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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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How to Answer 30 Popular Scholarship Interview Questions

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Your GPA and SAT don’t tell the full admissions story


Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographics, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

Calculate your acceptance chances

What’s Covered:


If you’re applying for college scholarships, then you may be invited to interview if you make it past the initial screening round. The interview may feel nerve-wracking, but being offered one is great news!


Not sure how to start preparing? Here, we’ll give you 30 of those questions and provide example answers to help you to think about how to respond. Use these examples as a stepping stone for brainstorming and drafting your own unique responses. You can apply this same formula to many other scholarship interview questions as well.



Getting to Know You Questions


1. Tell us about yourself.


This is the most popular among all scholarship interview questions and answers. Highlight your achievements, personality traits, skills, and experiences that will make you an ideal candidate for the scholarship. You can start with a brief bio or highlight key points on your resume. 


Example: I’m a sophomore at Carlsbad High School. I’ve been passionate about technology and its impact on human life since my early childhood days. Over the past few years, with the help of my parents and teachers, I managed to explore this passion by taking up extra courses in programming languages such as C++, Android app development, and graphic design. My hobby is to help fellow students with their Android apps and program games for them.


See more examples in our guide about responding to “tell me about yourself” in college interviews.


2. Were you involved in any activities at school or in your community?


This scholarship interview question is especially great for students with leadership roles. Talk about your experiences, showing that you are a leader through your involvement in clubs or sports. You can also talk about how you contribute to your community or help people in need.


Example: Yes, at my school I am the editor of our school newspaper. As an editor, I manage other students who write articles for the paper and come up with topic ideas. Additionally, I am involved in robotics and the swim team. I enjoy having a balance between physical and intellectual activities because they keep me active in different ways.


3. Tell us about your greatest strength and greatest weakness


With this question, you want to make sure to balance each answer. Highlight a strength and then discuss how you have overcome a weakness in the past or will overcome it in the future. Come up with a list of strengths and weaknesses which you think will be most valuable for your college application, such as strong analytical skills paired with organization issues or high creativity but limited time management ability.


Make sure not to skirt around the question of weaknesses. It can be common for students to say that they’re perfectionists, for example, which some may even not consider a weakness. You want to show that you’re capable of reflection and recognizing your faults, but also that you’re willing and able to improve them.


Example: My greatest strength is that I am able to prioritize what needs to be done first today and which tasks can wait until tomorrow. This allows me to be efficient with my time management skills so that I am able to succeed in school and my extracurricular activities. However, my greatest weakness is that I can become too focused on one task and forget about other assignments or projects which need attention. I’ve been working on this by setting reminders in my calendar throughout the day.


4. Tell us something about yourself no one else knows


This question gives you the opportunity to share a piece of information that represents you in the best possible light. You can reveal something interesting or unique about yourself such as an accomplishment, hobby, talent, interest, experience, etc. as long as it’s positive and not too personal.


Example: I am proficient in sign language. This has always been a passion of mine, as I wish to work with children in a clinical setting who are deaf or hard of hearing one day. I have studied sign language throughout high school, and I plan to continue learning at university so that I can interact with these children without any language barrier.


5. How would you describe yourself?


Highlight your personality traits that are relevant to the scholarship. If you know what they’re looking for, then mention those skills! This is great for students who might not have extracurricular activities related to the scholarship but instead have qualities that would make them an asset to the organization.


Example: My positive attitude and ability to work in a team environment are what I believe contribute to my character. When I was in high school, I used to lead a team of baristas at my local café. The role was equal parts delegation of tasks and ensuring customer satisfaction. My enthusiasm for coffee and my ability to operate in a collaborative environment left an impression of optimism on both my coworkers and customers of the cafe. Regulars have even acknowledged that they visit my cafe specifically because of the happy atmosphere I am able to create.


6. What are your biggest accomplishments?


This question allows you to brag about yourself a little bit. Bring up something that makes you stand out from other students, especially if it’s related to the scholarship you’re applying for! Whether it’s winning awards or competitions, being president of an organization, graduating at the top of your class, or anything else that enhances your application.


Example: In high school, I helped implement a composting program that used student’s leftovers as fertilizer for the school garden. We faced a lot of pushback at first from the school board, as they weren’t familiar with the environmental benefits of composting. After speaking at 3 board meetings, I was given permission to start the program. Our cafeteria was recognized by the food services director who wanted to take this idea and implement it system-wide. My team and I were then given special permission to start a “Garden Club” where we could continue to grow fresh vegetables for our peers. Since then, five additional high schools have followed suit.


7. Describe your biggest mistake.


You want to think of an answer that emphasizes you know how to learn from past experience. You should also indicate that you are not stuck in the past. While you acknowledge you have messed up, also point out ways that you have gotten better. 


Example: In my sophomore year of high school, my brother and I switched schools. My brother has always been the outgoing one and never had trouble making friends, so I failed to recognize that he was actually going through a hard transition. I had gotten so busy with my new activities that I didn’t read too much into his increased moodiness and time spent alone in his room. It was only when we got into an argument that he revealed how lonely he’d been feeling. Now, I make it a point to be more sensitive to the feelings of my friends and family, and to try to check in more regularly. I actually now have a weekly scheduled hangout with my brother where we go on a random adventure and talk about life. Last week, we went geocaching!


8. Tell me about your leadership experience.


This question aims to determine whether you have a sincere love of learning. You do not have to give specific examples of how you have thrived in the class. However, you should be able to explain what you like about that subject.


Example: I previously served as one of four co-presidents for my high school’s Amnesty International club. In this role, I organize and supervise the organization of all meetings and events that we attend to raise awareness about social justice topics such as refugees or endangered species. This experience has taught me how to effectively manage a team and meet multiple deadlines in an organized manner.


Do you have enough leadership experience to get accepted to your top school? Calculate your chances for free now.


9. What is your favorite book and why?


This question is asking you to really show your personality. They want to get a sense of who you are so they can determine if you would be a good fit for the scholarship. They also just want to know more about you – after all, this is your chance to answer any questions that might have been missed in another section of the application!


Example: My favorite book is Finding You by Lydia Albano. The main character, Isla, is sold into slavery, and at first she hopes that someone from her past will come rescue her. She doesn’t think she can escape because she’s small and not very strong. But in the end, she actually winds up saving a bunch of other girls when she creates an escape plan for them. I like this book because I would also like to work to end human trafficking. Like Isla, sometimes I feel like I can’t do anything to help, but she gives me courage to try.


10. What subject is your favorite in school?


This is another question where you want to show your personality more than just listing off random facts about yourself. You should choose a subject that relates to the scholarship or one you are passionate about. You can mention how this subject makes you excited, why it’s important for you to study, etc. Your answer demonstrates your interest in learning and in taking your education further.


Example: My favorite subject is history because I find it interesting to study how people interacted with one another throughout the course of time. It’s refreshing seeing all of the different perspectives of different cultures and studying significant historical figures. Each answer shapes how we see our world today, so I know that my studies in this subject will help me shape my views on society as well. I hope to one day become a lawyer, and I know that studying history will give me the perspective, research experience, and writing skills needed to succeed.


11. What is your dream job?


Your answer should be specific, yet not too narrow. You don’t necessarily want the scholarship committee to think you are only interested in one type of job or that you can only work with one type of company. However, you also do not want them to think that they would need to find a wide variety of jobs for you because you don’t have a particular interest.


Example: My dream job is to work in the media industry as a producer or editor. I am passionate about sharing people’s stories and would love to brainstorm ways that we could create more awareness through our reporting. This career would allow me to use my creativity while still being able to positively influence others.


12. What is a meaningful experience or class you’ve had in school?


This question is similar to asking you about your favorite book, but a bit more advanced. They want you to show them how the coursework has shaped your interests and shown you new perspectives on certain topics.


Example: In my senior year of high school, I took a course on Media and Society. I specifically recall the final essay assignment where we had to compare two different media elements. Analyzing the portrayal of women in video game advertisements was my topic for this project. At first, I was really nervous about the topic; would I offend some friends within my gaming circle? I didn’t want to seem like an overly-sensitive female gamer. But, doing the research provided me with a better understanding on how women are often objectified in advertising, and after talking to my friends, they ended up being really supportive of my project and we have since become more aware of the kinds of media we’re consuming.


13. Who do you look up to? Who is your role model?


The expectation of this question is to see which qualities you admire, and potentially who has shaped your interests or helped you become who you are today. This could be a public figure, teacher, mentor, family member, friend–really anyone. Your answer should demonstrate your values and should align with the values of the scholarship.


Example: I admire Amelia  Earhart because she was a women’s rights activist and broke social barriers by being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  She was able to pursue what she wanted despite harsh criticism, which helps me feel more empowered to follow my own dreams.


14. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This is a question to determine how goal-oriented you are. It is also an opportunity to show the scholarship committee that you are ready for college and beyond. You want your answer to demonstrate that you have a plan moving forward; it doesn’t have to be super specific or set in stone, but you should have an idea of what you hope to achieve.


Example: I love economics. I love studying how the economy works and would like to work in banking, specifically in international sales at J.P Morgan. This career attracts me because it is fast-paced but also has great growth opportunities within the company. I also plan to actively work towards achieving my MBA as soon as I graduate.


15. How do you define failure?


This question is meant to see how you respond when faced with a challenge. It is important not to simply say that failure means giving up, as this will show that you lack initiative and drive. The best way to answer this question is using personal experience and demonstrating what you learned from it.


Example: I define failure as a missed opportunity. When I first began to play rugby my Freshman year of high school, I quickly realized that our team was not very strong. At times, it felt like we were bound to lose every game. But rather than letting this bring me down, I saw the season as a chance for me to try my hardest and become an impact player on the field. As the years went by, I continued to improve and our team grew closer together. Our losses began to transform into opportunities for growth, and by senior year, I was nominated captain. I had done everything in my power to make sure my teammates succeeded – even though it meant that on the scoreboard we would inevitably lose more than we won.


16. How do you manage stress?


This question is meant to determine how you deal with difficult situations. Most students respond that they like to focus on what is happening in the present moment, but this answer will show that you do not have a strategy for coping with stressors. A better way to answer this would be by mentioning a specific skill or habit that you have developed over time.


Example: I am a very organized person, and when I have a lot of work to do, I break it down into manageable tasks. Seeing everything that needs to be done in one sitting can be overwhelming for me, but if I give myself smaller goals to meet each day then that becomes more manageable. In addition, when I feel overwhelmed or stressed about work, I like to take a few minutes and go for a walk. This helps me think through everything more clearly, and I feel much more relaxed afterwards.


17. Tell me about a time you overcame adversity


Nothing shows your resilience and determination more than a story of you turning around a tough situation. Think of something that was difficult for you, but also allowed you to grow as an individual. You can even mention how this experience would help you handle adversity you might face in the future.


Example: I will tell you about a time when I was misunderstood by my peers. In high school, many of the students loved playing sports and were often eager to participate in after-school practices. Unfortunately, this made it difficult for me to get an opportunity to play because I was not athletic at all. When I tried out for the football team, I failed to make it because I didn’t have enough experience on my resume. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to join the swim team and began training with one of the best swimmers in school. She allowed me to shadow her until she felt that my technique was on par with the rest of her team. By the end of my sophomore year, I qualified for state level tournaments!


18. What motivates you?


This question is usually asked to see what motivates you to do your best. You should pick an answer that demonstrates determination, selflessness, or a desire for learning. It can even be beneficial to mention how you are motivated by the success of others around you.


Example: Curiosity is my main motivator. I love learning new things, and I am constantly trying to figure out how things work. This passion for discovery also leads me to want to find new ways to help others. By giving back and bettering the lives of other people, I feel like I’m making a difference in the world.


19. Tell me about a time when you didn’t agree with an authority’s decision.


This question is meant to see how you think through tough situations. The interviewer wants to know if you are able to provide constructive feedback, and what your approach would be when taking a stand against an unpopular decision.

Example: I was extremely disappointed when the school board decided not to purchase new science textbooks for our school library. While it made sense to save money, I decided that I needed to write a letter about my concerns. By explaining how this would impact the students’ discovery of new ideas and knowledge, I was able to convince my classmates to join me in signing an online petition. Luckily, they agreed with my perspective and the school board changed their decision.


20. Tell me about a time where you went above and beyond on a task?


This question is meant to see your dedication to a project or job. A good way to answer this would be by describing how you went beyond what was required, and did something extra for the sake of getting noticed.


Example: I had some work experience in my hometown library, and while I always made sure that each day’s work got done in a timely manner, I also tried to go the extra mile. If someone came in looking for help with an assignment, I would stay late with them until everything was completed. It was super fulfilling to even have one of the students I helped come in the next week to tell me she’d improved her math grade from a C to a B+!


21. How would you describe a good school environment?


This is a question that allows you to visualize your ideal environment, and what your priorities would be if you were in charge. If an interviewer asks this question, it means that they are trying to figure out if you could fit into their college culture.


Example: I think the most important thing about school is being able to personalize your learning. I’m looking for a place where I can learn the specifics of my field, but also have the freedom to pursue different ways of learning. For example, in my Spanish class, we were learning about language and identity, and we had to write a paper analyzing the specific works we studied at the end. I asked my teacher if I could instead write a personal paper about my experiences with language and identity while incorporating the works. This reflection was super meaningful to me as a Mexican-American. I want to attend a school where this sort of academic freedom is the norm.


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


This question is meant to see what makes you proud in life. A good answer demonstrates perseverance, and how your success can be replicated by others. The interviewer wants to know if you are setting the bar high, or just coasting along.


Example: During my Senior year, I helped plan out our high school’s first mock trial event. The debate team was around since my Freshman year, but they’ve never considered a mock trial until my graduating year. I wanted to make a good first impression on the debate team since I intended to become team captain. To show my commitment to the team, I volunteered to be a co-lead coordinator for our team which meant I helped recruit participants, organized our plan of action, and was one of the main points of contact for our group before and during the mock trial. The competition turned out to be a huge success, and it helped our high school stand out as one of the top debate schools in the Midwest. After that, I was asked to become the captain of the debate team. 


23. Describe your personality in three words


The interviewer is looking for a glimpse of your personality to see if you’re a good fit. Make sure to concentrate on your unique talents and skills in your response.


Example: I would say that I am resourceful, creative, and proactive.


24. How do you start a project?


This question is meant to determine your process for getting something done. The interviewer wants to know if you are organized, or just jumping into things.


Example: First, I would make a list of all the things that need to be done. Then, I would research everything there is on this topic to make sure that the project is feasible. Once I am satisfied with my amount of knowledge, I would spend some time making an outline for myself before I begin anything else.


25. How did you choose your major?


This question is to learn more about your interests. The interviewer probably wants this scholarship for you because they think you’ll be a good fit, but he/she needs to make sure that you are motivated in the right way.


Example: My father is a doctor and my mother is a nurse, but when they were young, they were both teachers. They taught me that education is the foundation for everything, so I’ve always taken school seriously, and I especially enjoyed my science classes. I initially didn’t want to go into healthcare because I didn’t want to just “follow in the footsteps” of my parents, but after shadowing a doctor for a day, I realized that the field was right for me since it combines education with helping others. I don’t want to be a doctor or nurse like my parents, but I hope to be a biomedical engineer to help build innovative technologies and be a lifelong learner.


Questions About The Opportunity


26. Why did you chose this university or college?


This question is designed to gauge your interest and fit with a college. Be sure to come prepared with specific resources or characteristics that support your college goals. Try to pick something you don’t find everywhere. For instance, “the diverse student body” is not as good of an answer as “the World Awareness citation offered through the Political Science department.”


Example: I am planning to double major in business and organizational studies.   The university has a wonderful undergraduate business program and is one of the top universities in this field. I became interested in a university program called “Eastern European Business” in particular, since my goal is to work in the Baltic Region. I want to learn more about the Eastern European market in order to increase the success of my future career in this area.


27. Why should you be the one to receive this scholarship?


One approach to respond to this question is to provide details of what’s written in your scholarship essay. You must provide a justification for why you are applying to the scholarship. One strategy is to emphasize certain statements from your essay.


Example: I am applying for this scholarship because I believe my work ethic and determination make me an excellent candidate. Last year, I helped organize the high school student council’s first blood drive in our county, which was a big success with 100% participation rate. After that experience, our Student Council Vice President encouraged me to run for the position of Secretary; while I did not win the election, I can still point to this experience as a great example of my leadership skills.


28. How will you use the scholarship money?


This question is to make sure the scholarship will go to good use. The interviewer wants to know if you are serious about the scholarship application and will represent the scholarship sponsor in a positive light. If you have no real plan, it will be difficult for them to believe that this scholarship will be beneficial to either party.


Example: I would use this money towards my bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a specialization in Gerontology. Furthermore, I would use this opportunity to shadow a gerontologist and volunteer at a nursing home so that I can gain more insight into this field. Having this scholarship would allow me to worry less about finding a paid job to fund unpaid internships or shadowing opportunities, and would allow me to focus more on my studies.


Is your profile strong enough to get accepted to the colleges on your list? Find out with our free chancing calculator which takes into consideration your grades, extracurriculars, and more.


Closing Remarks


29. What questions do you have for me?


The interviewer is looking for you to display interest in the program by asking questions. Your response should be tailored to your particular interests, and any concerns that you may have had throughout this interview.


Examples: What was your favorite part of the scholarship program? (Or, what do students say is the best part of this program?). What are the former scholarship recipients doing now, particularly those in the fields I’m interested in?


30. Is there anything else you’d like to add?


It is crucial to show the interviewer that you are serious about this program. This question gives you an opportunity to make any additional points or highlight anything that you may have not covered in your response beforehand.


Example: I believe that I am an ideal candidate for this program because my educational background, and future plans align with what this program has to offer. I am excited to be a part of this program, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Enter the CollegeVine Scholarships


If you want to apply to another scholarship without an essay or an interview, check out the weekly CollegeVine Scholarships, where you can earn up to $500.


All you have to do is join our free admissions platform and earn karma, the free CollegeVine “currency”. You can earn karma by reviewing essays through our Peer Review tool and answering questions in our Community Forums. After earning that karma, you bid it to enter the scholarship drawing (if you don’t win, that karma will be returned, where you can “spend” it on essay reviews and expert advice). Awards will be paid out directly to students to help them cover any educational costs. Learn more about the CollegeVine scholarships.


If you are looking to learn more about college scholarships, check out these articles:

15 College Scholarships for High School Juniors

77 Colleges with Full Ride Scholarships

12 Community Service Scholarships for Students Who Give Back

College Essays vs. Scholarship Essays: 4 Important Differences

Prestigious STEM Competitions for High School Students

Short Bio
Angelica is 2020 grad of the University of Minnesota with a degree in quantitative economics. She is a Founder and CEO of a strategic business consulting firm that helps startups, small enterprise and entrepreneurs with their goals. In her free time, she likes to read and travel.