5 Tips for a Successful Merit Scholarship Interview | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
MSW Student Alexi Bolton
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5 Tips for a Successful Merit Scholarship Interview

If you’ve talked to any of us in the admissions office, you may have heard the reminder that anyone can be considered for merit-based scholarships by simply clicking a box in your application. 

But, if you’re anything like me, you checked that box and now you’re wondering what do I do now? How do I create the best possible interview for these scholarships? What is this video software platform and is that a real person on the other end? So, if you’re like me and worrying about where to go after you’ve received that fateful merit-scholarship interview link, read on for my 5 tips for a successful merit scholarship interview.  

1. Remember it’s a part of your application, not the whole thing. 

Sometimes, the hardest part of an interview is the nerves. Before you get started, remember that you’ll be considered for merit-based scholarships based on our holistic review process, meaning that while the admissions committee will review this interview, they’ll also take into account your essays, letters of recommendation, work or volunteer experience and any other materials submitted with your application. Through this process, they consider less tangible items, like your drive and commitment to your chosen field, your passion and fit within the program, your willingness to learn and be challenged, and your leadership abilities and potential.

2. Follow Your Standard Interview Techniques 

I love a good interview. I’ve taken classes on interviewing, sat in countless workshops, and even interviewed others myself. But, for some reason, when the email came through that I could complete my scholarship interview, I was so worried about getting it done that all of those carefully honed practices went out the window.  

It’s important to remember that this is a scholarship interview, so you want to put your best foot forward. Even though you probably could complete the interview in bed in your pajamas, it might not be the best way to go into the process. Follow the tips inside the platform to dress professionally, find a space with good lighting and limited background noise to. Also, make sure you have plenty of time to complete it. You’ll want to use all of the practice prompts you can and take your time getting used to the platform, which is more difficult if you don’t set aside some time.  

So, in short, don’t be like me and start after midnight in a rush to get the application in – trust me, it was not my best work. 

3. Play to your strengths 

Like many interviews you may have, this one is likely to use behavioral interview questions, meaning, you will be asked to talk about a time when something has happened or what you would do in a certain situation. Be specific and play up places you have excelled before. If something was challenging, but you prevailed, be sure to acknowledge what you learned and how that would serve you in your time as a grad student at the Brown School. This doesn’t have to be overly elaborate and you certainly don’t need to invent a circumstance, just think back on times in your story and be true to yourself and your experiences. The review committee knows every student has something valuable to offer and truly wants to hear your story and give you another chance to shine, in addition to your written application. The admissions committee isn’t expecting every single person to be the absolute best at evey aspect of the application – there are tons of ways to show your best qualities and this might be one of them! 

4. Remember there are no wrong answers 

When you watch the intro video, you’ll probably hear someone say that, for these questions, there are no right or wrong answers. While I was taking the interview, I did not necessarily believe this. However, after being on campus and talking  with the admissions specialists, I know that it’s true: there are no wrong answers. This interview isn’t another standardized test or something you can get wrong; instead it’s just an opportunity to show your stuff. If you get asked a question that you’re not sure of the answer to, try to relate it to a previous experience you’ve had or a passion of yours and draw from that knowledge to answer.  

And, for what it’s worth, I re-watched my interview just now, and a year later and (most) of a semester at the Brown School completed, I still think the questions are difficult. Now I think I might’ve answered some of them differently, but despite any misgivings, I still made it to the Brown School with a scholarship. From this, I think it’s important to remember we are our own worst critic. The Admissions committee is rooting for your success and looking for the strengths in your answers! 

5. Trust the process 

Now, hang with me, I’m making a big pivot away from WashU to the world of D1 sports, but it will make sense, I promise...  I went to the University of Alabama for undergrad and our favorite football coach, Nick Saban, reminds people to trust the process. This is not a football game, but I would still encourage you to trust the process of the application and interviewing. Our admissions and review committee wants you to succeed, so if something goes terribly wrong and you freeze up or are otherwise absolutely unable to complete the interview, reach out to us. We're here to support you in this process and would be happy to talk with you as you prepare for the interview or troubleshoot issues as they arise.

You may have noticed a theme in my tips...

The key to a successful scholarship interview is to believe in yourself, your passion, and your story. Take steps to put your best foot forward, but then remember that you’ve already done the hard part – the work to get where you are today! Now, all that’s left is to share that with our admissions committee.  

With that: you got this and we’re all cheering for you! Break a leg in your interview and picture Nick Saban this proud of you for completing the application process: 

 

Hoping for more info about funding your graduate degree? Here are some additional resources: