“I can, I will, I must”Eric Thomas
Chanting and believing in this mantra, believing in yourself is a linchpin in securing that scholarship.
Self-talk is a powerful tool that is accessible to everyone and if mastered correctly, you cannot go wrong. Self-talk branches into positive self-talk and negative self-talk. You want to avoid the negative side but due to the toxic world we live in, it is so easy to fall and be trapped into this side. But remember even though the Apollo 13 mission failed due to an oxygen tank malfunction, the astronauts made it home safely. You can make it to the positive side, by changing the way you think and the way you look at yourself. For example, if you fail – do not let your mind resort to self-hatred, rather create comfort within yourself by applauding the fact that you tried and there is always a next time. Use every failure as a learning opportunity to pave your way to success. Keep on switching the gears in your thinking and reap the benefits of positive self-talk: say good-bye to stress and hello to opportunities.
One of the many opportunities students encounter is scholarships. Regardless of how competitive scholarships are, you should not let this drive you away from achieving your dreams, but rather fill the fuel in the vehicle and get ready to win the race. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. One of the components, that is part of the scholarship process, that there is no running away from is: INTERVIEWS. As nerve-wracking as interviews can be, it is important to “positive self-talk” your nerves away and give it your all. Trying always leads to the next time, and next time always leads to your final destination. Due to COVID, the traditional interview process has been adjusted to a virtual format, to ensure the safety of all and for convenience.
TIPS ON HOW TO ACE YOUR VIRTUAL SCHOLARSHIP INTERVIEW
1. HOW IS YOUR BACKGROUND LOOKING?
YES! Who does not remember this situation above in the meme? This was a life-changing moment for Professor Robert Kelley, an American political analyst, who transformed into a viral internet sensation when his children gatecrashed his virtual interview with BBC News. If you have not checked it out, where have you been: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh4f9AYRCZY – this will surely add some amusement to your day!
However laughable such a situation may be, this should be avoided in your virtual scholarship interview. Your “background” (physical environment, that will be seen by the interviewer) dictates the type of candidate you are – and you want to be seen as presentable. Unfortunately, there is no Hollywood “green screen” effect to utilize (unless you are a computer geek but know that this definitely can go wrong!). Put in some effort and create a distraction-free, neat, comfortable physical environment around you.
Communicate the time-slot you are given to your family. Your family loves you and will do anything to ensure you achieve your dreams – ask them to lower the volume of their voice (we know the stereotype of how loud Asian parents are), music, or TV throughout the duration. If you have a pet – how lovely; the sound of dogs continuously barking and you immediately lose your train of thought – talk to a family member to perhaps take your pet outside or for a walk in the park. On the note of distraction, one of the more popular forms is your smartphone. Harvard University’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning conducted a survey, finding out that 80% of students regard cell phone usage during class decreases their ability to pay attention. Whenever we hear the notification sound, we are so tempted to see if he liked your recent Instagram picture or if she agreed to go out Friday night with you – this is not important at the time. Have your phone on, in case the interviewer needs to communicate with you prior, but as soon as the interview starts switch off your phone.
NOTE: if there is an unexpected distraction, that is out of your control, that occurs – be like Professor Robert Kelley – ignore the situation, keep going or have a little giggle with your interviewer, apologize and move on.
Ensure everything visible to the interviewer on your web camera is spick and span. Also, ensure it is spick and span for you too – as doing something stressful in an untidy environment can significantly decrease your levels of energy. Boost your energy by tidying up your room – we all know how quarantine has bought laziness upon us: DRESS YOUR BED!
2. HOW DO YOU LOOK?
Not only is it essential for your background to be spotless, but it is vital you have to be too!
Your appearance shows your character – brush your hair, add a bit of lipstick and perhaps give your beautician a call to sort out the common “lady stache” or eyebrows and if you can feel free to slot in a facial too – not only will this give your face a glow (boys too!) but it is deeply relaxing!
ANOTHER WAY TO GLOW – LIGHTEN UP!
In a virtual interview, the lighting may appear dim. Test try by maybe zoom calling a friend or family member to see and find out how the lighting appears. If it appears “dark” or “dim”, even with the room lights, switched on – you should invest in a cellphone holder with a selfie ring light (dependent on the device you use for your interview). However, if you want a cheaper alternative, natural light works well too – use the natural light coming in through your window, by positioning yourself in front of a window.
Place your device within’ arm’s length so the interviewer can have a proper view of your face – a virtual interview is like having a conversation, eye-to-eye communication is important. Also, prop up your device, so you are not too above or below the lens, position yourself in the center, and keep your eyes on the webcam when communicating. Test this out with a zoom call with a friend or family member before the interview.
It is essential to dress well.
We all know about this typical Zoom Interview debate: pants or no pants:
SCHOLARSHIP TRACK SAYS PANTS ALL THE WAY!
Even though your whole body is not visible to the interviewer, you want to feel confident. By wearing pants, you look professional – and how you dress affects the way you feel – by dressing professionally you will feel more motivated, your dressing guides you to appear more professional, motivated, confident – and boom- the interviewer will see you as a perfect candidate.
3. TECH CHECK!
No matter how convenient technology is, it can still let you down. Avoid causing an unexpected interruption or as Zoom likes to call it “(insert your name) network bandwidth is low” and do a tech check beforehand.
- Pick a device you are comfortable using (whether it is a laptop, your mobile, or an iPad; whichever has a high-quality webcam) and charge it up, ensure it is a good 100%.
- Download the app you will be using, such as zoom or skype, before the interview and ensure it runs smoothly.
- Chat to your parents and ensure there are no power shortages or switch trips during your time slot (if you live in South Africa, we all know the bother of load shedding!)
- Have a solid internet connection. Communicate with your family and come to an agreement that nobody should use the wi-fi during your time slot, ensure your wi-fi is disabled from all your devices (excluding the one you will be using for the interview, of course). Run a speed test prior: https://www.speedtest.net/, to check your internet connection – it should be a good 25Mbps or above.
- Test your audio beforehand, ensure you have excellent earphones and a good quality microphone.
- If you do experience any electrical or internet connection difficulties – move closer to the router, or find a venue to utilize (a friend’s house, Starbucks), and if it is out of your control and there is nothing you can do about it – communicate with your interviewer beforehand. Even though this may all seem a little scary, they will be just as understanding!
Wow your interviewer by conducting thorough research beforehand. Do some external research around the scholarship opportunity (history) and know some facts, values, positive/admirable stories around the organization/university that is offering you this scholarship. This will help prep you for those unexpected questions, as well as give you a helping hand in conducting a friendly conversation with the interviewer (especially if they are not the friendliest person in the room!)
STALKING – THE COMMON TREND
If you have some knowledge of who will be your interviewer – stalk them online or via LinkedIn or any social media and figure out what type of person they are. This is another great way to help you guide the conversation – try to find any stories related to them online, that is made available to the public (you do not want the interviewer to know you have been stalking them) and bring those stories up for example a public news story about the interviewer’s achievements.
MAKE YOUR SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY YOUR BESTIE
Before the interview, set time aside to review your scholarship essay and the scholarship requirements. This will help guide you in answering the interview questions. Take the scholarship requirements and practice explaining how you tick all the boxes. It is not advisable to memorize your scholarship essay, time is precious, thus rather summarize your essay by:
Summarizing your scholarship essay is EXTREMELY VITAL – you want to have a consistent approach. This is not a speech – you want to appear as natural as possible – your summary should be limited to your brain and not on a piece of paper. You just must have an idea of what is going on. Your scholarship essay is a guideline in terms of what questions to expect – if the interviewer wants to touch on a story or a topic you discussed in your essay, it is expected of you to remember what you wrote – you want to be consistent if you are not, the interviewer can pick up on a lack of passion, lack of truth in character and this can raise suspicions around your application. For example, if your scholarship essay centered around climate change and in your interview, you forgot the ideas you mentioned that you would like to implement, this will ultimately lower your “successful application” rankings. Be consistent! What you mention in your essay, is what you mention in the interview.
5. HOW TO ANSWER THESE NERVE-RACKING QUESTIONS
Interviews make us shudder – and this is due to the “thinking-on-your-feet” nature. There is no script to answer the questions – they are unpredictable. However, if you master these answering techniques, this will help you answer any question that comes your way, concisely and excitingly.
This method is applicable when you are given a question that requires you to include an event.
APPLYING THE STAR METHOD
What is your greatest strength?
One of my greatest strengths is being a creative thinker. During high school, I was part of the PR Team and we were planning an event for the students on Valentine’s Day. (Situation). I went to an all-girls school and due to COVID 19, the boy’s school was not allowed to come over for the usual Valentine’s game day. As an alternative, I suggested for Valentine’s Day to be a girl’s day, focusing on promoting self-love (Task). Our team contacted woman empowerment coaches and held workshops for the girls, either physically or virtually. We also had a pajama day and concluded with a DMC (Deep Meaningful Conversation) session with hot chocolate and biscuits. Each girl received a rose. Who needs boys to have fun? (Action). At the end of the event, we received positive comments from the girls and I was happy to hear that they used this event as a way to grow themselves and learnt to appreciate themselves more. (Result).
“PEEL” YOUR QUESTIONS
PEEL is a writing strategy, but it applies to help you answer interview questions too! It is killing 2-birds-with-1-stone, this can help you with both your scholarship essay or any essay as well as with your questions too – YAY!
Example: What was your favorite subject at school?
My favorite subject was English (Point). I always participated in literature discussions, always sharing my viewpoints and whenever we had to reenact Shakespeare, I was always game for it. (Evidence) English to me is a very exciting subject and is more than just about reading, grammar, and spelling. It is about critical thinking, engaging, and builds up your confidence (Explain). English helped grow me as a person and is a lesson I always looked forward to. (Link)
These methods help you craft “on-the-spot” concise and specific answers.
REMEMBER, your interviewer has a whole line-up of students to interview. You do not want to bore the interviewer, thus aim for no longer than 2 minutes for a long question that requires detail and no longer than 30 seconds for the factual questions example: What school did you attend? Using the PEEL and STAR technique provides enough “meat” to your answer within a short duration of time.
TELL THE TRUTH BUT LIE …. adding excitement to a dry situation ….
Obviously, in your answers, you want to be as authentic as possible. You want your answers to reflect your character well; however, how do you convey a negative situation to the interviewer and not make your character appear weak?
Example: if asked about teamwork. Talk about a team activity you had to participate in. Tell the truth to the interviewer about how the competition did not work well and your team ended up losing – but do not leave the answer like this – add some spice and talk about how losing ended up being a learning opportunity for you, and even though you lost you made awesome friends and had fun (we all know how sad it is to lose, but do not convey this sadness, add some excitement and “lie” about how a bad experience ended up being positive/beneficial one for you in some way).
A note about “like”
In your interview, you want to avoid using the word “like” unnecessarily. Semantic satiation is when one continuously repeats a word that the word eventually loses meaning. That is what has happened to the word “like”. If it is not the stutter “uhhh” it is “like” – which has become a representative of the word “uhh” and indicates you have a loss in a train of thought. For example: “So like I was busy like” – do you see? You want to avoid this; an interview is formal and speaking like this indicates poor speaking skills, hence making you appear less intelligent. You want to appear smart and unique – avoid using the word “like” unless it is in context, of course, or even avoid “uhh” or even “literally” (the interviewer is not your friend!) You can achieve this by slowing down the pace at which you talk, giving yourself time to think before you speak.
6. HOW ARE YOU COMPOSED?
You may think you are lucky you do not have to worry about your body language anymore due to the virtual format of the scholarship interview – but you are incredibly wrong. Body language is a concern, and will always be a concern – regardless of whether the interview is virtual or not.
The interviewer may only have visibility to the upper part of your body, but when your legs shake your shoulders tend to shake too – we may not notice it, but the interviewer may, and will probably take that into account. To avoid the jitters, cross your legs and ankles and fold your hands on your lap for a relaxed pose, avoid caffeine or try some relaxation exercises to help deter the nerves away (this will be covered in the following point “6” to come).
Remember, to look at the camera at all times. This is essential – remember the interview is like a conversation, when you talk to someone you look them in the eye, you do not want the interviewer to feel disconnected from you when you are engaging.
Avoid folding your arms – this may give off a bored, disinterested, angry vibe to the interviewer. Rather fold your hands together (as mentioned above this will also help you to avoid shaking your legs which leads to shaking your shoulders or your body). Do not pull a “Trump” (as depicted in the meme) where every time your hands pop up. Use hand gestures appropriately, keep it minimal, and only use it to emphasize major points for effectiveness.
A large portion of the focus will be on your facial expression. Your facial expression will indicate the level of interest to the interviewer. Nod and smile appropriately to appear more genuine.
It is vital to maintain a good posture during the interview. Having poor posture can make you appear untidy and a bit sluggish. Practice good posture by either investing in a posture corrector (posture brace) or for a cheaper alternative, practice these exercises:
or follow these tips:
To discover your true posture:
TIP: THE INTERVIEW WILL NOT BE THAT LONG. BEFORE THE INTERVIEW, STAND AGAINST A WALL (LIKE IN THE PICTURE ABOVE) FOR A FEW MINUTES AND TRY TO MAINTAIN THAT POSTURE DURING THE INTERVIEW.
7. ARE YOUR NERVES KILLING YOU?
EXACTLY! As suggested in the picture above – nobody wants pimples nor wrinkles – the stress is not worth it. The nerves are not worth it. Some ways you can combat stress is:
This breathing exercise can be used during your interview. If you pause for a second and just do the 8-4-7 breathing, the interviewer will not judge you. The interviewer understands how stressful interviews can be, and would not mind if you just paused for a while to eliminate the stress. You can apologize prior if you feel you need to or after you have breathed if you want to. Plus, pause is incredibly valuable and effective in speech – this gives the interviewer time to reflect on what you have just said, and makes it sound more like a natural conversation.
Mastering meditation is a key asset in dealing with daily stress of life. Our lives are so busy that we end up being all over the place, but making time for meditation keeps you balanced and lets you approach a task with a clear headspace and a positive vibe. You should practice meditation before the interview.
Pranayama breathing in yoga is a popular form of meditation – it is practiced by many celebrities like Shilpa Shetty as well as the famous Yogi Swami Ramdev.
Another form of meditation is just sitting quietly, closing your eyes, maybe listening to some jazz or ASMR sounds that you find relaxing on YouTube or you can google meditation-videos, where you will be guided mentally to a calm state of mind with deep healing music in the background.
On the day of the interview, avoid thinking about the interview. Do not communicate with friends or family about the interview. Do not give your interview any attention. Always prep prior, and if you want maybe read through your scholarship essay, or prep before the interview – do not over prep and do not read through it if you know it is going to personally stress you out. Get your 8-10 hours of beauty sleep the night before (we do not want you falling off to sleep during the interview), eat healthy meals (nor do we want to hear your tummy rumble), and participate in a relaxing activity beforehand like listening to some music, reading a book or watching TV.
8. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT + LEARNING TO REWARD YOURSELF
Even though this is always preached, it is always true. You can trust practicing to equal perfection. Practice and prep well beforehand for your interview. Here are links to a few commonly asked scholarship interview questions:
There are so many more questions to practice with, that you can find online. These are just a few. Google around and practice, practice, practice. Practice with your family or friends – they can ask you the questions and provide you with feedback in terms of how you can improve (noting body language, body posture, eye contact, how many times have you said “like” or “uhhh” or “literally” and assess the quality of your answers – always follow PEEL and STAR). You can even video call with your friends or family to have a more authentic assessment and feel. Dealing with the feedback and practicing beforehand will lower your stress levels on the day of the interview – it will actually be child’s play! Also time yourself – no more than 2 minutes if you are answering a long detailed question and no more than 30 seconds for a fact question.
Google around for more tip series articles like these and check out YouTube videos – these are very useful!
- Check out our Live Q&A with Adobe WIT Scholar Tripti Shukla – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQMaa2Y1mQs
- You can also find more tips past successful interns or scholars give here on our YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/ScholarshipTrack/videos
Check out our post on How to ace virtual interviews HERE! for more tips!
You can also learn from other past scholarship recipients experiences:
REWARDING YOURSELF …. THIS IS A MUST!
Interviews are a challenge, but the more effort and work you put in, a positive outcome will be yielded. You deserve a pat on the back, regardless of what the outcome of the interview was. You are doing it, rather than dodging it. That speaks a lot about your character.
After the interview, forget about how it went and focus on your mental health. Self-care is a necessity, devote some time just for you until the end of the day. Whether it is going for a spa treatment, having a cheat meal: ice cream and waffles – how divine, or a game of FIFA or GTA with the mates – you deserve it. No matter if you won the scholarship or not – you are a star!
IF YOU FEEL THAT INTERVIEW WENT WRONG … DO NOT FEAR – WE ARE HERE!
This is what Daksh Sharma, successful recipient of the International Leader of Tomorrow scholarship to study software engineering from the University of British Columbia Canada has to say:
He failed many times as you can see – but never giving up and a positive attitude led him to where he is today: an education from a top university and a career at Amazon as a software engineer.
To read more about Daksh’s journey and how he cultivated success from failure:
“You can, You will, You must”
Even if chanting this in your head is not working out, say it out loud. Even if people give you the “are you crazy” stares, know that the world is indeed crazy and there are crazier things out there, than you attracting positive energy towards yourself, such as the global rate for washing hands after using the toilet is less than 20% (the spread of COVID did not just come out of nowhere) – we humans are all diamonds and sometimes it takes a bit of work for us to discover our value and come to terms with our price tag.
No matter what the outcome may be, know that you are never alone – Scholarship Track is always by your side, providing you with monthly updates on upcoming opportunities (scholarships, internships, competitions and so much more!) for students to take advantage of! This is not the end – we are there for you.