We’ve entered the season for college scholarship interviews. This dialog is one piece of many in scholarship considerations, but it can be the final step which determines whether the student receives the scholarship or not. As expensive as college is these days, a successful interview for an important scholarship can mean a savings of thousands upon thousands of dollars over the four years of college.
Thus, the pressure is on which can cause even confident kids to flounder if an interviewer seems hostile or bored. To be honest, this rarely happens. But if it does, here are some things to keep in mind:
Stay Positive – Assume that it is the interviewer’s problem and not something you’ve done. Perhaps they aren’t feeling well or are tired. Maybe they don’t have a lot of social skills. They might be inexperienced and as nervous as you are. Be kind. Choose to engage them with your smile and eye contact. Convey your excitement for the things you’ve done in the past and your opportunities for the future.
Watch your Body Language – Do the opposite of what your feelings are telling you. Instead of sliding back in your seat and crossing your arms to emotionally protect yourself, sit forward in your chair and use your hands to reflect the things delight you and to emphasize the stories you share.
Spin it Differently– I once had a client who was bombarded by negative questions/statements about her homeschooled background from one of a panel of interviewers. We had prepared for this eventuality ahead of time and instead of getting defensive or shutting down, she smilingly shared her educational experiences in a positive light and spun the narrative in a different direction than the interviewer was trying to take her. The experience deeply upset her and she felt she had failed miserably, but she never let on. She remained in control of her emotions and of the interview. The result? She walked away with the full ride scholarship.
Maintain Your Sense of Humor – Regardless of what happens, remember that it is okay to laugh (at yourself if necessary). Your friendliness and fun will go a long way to put an interviewer at ease with themselves or with a perceived issue with your profile.
Be Appreciative – It is always an honor to be selected to interview. Treat it as such. Be gracious in your words and actions. Be kind to other interviewees and any other person you meet (like secretaries and janitors).
Most people do not have a good feel for how they performed in an interview. So, instead of worrying about something you said or how the interviewer acted, just be glad you are there. Chances are you did just fine!
One of my favorite things to do is to help students with interview skills so they will be comfortable and prepared to perform their very best. The small investment of an hour’s practice time can pay huge dividends as many of my students come away with full-ride scholarships or full tuition scholarships.