11 Scholarship Interview Questions and How to Answer


Convincing someone they should give you a large sum of money is intimidating, to say the least, which is why it’s essential to prepare. Never go in blind, believing you’ll come up with persuasive answers on the fly. There are several common scholarship interview questions you will likely be asked in one way or another.

Optimize your chance of success by developing answers to these questions early. Continue honing your answers and adapting them to different variations of the same questions. Perfectly scripted answers will make you sound robotic and could cause you to fumble your answer if you’re interrupted or lose your spot.

Instead, practice adapting your answers to how the questions are asked. Practice answering questions on the spot. Surprise yourself with variations to simulate the real interview experience.

In this post, we break down 11 scholarship interview questions and how to answer them.


Common Scholarship Interview Questions

For all questions, ensure every answer has a how built into it. Contextualize everything and utilize anecdotes to illustrate your points. Show, don’t tell, and keep your answers to three or four minutes.

  1. Describe Yourself/Tell Us About Yourself
  2. Describe a Challenge You Faced and How You Overcame It
  3. What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
  4. Why Should You Get This Scholarship Over Other Candidates?
  5. What Personal/Professional Achievement Are You Proudest Of?
  6. What Career Do You Want to Pursue?
  7. Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?
  8. Who Inspires You?/Who Has Been Your Role Model?
  9. What Are Your Hobbies? What Do You Do for Fun?
  10. What’s the Last Book You Enjoyed?
  11. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

Let’s break these questions down.

students waiting for Scholarship Interview


1. Describe Yourself/Tell Us About Yourself

The “Describe yourself” or “Tell me about yourself” question is how interviewers get to know who you are off of paper. It’s often the first question you’ll be asked, and it’s your chance to talk about aspects of your personality that aren’t mentioned on your application, resume, or CV.

These types of questions can throw students off due to their open-ended nature, especially if you’re not prepared. The interviewer is leaving it up to you to decide where to take the conversation, which is actually incredibly valuable. This question enables you to guide the direction of the interview.

Make sure you discuss aspects of your life that illustrate who you are. Be specific. If there was another person who was exactly the same as you on paper, how are you different from them?

This harkens back to your upbringing, values, and what’s most important to you.

If you feel comfortable speaking about it, don’t shy away from talking about where you grew up, your family, and your overall upbringing. You might also touch on academic or personal hobbies you are passionate about or your current goals and aspirations.

Assume you will encounter this question in some form or another, so make sure to prepare your answer in advance. You want a three to four minute answer that discusses who you are and the most formative parts of your upbringing. How did you get here? Why are you sitting in front of this interviewer trying to secure this scholarship?

For example, if you grew up in a small town, you might mention the impact that had on you growing up, how it shaped who you are, and what the advantages and challenges were of that upbringing.


2. Describe a Challenge You Faced and How You Overcame It

The recent challenge or failure question is a straightforward and common question for scholarship interviews. The interviewers want to hear about a time when things didn’t go as planned or you faced adversity. When something goes wrong, how do you handle it? How do you overcome challenges? What have you learned from those experiences in your life, and how have you applied those lessons to other challenges?

Speak about something unique. Simply talking about getting a bad grade or overworking yourself is not enough. Find a significant challenge you faced and ensure you thoroughly explain the steps you took to overcome it.

For example, no matter the type of challenge you describe, you might discuss how you were able to lean on your friends and family. Be specific. How did you persevere, and what did you learn from the experience? What will you do differently next time?

You could also speak about any adversity you’ve experienced, such as being discriminated against because of your race, religion, gender, identity, etc. How did the experience shape who you are, and how have you specifically endured those challenges?


3. What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

Choose unique strengths and weaknesses.

When it comes to strengths, provide an anecdote that puts your strength on display. Let’s say your strength is empathy. You could describe how you are very aware of people’s feelings when sharing a space with them, so you always go above and beyond to foster inclusion and ensure everyone is comfortable. For example, what did you do specifically to help a new student or employee feel comfortable? How did you put them at ease and set them up for success?

When it comes to weaknesses, again, it’s important to be unique and specific. Being unable to manage time is not strong enough. Whatever weakness you choose, the conversation needs to be about how you are working to improve yourself. How are you going to overcome it? If your weakness is being present, you could discuss the impact it’s had on your life and how you are now spending several minutes a day meditating so that you can better focus on the present moment.

No one is perfect. Showing that you’re aware of a weakness and are taking steps to learn and improve shows wisdom and maturity.


4. Why Should You Get This Scholarship Over Other Candidates?

Interview Why should we choose you

Being asked to compare yourself to other candidates is often the hardest question to answer, as it requires you to be confident and humble at the same time. Contextualize your answer. Focus on your own accomplishments in a humble way, and never put the other applicants down.

Always start by acknowledging the talent and worthiness of the people you’re in competition with. For example, “I have met some amazing candidates who are also highly qualified for this opportunity.” But don’t stop there. Ensure you actually answer the question by discussing what makes you uniquely qualified.

Continuing with what you hope to accomplish with the scholarship can paint a clear and unique picture of why you are the ideal choice. For example, “However, I believe this scholarship would give me the tools, support, and foundation necessary to create a ripple effect in this community, which will have a much wider impact on people beyond just myself.”

Lead with humility while also not shying away from the strengths, attributes, and aspirations that make you an ideal fit for this scholarship.


5. What Personal/Professional Achievement Are You Proudest Of?

Interviewers want to hear about your accomplishments, but they also want personal insight into what you are most proud of. Be prepared to center out a specific achievement, including why that achievement means so much to you.

Pick something that is specific to you. Graduating with honors or making it to this phase of the scholarship process isn’t unique enough—every candidate they’re interviewing can say the same thing.

What’s a unique personal or professional achievement that makes you swell with pride? Whatever you choose, describe the accomplishment in detail, including what made it difficult, why it’s special to you, and how it made you feel.

You could describe an achievement that’s quite rare, one that involved overcoming several obstacles along the way, or one that you have a personal connection with. For example, you might have been awarded the same award as a family member, or you could have overcome a learning disability or another disadvantage to excel as a student.


6. What Career Do You Want to Pursue?

This question seeks to discover not only what career you want to pursue but also why you want to pursue it.

If you want to become a physician, why do you have that dream? What is inspiring you or driving you to become a doctor? Go beyond cliches like wanting to help people or enjoying science. What anecdote from your life can you connect your career path to?

Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to pursue a certain career? What led you to that decision? What moments in your life have shaped your career decisions? Let’s say you want to be a dermatologist. What led you to that career decision? Is it because you had a lot of acne growing up and know how painful and isolating it can be, and now you want to help others with that problem? If you want to be a lawyer, is it because someone close to you was given an unfair sentence, and you want to help others in that position?

Describe the career, what it means to you, and what led you to your decision.


7. Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?

When an interviewer asks where you see yourself in 10, 15, or 20 years, they want to learn what your big dreams and aspirations are. You don’t have to be absolutely realistic and accurate here. It’s okay to dream big. Don’t go as high as wanting to be president, but show passion and ambition. What does your ideal life look like if everything goes your way?

As with all questions, it’s important to be specific. Don’t stop at “I want to be a surgeon.” What type of surgeon do you want to be? Where will you be practicing medicine in 10 years? Will you be done with school or still in residency? What will the day-to-day of your life look like, including your family life?

Your answer should speak to the career you hope to have, but if you have other dreams, add them here too. In 10 years, do you hope to come home to a partner or family? Where do you see yourself or you and your family living? What aspirations outside of your career will you have realized in 10 years? For example, knowing how to play an instrument or having a short story or novel published.

While this question is focused on your career, it’s also a chance to dig deeper into who you are, what you value, and who you hope to be beyond your work life.


8. Who Inspires You?/Who Has Been Your Role Model?

Interviewers want to know who has shaped who you are today. Who has contributed to your success and worldview? Who inspires you, and who do you aspire to be like?

It’s okay to have a standard answer like “parents” here if it’s true, but make sure you contextualize it and make it unique. Use anecdotes, stories, and specific moments from your past to illustrate how your parents become your role models.

No matter who you choose, whether it’s a family member, a mentor, or even a successful entrepreneur or celebrity, make sure you explain why they inspire you. What quality do they have that you want to emulate? This is another opportunity to discuss your values.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of using cliches here, so be specific. How has their influence on your life shaped who you are today?


9. What Are Your Hobbies? What Do You Do for Fun?

collage of student hobbies - painting, writing, gym - AMCAS Hobbies

Interviewers want to know who you are beyond your academic or professional achievements. Can you balance your studies with other passions and interests?

What do you like to do in your spare time, and do you prioritize time away from your studies to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle? All work and no play leads to burnout. If you can’t think of a hobby outside of your core ambition, it illustrates to interviewers that you may not be able to maintain your health and wellness as you progress in school and your career.

Share an interest or hobby and speak specifically about why you enjoy and prioritize it. What do you like about it, and what does it mean to you? What does it give you?

For example, if you like to cook, what do you like about cooking? How do you prioritize cooking in your life? How often do you cook? You might discuss how cooking makes you feel closer to your family or how you aim to try at least one new recipe every week to expand your culinary knowledge and skills.

Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes. You might discuss your passion for group sports, fitness, music, writing, gardening, board games, coding, taking care of a pet, reading, drawing, photography, etc. But whatever you choose, discuss the specific value it brings to your life.


10. What’s the Last Book You Enjoyed? / What’s Your Favorite Book? / What Are You Currently Reading?

This question can trip up students if you’re not prepared for it, especially if you’re not an avid reader. Be prepared for a question like this, including variations that ask about the types of books or reading you most enjoy.

They may ask you about other forms of entertainment, such as podcasts, movies, or television shows you like. The interviewer is once again trying to get to know who you are outside of your studies or ambitions. Can you relax and recharge when necessary?

You could also choose to take this question in another direction and discuss why you didn’t like a book or movie. This puts your critical thinking skills on display and shows you deeply consider the books and programs you consume. Did the characters lack authenticity? Did you find the author’s message unconvincing or dubious? Did you not enjoy the dialogue or prose?

Not an avid reader? Here’s Why You Should Read and How to Make a Habit of It.


11. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

Two people interviewing Questions to Ask Interviewer

Have at least two questions ready that are unique and tailored to the scholarship and interviewer. Even if they don’t directly ask if you have questions for them, have these prepared either way. Asking intriguing and considerate questions at the end of the interview illustrates professionalism and interest.

Ensure you have questions ready, but be prepared to adapt them depending on how the interview goes. If you come up with other questions while you’re being interviewed, ask those questions instead of more generic ones.

For example, if you’ve developed a good rapport, you might ask the interviewer why they chose to be a part of this scholarship community. What drew them to this organization?


Student Resources You Can Count On

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