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How to Ace a Skype Scholarship Interview

Whether it’s for a scholarship, admissions, internship or a job, interviews offer a great opportunity to showcase your personality, character, passion and qualifications.  Interviews provide a great opportunity to connect with judges beyond the written word.

I often coach students to present themselves as likeable in their essays.  The same is true for interviews.  Scholarship judges, admissions officers and employers, are people after all. And it’s only natural that we want people we like to succeed.

That’s especially true when you are competing for money for college.  With the cost of college up another 3-5% nationwide over last year, there are a lot of deserving students looking for ways to pay less.

            “Getting into college is one thing.  Paying for it is another.” ®

By definition, merit scholarships provide money for college based on achievement.  Students are rewarded for their own accomplishments and how well they represent the mission of the scholarship.

Interviews conducted over Skype or phone offer unique circumstances.  All the details surrounding the applicants’ environment and presentation become amplified.  We judges make a point of observing everything we can see or hear because we have such limited access to the candidates.

Of course, technology often brings its own challenges.  And how candidates adapt to those glitches offers a glimpse into problem solving that goes beyond the interview questions.

The following tips apply to all interviews but remote ones require even closer attention to how you are coming across.

  • Dress the part. When you’re hoping to win money for college, dress respectfully.  Sure you’re only “on camera” for 10 minutes, but in that slice of time, you’re hoping to win as much as $20,000 in the case of UCLA’s Alumni Scholarship.  In addition to money, winners join the coveted Alumni Scholars Club with high-level networking among high-achieving alumni who can play a huge role in students’ success beyond college.  Your attire conveys a powerful message.  “Professional” attire in this case meant males in well-pressed button-down shirts (some included a tie) and female students in tailored tops or dresses.  T-shirts didn’t fly well with me!
  • Pause (rather than use “filler words”). My big pet peeve.  Every student that our group interviewed made this mistake to varying degrees.  Judges expect you to need a bit of time to reflect on your answers and collect your thoughts. It’s fine to pause (while maintaining eye contact).  But use of “like,” “um,” and “uhh,” for example detracts from the message and from credibility – not to mention the sound of intelligence.  Students lost points for excessive filler words.  It’s a great habit to break as early as possible!
  • Plan ahead. Some students choose a quiet place at home for their Skype interview.  Great decision!  Others, however, were riding in cars or at a friends’ house playing video games...with all the noise and commotion caught on camera!  True story.
  • Be respectful. One student actually told the judges he was busy when he came on the line for his Skype interview. Then he hung up!  Guess who isn’t receiving a scholarship!  Even if you choose not to pursue the scholarship (or job, etc.), be courteous and withdraw before your scheduled interview so that another candidate can benefit.
  • Seize the moment. Take advantage of open-ended questions and interject additional personality, goals and accomplishments into your responses.  I appreciated learning more about the students beyond the specifics of the list of interview questions.
  • Know why you’re there. Every interviewer wants to feel their opportunity is special, whether it’s for a merit scholarship, internship, college admissions, or job.  Research the awarding organization and understand their objectives.
  • Make eye contact. This is a hard one over Skype, for sure.  It’s best if you look into the camera, of course.  But those who clearly thought their gaze was on the camera received an “A” for effort, even if they missed the mark.  On the other hand, those who continuously looked all around gave the impression of being distracted...and disinterested.  Maintaining eye contact is challenging under the best of circumstances.  And it’s a consideration for most interviews.
    Be more formal. You’re not friends (yet) with the interviewers.  Appearing too casual in your tone, word choice and demeanor often reflects negatively in your score.
  • Be resourceful and adaptable. We ran late due to tech issues.  Some students took it upon themselves to call the phone number on their confirmation email to be sure their interview was still happening.  My favorite though, was the student who took the initiative to search Google for why her camera would not project her image over Skype.  We could hear her seek a solution.  She was extremely poised as she navigated the Internet at the start of her interview.
  • Show gratitude. Remember to thank the interviewers. If appropriate, ask them about their personal experiences with the University or opportunity you are pursuing.  Vocalize your gratitude for being considered and articulate why the specific opportunity is meaningful to you.  In the case of these merit scholarships, the students who demonstrated their excitement for the University and shared a range of specifics about why the school is a great fit for them impressed the judges.


Let your personality shine! Be passionate.

As our world gets more and more technologically advanced, we’ll all need to master Skype, video and other medium.  Interviewing over the phone lines or computer offers unique challenges and opportunities to convey your strengths and personality.

In the video below I talk about my recent experience judging scholarship interviews via Skype!

For more solutions on skyrocketing college costs and ways to empower teens in the process, go to NancyPaul.com



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