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How To Do a Scholarship Interview like a Boss

Sometimes confidence matters more than attire.

Admit it: you are dead nervous about this interview.

I sure was.

I distinctly remember nervously smiling at my friends’ faces, praying that my fright wasn’t visible. Or contagious. Or long-lasting. The thought of going past those closed doors quickened my heart’s pace as I drew another short breath.  The clock’s hand inched closer to my scheduled appointment. Somehow, my feet managed to carry me to the meeting room. In those first few seconds, after I settled into my seat, I honestly felt as though my heartbeats were embarrassingly audible. (Thanks, brain, for swooshing nerve-racking adrenaline through my veins.)

That only lasted for a few seconds.

It doesn’t have to last longer than that for you either.

Before jumping on to the “secret, most wondrous tips to overcoming your interview fright and seize the scholarship in 10 minutes” train, you need to know something.

There isn’t a single set of tips that will lift you up from your state of confusion and visible anxiousness to magically bequeath composure and calm on your poor soul. The most that this piece of advice hopes to implant is a mental state that only you can modify to personally fit you. Having established that disclaimer, we can proceed to some advisory notes on doing well in an interview. You’ll notice that the sequence followed is chronological, going through the “before,” “during,” and “after the interview,” phases.

Before The Interview

  1. Do your homework:

    Homework! I didn’t sign up for this!

Try to know what you will most probably be asked about. Chances are, with 10-20 minutes as your time window, you won’t be asked to tell your whole life story. I highly recommend asking alumni or TAs (Teacher’s Assistant) about the specific kinds of questions most students get. The usual questions are:

– What are your career plans? (Do I look like I know? )
– What was the most challenging time of your life and how did you manage? “Er”
– Tell us something about you that you haven’t mentioned in your essay.(“My skills are so plentiful I tend to forget them.”) 
– Why should we accept you?  “Because I’m perfect, that’s why. Please take me, though. PLEEEEEEASE!”

  1. Stalk other applicants:

There’s nothing wrong with familiarizing yourself with, possibly, your future friends and current contenders. In any case, it’s important to put human faces to your ‘foes’ and ‘competitors’. It’s likely that they have done so themselves.

  1. Know thyself:

Try to know what unique feature(s) you have that they’re looking for. In other words, understand yourself well and pinpoint your most distinctive qualities that define your unique character. While verbally digging out your inner desires, try to reinforce what you hinted at in your personal statement.  You will most definitely be asked about statements you yourself wrote. To elaborate on some lightly touched points in your essay, you have to read it a couple of times before going through the interview.

During The Interview:

1. Use your body language

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Use hand gestures to send your points home and remember to smile. I’m not suggesting that you flap your arms to illustrate a point; don’t overdo it. Likewise, don’t glue your arms to your side. Try to make yourself comfortable by placing both hands on the table while relaxing your back and shoulders. Smile at your interviewing panel and to reassure or trick yourself that this is a pleasant experience.

2. Pause When Needed

Between questions and while answering, you may pause. Don’t be shy to ask for a 1-minute break to organize your thoughts. It is only normal to ask for a bit of time to compose yourself. In all probability, it is probably better to mentally plan your answer than stuttering a rushed, unprocessed thought or idea-in-process. Remember that your primary goal is to be presentable and organized; a requested pause could greatly improve the quality of your answer. However, don’t always ask for such pauses. Let the conversation flow.

3. Fire Back
Prepare one or two questions to ask after the formal interview is over. Turn the table to give the impression that you are somewhat interested to understand something only your interviewers know.

After The Interview:

1. Be Realistic

Don’t raise your hopes so high. Keep your expectations low, if you can. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance and between humility and pessimism. You don’t want to cross over to either side, but keep them both in view. That is, try to rein in your wild horses of imagination as you dream about winning the scholarship grant. Daydreaming is one thing, but try to ground yourself in reality and think about how you’ll invest your time whether or not the opportunity is secured.

2. Move on
Resume your life as normally as you can. Plan for alternative paths because it’s better to get back to your normal as if nothing happened than to get so fixated on your responses to the interview questions. You will possibly wish that you’d answered differently to some questions.

3. Put it in Scale
Convince your stubborn, disbelieving self that whether you’re accepted or rejected, it is not the end of the world. Yes, it can be hard to live through the agony of rejection. However, it is only a transient moment in your life that you will, believe it or not, soon get over. Review your personal growth and design short and long-term plans instead of bemoaning the forgone opportunity. Likewise, It is also equally important to pop the bubble you momentarily enter, to see beyond the scholarship opportunity.

I hope these advisory notes help, though, in all honesty, they may not. Just saying.

What are your worst fears related to interviews? Which tip most resonated with you? What other tips do you personally have?

Let us hear you out in the comments; maybe your tips can save a soul!  

About Dalia Ismail

When you feel that a college-related panic fit is around the corner, make sure to drop by at Students' Hub to chat about it. I'll be here to respond to your worries.

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