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How to Answer some Common Scholarship Interview Questions

One of the most important, and most feared, parts of the scholarship application process is the scholarship interview.

Much like a job interview, sponsoring organisations use the interview to assess a candidate’s personality, fit and ability to articulate his or herself, and ultimately decide if the person should be awarded the scholarship (or passed on to the next round of interviews.) 

While no two interviews are the same, there will nevertheless be some questions that are likely to be asked. We’ve collected a few, along with some sample answers to serve as a reference.

While you shouldn’t over-prepare and end up sounding like a robot, it’s a good idea to have some points in mind when the interviewer asks these.


1. "Tell me about yourself."

This question is one of the ways interviewers start the interview. It serves as a platform for your self-introduction, and hence, the start of your pitch. Your answer to this question sets the tone for the rest of the interview and gives the interviewers their first peek into your personality.

Unlike all the other questions in this list, you CAN draft and memorise the answer for this, as you’re unlikely to be interrupted. Come up with a “pitch” for yourself, highlighting some key points that differentiate you from others and one or two exceptionally noteworthy achievements, and practice your delivery.

Some tips: don’t repeat information that’s accessible from your application, like what CCA you went for or your grades. And don’t recite lists, or your interviewer won’t know what to focus on unless you mention it.

2. "What is your greatest achievement/failure?"

Candidates normally stumble in two ways when confronted with this question. They have many achievements, but no idea which is the “greatest”; or they end up bragging.

For the first, remember that “best” and “greatest” are subjective. More than your highest score or most “prestigious” award, what did your achievements mean to you? Think back on a moment when you felt truly proud of yourself, or experienced something new about the world. Then put those thoughts and feelings into words, crafting a personal and unique answer that has significance.

In case of the second, remember to mention your failures as well. Nobody is perfect, even scholars, so the interviewers will want to know about your mistakes and how you overcame them. By owning up to your difficulties, you will be presenting yourself as a self-aware and humble individual and thus impress the interviewer.

In both cases, remember to substantiate your answers with examples, and relate them to the organisation.

3. "Can you describe some experiences of being a leader or instances where you have displayed leadership?"

Sponsoring organisations often wish for their scholars to go into management-level roles with many job rotations. Hence, it’s vital that scholars show proof of leadership potential, whether it be through official appointments (like the head of a uniformed group) or organisational and recruitment ability (like holding a fundraiser or charity event).

The key to this question is to illustrate the depth of your commitment and describe the impact you made in your leadership roles. Give examples of activities you organised and what you learnt. 

Perhaps you organised a food donation drive that saw 100kg of necessities delivered to needy families. From there, you learnt how to handle different stakeholders, assess a family’s suitability for aid, and gained a deep respect for the volunteers who undertake such work regularly. Keep the focus of the answer on yourself and your unique leadership style.

4. "Why did you apply for this scholarship?"

Of all the questions on this list, this is the one most likely to come up.

It’s ok to be honest about the financial motives behind a scholarship application – everyone is aware that a free university education is a huge boon.

However, the important thing to emphasise is why you applied for that particular sponsoring organisation. Delve deep into the unique learning and career opportunities they offer, or how you wish to contribute to their mission. Do some research and mention projects you want to be part of, or even systems and inventions you want to put in place.

Keep the focus on what you can offer the organisation, not the other way around.


You are your own best promoter – so have your answers ready and interview with confidence!

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