Now it’s time to prepare for that biggest moment of all – the scholarship interview questions.

How To Prepare for a Scholarship Interview

If you’ve been invited for an interview, one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself is to practice your answers to the most commonly asked scholarship interview questions. While every conversation will be unique, there are quite a few that are asked in almost every interview!

Whether you practice in front of a mirror or a friend or family member helps you out with a mock interview, these other tips won’t hurt either:

  • Read up about the funding organization and get an insight into its vision, mission, and goals.
  • Go through your scholarship application thoroughly so if you’re asked any questions about something you’ve said or an experience you’ve mentioned, you’ll be better prepared to answer.
  • Stay updated on current affairs.
  • Make sure you have a set of smart clothes and shoes ironed and ready to go before the interview day.
  • See if there is any information online from students who sat for the interview. You might be able to find out exactly which scholarship interview questions will be asked.
  • Don’t memorize your answers. The interviewer will be able to tell. Answers should be heartfelt and honest.

College student interviews for a scholarship opportunity

Most Common Scholarship Questions (With Examples)

1. Tell us about yourself.

This open-ended scholarship interview question allows you to direct the conversation. Because it is so broad, your first instinct might be to also answer broadly. Don’t. Plan out what you might want to say as if it were a college prompt. Like a good essay, you can start with something general about yourself and then narrow to a specific anecdote or point. This is also a good opportunity to highlight a set of skills you have.

Example: I’m someone who is really passionate about the ocean. That’s why I plan on majoring in marine biology and becoming an NOAA scientist one day! I’ve already earned my scuba certification and have gone on several dives. When I’m not in the water, I really enjoy reading poetry or volunteering at our local library’s summer literacy program for kids.

Why it Works: This response covers a lot of things in a small amount of time. It highlights that the student is thoughtful when it comes to their academics and future plans, and also that they’re willing to go the extra mile.

  • Long-term goal: Become a scientist.
  • Short-term goal: Major in marine biology.
  • Accomplishments relating to the goals: Earned scuba certification.
  • Values: Volunteers time to help others.
  • Personality: Enjoys poetry.

2. What is your greatest strength/weakness?

This scholarship interview question shows that you are a self-aware person. When talking about your strength, don’t be humble. Give examples so that it’s not just you talking yourself up. For the weakness, try to paint it as something about yourself that you are attempting to improve, or an obstacle you want to overcome. Again, give examples.

Example: I’d say that my greatest strength is my tenacity. When I do something, I want to do it right, so I’m willing to put in the time and effort to see it through. Once, for a school project, we had to build a model of an atom and we chose to build the element hafnium. Hafnium has an atomic number of 72, which meant the model was going to be huge. The teacher offered to let us switch, but I decided not to. So I stayed after school for an hour each day for a week to finish it. I’m happy to say I got an A+ on the project.

Why it Works: A specific example is key here. Not only did this student pick a positive attribute to highlight (tenacity), they also backed-up their claim with a story about how their tenacity benefited them.

Example: Frustration is definitely something I’m trying to work on. If something doesn’t click with me right away, I can get irritated with myself. I understand that it takes time to get good at something, so I’m trying to learn to be more patient. For example, I’ve been taking up watercolors as a hobby, but since it’s a new skill, I’m not really good yet and tend to dislike whatever I create. To counterbalance that, I’ve been watching tutorials and trying to repaint things and make them better.

Why it Works: Again, a specific example helps show the interviewer that this student isn’t just saying things. They are self-aware by:

  • Recognizing their fault (frustration).
  • Taking lengths to work on it (watching tutorials to improve their skills).
  • Showing that they are introspective and willing to better themselves.

3. Why do you deserve this scholarship?

This one’s a toughy. Be honest and open. You applied for this scholarship for a reason, and now you also need to put it into words. (For a more involved answer, read our guide on what to say when you are asked why you deserve this scholarship.)

Example: Ever since my cousin was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, I’ve wanted to become a pediatrician. Medical school is expensive, and this scholarship will help me accomplish my goal of becoming a doctor and helping sick kids like Maise.

Why it Works: Not only did this student outline a noble goal (becoming a pediatrician), they also acknowledge how the scholarship will help them in their goals. The personal touch of the cousin helps cement the story in the interviewer’s mind.

4. What are your career goals?

For this scholarship interview question, they are looking to see if you also have a plan. What are you going to do after college? If you can showcase how this scholarship will also get you closer to your career goals, that’s a good move.

Example: My ultimate goal is to own a farming operation. My grandparents had a small farm, and I always loved visiting when I was a kid. Through that, I learned the importance of growing food for a community. I want to study agricultural science at Iowa State University since its ag science program is nationally renowned.

Once I graduate, I plan to work at a local farm and earn enough to start fields of my own. I even have plans to donate some of the crops to homeless shelters in honor of my grandpa.

Why it Works: The student has clearly outlined their long-term goals and detailed what short-term goals are necessary to accomplish their dream. Many scholarship sponsors value community, and this student mentioned appreciating community as well–and backed that claim up with plans to donate food to the needy.

5. Who has been a role model for you?

Make sure you consider this one beforehand. The people you admire say a lot about you, and you need to be able to explain that. Is it a famous person? Is it a family member? A teacher? It’s important to remember your role model’s character flaws as well, and how they are also inspiring despite them (or maybe because of the way they’ve overcome them).

Example: My camp counselor Kai was always someone I looked up to. He was always incredibly positive and friendly; he had a talent for making people smile and feel welcome. One summer, I got stung by a bee and Kai got me to stop crying by telling corny jokes while he bandaged me up. He was always the first person to offer to help out, and really went above and beyond the call of duty. He’s even a volunteer firefighter! Kai’s enthusiasm and positivity made a huge impact on my childhood, and I hope I emulate that to the people around me.

Why it Works: Describing a person you admire shows what traits you yourself value. In this case, the student clearly was affected by positivity, altruism, and friendliness, so much so that they desired to be more like Kai. It shows interviewers what that student will strive to embody. Scholarship sponsors want to award students who are deserving, after all, and who will act as a good ambassador of the sponsor’s mission or ideals.

6. Tell me about a mistake you made.

Like naming a weakness about yourself, they’re looking for self-awareness of your flaws. No human is perfect. More importantly, they’ll also want you to explain what you’ve learned from your failures. How have you also grown as a person because of that experience? Scholarship interviews aren’t just for highlighting your best self, but showing you have insight as well.

Example: In seventh grade, I vandalized our rival school by spray painting our logo on the windows. In retrospect, I’m glad I got caught, even though I got in so much trouble at the time. In addition to being grounded and forced to clean the windows on a Saturday, I was suspended from extracurricular activities, which meant I couldn’t go to baseball competitions with my team.

My coaches and teammates were really disappointed; I knew I’d let them down. I learned a valuable lesson from that mistake: that not only will my actions have consequences, but they can have a negative impact on the people I care about. Ever since then, I’ve definitely thought things through before doing them.

Why it Works: Admitting fault requires introspection. This student not only confessed to vandalism but followed it up with the lessons they learned from it. Additionally, they specified that the mistake and lesson still have an impact in their daily life–it wasn’t a one-and-done lesson, it honestly changed their life.

7. Why did you choose this school?

As it’s highly unlikely you just picked a school at random, you should be able to answer this pretty easily. Was it because of a certain program offered? Did a family member also attend? Has this always been your dream school? Expound a little on your answers to this particular scholarship interview question – they’re looking for someone with passion, who is also going to commit to earning a degree at that institution. They want to know your answer to “why you want to go to our college”.

Example: My mom, aunt, and two cousins all went to the University of Iowa, so I’ve basically been a Hawkeye since birth. But what really drew me to Iowa was its spectacular writing program. I went to a couple of summer writing camps there and they cemented my dream of wanting to be an author. When I toured the campus it just felt like home. I also sat in on an English class and clicked with the professor right away.

Why it Works: Speaking of English, do you remember ethos, logos, and pathos when it comes to being persuasive? This response has all three.

  • Ethos (establishing authority on a topic): They have a long-standing familiarity with the university through family and the personal experience of the summer camps.
  • Logos (logical points): The student establishes their goal is to be a writer, that they attend writing camps, and that the university has a well-known writing program.
  • Pathos (an emotional connection): In addition to the family connection, the student emphasizes that the campus felt like home and that they connected with the teaching staff.

8. What activities are you involved in?

Like with your college application, you’ll want to demonstrate that you do more with your time than study. This particular scholarship interview question is a great opportunity to showcase your willingness to work with other people, show that you have a good work ethic at your job, and also talk about your involvement in groups. You shouldn’t list everything; you’ll want to talk about the groups you’ve contributed to. Be sure to mention the activities that are also related to the scholarship, if any.

Example: Mock Trial is my main extracurricular activity at school. I’ve been part of our school’s debate team since 8th grade and loved it so much that I plan to become a lawyer someday. When I’m not studying for class or a competition, I volunteer at the local animal shelter by walking the dogs. A few of my debate team friends volunteer with me.

Why it Works: This student showed their dedication to an activity–Mock Trial–by explaining how long they’ve been involved, and how it affected their personal goals. The student also added a non-academic activity to show their personal values and willingness to lend their time to help a cause they admire.

9. Tell me about a personal achievement that makes you proud.

If your proudest moment is that time you burped the entirety of the ABCs forward and backward, you might want to re-evaluate. Scholarship interviews allow you to shine – you want to always present your best self. For example, you might want to talk about something you struggled with. Maybe it was when your coach moved to a starting position. Maybe it was the first A on a paper that you worked hard on.

Example: I’m a naturally shy person with debilitating stage fright. I also love poetry. Those two parts of me clashed when my English teacher suggested I enter a poetry recital contest. I really wanted to do it, but I was so scared I’d freeze or mess up. I nearly backed out. To work on my stage fright, I practiced reading poems out loud to the book club.

Over time, I grew more comfortable standing in front of people, and the more I practiced the poem, the easier it was to remember. If you’d told me at the beginning of the year I’d go to nationals and recite a poem in front of an auditorium of 10,000 people, I wouldn’t believe you. But I did it. I even got fourth place!

Why it Works: The example highlights the student’s passion (poetry) and challenge (stage fright). It emphasizes how the student worked to overcome an obstacle and ultimately accomplish an incredible goal.

10. Is there anything else you want to add?

Always take this scholarship interview question seriously. They are allowing you to talk about anything you feel wasn’t sufficiently covered by the other interview questions. You might want to discuss something that is important to you or you feel that it is important the interviewer knows about yourself. It’s also a great time to thank them for the opportunity and their time.

Example: Yes! I’d like to say how grateful I am for this scholarship opportunity. Your organization is all about recycling and keeping our community clean and green. I’ve loved volunteering during the beach clean-up days for the past four years. I can’t wait to join our start a recycling group at college next year.

Why it Works: It’s important to thank the interviewer for their time and efforts and being grateful for the chance at the scholarship is part of that. Additionally, this student brought their response back around to the sponsor’s own goals and values, which shows that the student is an ideal candidate that matches the organization’s own mission.

11. When have you demonstrated leadership skills?

Colleges and scholarships are always on the lookout for up-and-coming leaders. And for awards that are dedicated to leaders in their classrooms or clubs, this question is especially important. Students should think about when they took control of a tricky situation or helped others when they led a team. It doesn’t even have to be a success story; failure can be a great lesson for everyone. It just has to be a story where your skills are clearly demonstrated.

Example: During my senior year of high school, I was the leader of my Quiz Club. We were neck and neck in the semifinals, and were struggling with a particular question. Neither team was answering, however, and I decided that giving an answer, even if it was wrong, was better than remaining silent. Thankfully, our guess turned out to be right and we advanced to the finals.

Why it Works: Every leader faces uncertainty and adversity. This student highlighting a particularly tough question in one of the competitions showcases that they’re able to take calculated risks even in stressful situations. They had the backing of their team members and their team organization as well.

12. Where do you find your motivation?

What drives you in your day-to-day life? When you wake up in the morning, what makes you get out of bed aside from your responsibilities? What drives your passions? These are all great ways to answer the scholarship interview question “Where do you find your motivation?” This will be a very personal question and likely unique to you so think about what drives you as a person.

Example: My main motivator is wanting to see positive change within the world. We’re facing a number of challenges at the moment, including high anxiety rates among teenagers, and I want to be working towards making a positive impact on the problems I see day after day in the classroom and out. It will take baby steps to reach my long term goal of becoming a psychiatrist, and every day the knowledge of these societal issues drives me to want to help others.

Why it Works: In this response, the student is showcasing their empathy as a motivating factor in their life as well as their awareness of the world around them. They’re also highlighting their goals and how this motivation is tied directly into their career aspirations.

13. How will this scholarship help you reach your goals?

Scholarships are there to help students better afford their education, but your answer to the question shouldn’t just be this cut and dry. Students should instead go into how the money will directly impact their education and potential.

Example: My dream college is one of the best schools in the country for my intended major. However, I was disheartened to learn that the financial aid packages I was offered and the money I have saved don’t quite cover the entire cost of attending. I believe attending this college will give me the solid foundation I need to launch my career, but I won’t be able to afford it without additional financial support.

Why it Works: Students using this response show their commitment to a particular major and desire to attend their dream college, but also explain why it’s not quite possible at the moment. Especially for scholarships that are based on merit as well as need, this could be a deciding factor.

14. Where do you see yourself in 5/10/15 years?

I don’t love this question myself, but it’s one you should get used to. It will be repeated in college interviews, job interviews, and job evaluations throughout your career. Students answering this scholarship question should think about their goals directly after college and their long-term goals within their career.

Example: In 5 years, I expect to be pursuing my Master’s degree. To become a leading marine biologist in the field, I know I have to further my education. In 10 years, I hope to be working with one of the leading aquariums in the country. In 15 years, I would love to be the director of a shark conservation department.

Why it Works: This response highlights all of the student’s short and long-term goals for education and their career. It even gets specific about dreams (director of a shark conservation department) and shows that the student has a roadmap planned for success. It makes the student a good investment!

15. How do you manage stress?

Scholarship interviews can cover several different topics, but one that might come up is stress management. College is stressful, and award organizers want to know you can handle the workload – especially if there is a GPA requirement for the scholarship. Similar questions may be asked about your time management or productivity.

Example: To help manage my to-do list, and, in turn, my stress, I use a planner and wall calendar to set my priorities and highlight deadlines. I make sure to tackle larger projects sooner rather than later. I also work to make sure I have time for my own passions outside of work and education so I always have time to relax.

Why it Works: This response lets the interviewer know that the student has a good handle on their to-do list, how to prioritize projects and make time for themselves. If the student has good grades and has already talked about their passions outside of the classroom, this reply is backed up by evidence, too.

16. Award Specific Questions

Students may also be asked very specific questions related to the scholarship. For example, for scholarships for gamers, the student may be asked about their favorite video game and why. For highly competitive awards that require previous research projects, the student may be questioned about their participation in a research project and their individual contributions.

Example: My favorite video game of 2023 was Baldur’s Gate 3 because it truly was a labor of love from the developers and other creatives. With their early access lasting several years, they were extremely responsive to feedback and worked to create a game that they were proud of and the fans could love.

The end result is an amazing mix of story, gameplay, and graphics. The story in particular resonates with me because of its ability to touch on sensitive topics in an empathetic manner.

Why it Works: In this example, the student can articulate why Baldur’s Gate 3 was their favorite game of the year and show that they have knowledge of its development outside of just gameplay. They can also clearly state why they love the game on a personal level by explaining how the story was impressive to them.

By knowing what to expect in a scholarship interview, you can put your best foot forward and increase your chances of winning the award. You don’t want to go in without any prep or you could lose out on some free money. But with these common scholarship questions in hand and your answers prepped, you should be able to knock the interview out of the park! Good luck!

To schedule a scholarship interview, you’re first going to have to apply for some scholarships! And whether or not you missed out on the award after your interview, there are always more to apply to. Use our free Scholarship Search tool to start locating awards you qualify for today!


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