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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Answer 30 Popular Scholarship Interview Questions

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When applying for college scholarships, 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 prepare? Here are 30 popular scholarship interview questions and example answers to help you to think about your responses. 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. It’s often used to “warm up” the interviewee. It’s also a very general question that can cause those unprepared to answer to ramble or waffle in their response.


A good answer is concise, provides a brief bio, and highlights why you’re the right person for the scholarship. Use your answer as an opportunity to spotlight the achievements, personality traits, skills, and experiences that make you an ideal candidate for the scholarship.


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 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?


Interviewers use this question to better know an interviewee’s interests outside of their application and gain an understanding of their involvement at school and in the greater community.


This interview question is great for students with leadership roles, providing them an opportunity to talk about their experiences and involvement in clubs or sports. It’s also a chance to talk about how you contribute to your community or help people in need.


Example: I’m 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’m a member of the swim team and volunteer at the historical society. I enjoy having a balance between physical, intellectual, and community activities because they keep me active in different ways.


3. Tell us about your greatest strength and greatest weakness.


Interviewers love this question, as it allows them to judge your self-awareness, honesty, and interest in personal growth. When talking about your strengths, prioritize quality over quantity and focus on two or three attributes that are relevant to the scholarship. Stories are more memorable than generalizations, so share examples of how you demonstrate your best characteristics.


It can help to reframe the second half of this question—instead of thinking of areas of weakness, they’re opportunities for improvement. No one is perfect, but you’re conscious of the areas in which you struggle and are taking steps to improve. It’s especially important to avoid cliches when responding to this question; you don’t want to be the 1,000th student to answer “I’m a perfectionist.”


Example: My greatest strength is that I can prioritize what needs to be done first today and which tasks can wait until tomorrow. Because of this, I’m efficient with my time management and able to succeed in both school and 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 that no one else knows.


This is another question designed to allow the interviewer to better get to know you and while it’s a personal question, it’s important to avoid sharing anything too personal or sensitive. Focus on something unique and interesting about yourself—such as an accomplishment, hobby, talent, interest, or experience—that makes you stand out from other applicants.


Example: I am proficient in sign language. This has always been a passion of mine and 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?


This question allows interviewers to get to know you better as a person, understand how you perceive yourself, and gain further insight into your personality. Highlight the traits that are relevant to the scholarship and call attention to any relevant skills. This question is a great opportunity for students who might not have extracurricular activities related to the scholarship but have qualities that align with the scholarship.


Example: I believe my positive attitude and ability to work in a team environment contribute to my character. In my part-time job, I lead a team of baristas at my local café. The role is equal parts delegating 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. Regulars have even acknowledged that they visit my café specifically because of the happy atmosphere I create.


6. What are your biggest accomplishments?


This question allows interviewers to learn about your achievements while also gaining insight into your ability to set goals and achieve them. It’s a great chance for you to brag about yourself a little bit as well.


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.


The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) Method provides a great structure for responding to this question: provide specific details about the situation, the task or challenges you faced, the actions you took, and the results you achieved.


Example: I noticed that my high school created a lot of food waste, so I helped implement a composting program that used students’ 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 three 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.


How you respond to this question informs interviewers about your ability to take responsibility for your actions and how you learn from your mistakes. Rather than trying to appear perfect, use this opportunity to show that you can own up to your errors, learn from them, and take steps to ensure you don’t repeat them. Here, again, the STAR Method provides an outline for composing a strong answer.


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.


Interviewers use this question to gauge how you build and maintain relationships, how you work with others, and how you motivate them to get something done. Highlight a time when you had to lead a team or group and how you inspired them to achieve a goal. Remember stories are more memorable than statements, so paint a detailed picture and avoid generalizations.


Example: As one of the co-presidents for my high school’s Amnesty International club, I organized and supervised the organization of all meetings and events that we attend to raise awareness about social justice topics such as refugees or endangered species. When I first joined the group, it was relatively inactive and focused mostly on letter-writing campaigns. However, in the wake of George Floyd, I rallied the group to become more involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. We attended events and reached out to local politicians to call attention to racial inequality in our community. This experience has taught me how to effectively manage a team, rally a diverse group around an issue, and organize efforts to effect change.


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9. What is your favorite book and why?


This question is asking you to show your personality and interests. It aims to get a sense of who you are so they can determine if you would be a good fit for the scholarship. Share a book that you enjoy, are comfortable talking about, is substantive enough that you can explain its importance, and aligns with your interests and passions.


Avoid choosing a book that you think will impress your interviewer—it can come off as insincere.


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 to 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 the 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 and/or one you are passionate about. You can mention how this subject makes you excited, why it’s important for you to study it, 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 over time. It’s refreshing seeing different perspectives of different cultures and studying significant historical figures. 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?


This question allows the interviewer to gain a better understanding of your goals and ambitions. The position doesn’t need to be overly specific but should reflect the skills and responsibilities you hope to use. It also should tie in with the scholarship.


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 reporting. This career would allow me to use my creativity to positively influence others.


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


This is a more advanced version of the question asking you about your favorite subject. Its intent is to learn how 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 of 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, what inspires you, and 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 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 learn about your future aspirations and goals. It’s 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. You’ll also want to speak to how the scholarship fits into your future goals.


Example: In five years, I plan to have graduated college with a degree in economics and have landed a job in financial planning where I can put both my analytical and people skills to work. I’m passionate about helping people make informed financial decisions and meeting their personal goals and this scholarship will help me gain the education I need to pursue a career in the field.


15. How do you define failure?


This question is meant to see how you respond when faced with a challenge and gain insight into your problem-solving skills. 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 by using personal experience, demonstrating what you learned from it and how you’ve used the lessons for self-improvement.


Example: I define failure as a missed opportunity. When I first began to play rugby during 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 seeks to determine how you deal with difficult situations. It’s common for students to 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 would be by mentioning a specific skill or habit that you have developed over time. Make your answer memorable by citing a specific example of a stressful time and how you handled it.


Example: Last fall I was feeling particularly taxed—I was taking two AP courses, studying for the SAT, playing varsity soccer, and preparing to apply to college. I felt a lot of pressure to get everything done and it was overwhelming. I’m 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 exasperating for me, but if I give myself smaller goals to meet each day then it all becomes more manageable.


17. Tell me about a time you overcame adversity.


Interviewers ask this question for a variety of reasons, including learning about your problem-solving, creative thinking, and resourcefulness. It’s also a chance to gauge your resilience and determination. A strong answer highlights something that was difficult for you, the steps you took to meet the challenge, and how the experience would help you handle adversity you might face in the future. People remember details, so be specific.


Example: Many of my friends love playing sports and were busy much of the year with after-school practices. Unfortunately, I’m not particularly athletic. I tried out for the football team but failed to make it because I didn’t have enough experience. 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, but more importantly, provides you with a chance to show off the positive aspects of your personality. Your answers should focus on something that aligns with the scholarship—was there something that jumped off the screen/page when you read about it? Equally important to what you say is how you say it; make sure your answer is positive and enthusiastic.


Example: Curiosity is my main motivator. I love learning new things, and I am constantly trying to figure out how things work—I attended a JAVA camp last summer just to learn more about how video games are designed. This scholarship will allow me to further explore coding and help satiate my natural curiosity.


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


This question aims to gain insight into how you think through tough situations and is a test of your maturity. 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 when you went above and beyond on a task.


This question is meant to see your dedication, motivation, and work ethic. A good answer will highlight a specific attribute you want to call attention to and use an example of a time you went beyond what was required to convey that attribute. While it’s tempting to talk about a big accomplishment, it’s important the story also focuses on a time you did more than you needed to. As always, include a specific example!


Example: Over the past two years, I’ve worked in my hometown library. While I always make sure that each day’s work gets done in a timely manner, I also try to go the extra mile. If someone comes in looking for help with an assignment, if possible, I stay late with them until everything is complete. It’s super fulfilling. I even had one of the students I’ve helped come in 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. It’s also a way for interviewers to learn about your personality and preferences. If an interviewer asks this question, it may mean that they are trying to figure out if you would fit into the scholarship’s 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 student. 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 and how you define success. Answering this question provides an excellent opportunity to brag about a big accomplishment and spotlight scholarship-related qualities, like perseverance and problem-solving. Make sure to credit those who helped you along the way and share what you learned from the experience. Let the interviewer know that you’re setting the bar high, not just coasting along.


Example: During my senior year, I helped plan out our high school’s first mock trial event. The debate team had been around since my freshman year, but they 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, 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. Thanks to the efforts of everyone, 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 understand how you view yourself, and to see if you’re a good fit for the scholarship. Make sure to concentrate on your unique talents and skills in your response and avoid jargon along with irrelevant and pretentious words.


Example: I would say that I am resourceful, creative, and proactive. I have a way of finding solutions to problems, even when the answer isn’t clear. I believe in tackling challenges head-on and am willing to think outside of the box for solutions.


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: I start by making a list of all the things that need to be done. Then, I 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 make an outline for myself before I begin anything else.


25. How did you choose your major?


Interviewers use this question to learn about your passions and interests. When answering, try to align your major to the scholarship. Highlight the attributes of the major you’re excited about but steer clear of talking about money. For example, engineering might be a lucrative major, but talking about it isn’t likely to score you any points. As always, specific examples and stories are more compelling than generalizations.


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


While scholarship interviews will largely be about you, it’s common for them to also ask about the opportunity itself. Take a proactive approach and prepare yourself to answer questions about the scholarship.


26. Why did you choose to apply for this scholarship?


This question is designed to gauge your interest in the scholarship and your fit with it. Share specifics of what excites you about the scholarship and how it aligns with your college and future goals. Keep your answer positive and focus on the best aspects of the scholarship.


Example: I chose to apply to the Davis-Putter Scholarship because I’ve always been passionate about political activism. Throughout high school, I was active in the fight for women’s rights, particularly reproductive rights. I organized an event at the state capital in support of women’s rights, coordinated a letter-writing campaign at my school to encourage our local elected officials, and created and distributed a list of candidates coming up for election and their stances on women’s rights issues. I’m excited to use this scholarship to learn more about the causes I’m passionate about, meet other organizers, and help make the world a fairer, more equitable place.


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


It’s sometimes easier to reposition this question to what makes you unique. Scholarships can receive hundreds, even thousands, of applications—so what makes you stand out and more deserving than other applicants? This is your chance to make a case for yourself and show the interviewer why you’re the right person for the award; link it to your passions, tie it to your skills, and show the positive effect the funds will have.


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 a 100% participation rate and inspired me to do more community-focused work. This scholarship will help me acquire the education I need to pursue a career in public service.


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. Have a budget prepared and highlight how you’ll use the funds to further your education. If you don’t have a plan, it will be difficult for the scholarship to believe that this scholarship will be beneficial to either party.


Example: I would use this money toward 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 could 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.


Closing Remarks


How you end an interview can have an enormous influence on your odds of winning an award. The goal is to leave your interviewer confident in your personality, skills, qualifications, and fit for the scholarship.


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. This is also a great chance to engage your interviewer with questions focused on their experience with the scholarship.


Examples: What was your favorite part of the scholarship program? What characteristics, goals, or accomplishments of the scholarship are you most proud of? 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. If you have something relevant to share that didn’t come up naturally in the interview, this is the time to mention it.


Example: I believe that I am an ideal candidate for this program because my educational background, passions, 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.


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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.