May 7, 2018

3 Ways to Better Promote Your Scholarships

More -- and better -- applications are the key to bolstering your scholarship program. Learn how to gain both, and how to deal with the new influx as well.

Most of us enjoy when things are easy. We click a few buttons and our groceries are delivered to us from Amazon. We pre-order our Starbucks while heading out the door or hopping off the train, and walk in to a tall, steaming cup displaying our name in black ink.

Your scholarship applicants want things to be easy, too. When you first launch a scholarship program you might assume that you’ll have tons of people applying -- hey, free money! -- but it’s not always the case. The market is saturated with scholarships and applicants, and just like your average consumer, they will go the simplest route, gravitating to the programs they already know about and completing applications that are the easiest to manage.

So how do you better promote your scholarships and ensure submissions from the most qualified applicants possible … without increasing your staff headcount or operating budget? And are you ready to handle the influx of applicants after you’ve stepped up your promotional game?

1. Innovate your marketing strategy with social media ads.

Consider using new media to better promote your scholarships. With 71% of teens using two or more social media platforms daily, your audience is captive and waiting. Facebook has a massive and diverse audience -- 1.18 billion daily active users, in fact. Unlike traditional print ads, you can target Facebook ads to the type of applicants you’re looking for based on location, demographics (age, education levels) and interests.

With Facebook ads, you can set your budget and schedule based on what works for you. If you want your ad to run continuously, you can spend a certain amount each day. Or, if you’re looking to run your ad for a specified length of time -- say an application deadline is approaching -- setup your ad with a lifetime budget. Facebook will evenly spread the amount you select over a designated period of time with a lifetime budget.

The best part of Facebook ads is that you can keep an eye on their performance right from the “Ad Manager” dashboard and make adjustments as needed. View an estimate of how much you’re spending each day. Pay particular attention to the “Frequency” metric for your ad--or, how often someone saw your ad. An ideal frequency for a scholarship application might have multiple views before someone takes action and begins an application. If any of your ads have a very high frequency and low performance, it may be time to rethink your ad strategy. This means, lots of folks are seeing your ads, but not taking action. To learn more of the basics of getting started with Facebook marketing, or setting up a Facebook page for your organization if you don’t have one, review these tips.

Consider tapping into Instagram ads, too. With more than 800 million active users on the platform--and 59 percent of those in the U.S. under age 30--your prime target audience for scholarships is on Instagram. If you’ve already setup Facebook ads, you have a good understanding for how Instagram ads work, too. With Facebook acquiring Instagram in 2012, Instagram ads are managed through the Facebook platform. One of the biggest differences on Instagram are the format options for your ad: single photo, video or slideshow. If you’re goal is to drive your audience to your website to complete a scholarship application, consider a single photo ad with a strong call to action. To get started, find step-by-step instructions for getting started with Instagram ads.      

2. Leverage industry groups and websites.

Start by leaning on the experience of your fellow providers via the National Scholarship Providers Association. NSPA’s mission is to increase the awareness of scholarships and their impact on higher education. One way NSPA does this is by celebrating National Scholarship Month each November. There’s also opportunities to get involved with NSPA throughout the year with their interactive Member Q&A Forum where members can ask questions directly to other colleagues for best-practice sharing. Or, reference their member-only, online resources that can help your scholarship program like the Resource Library and the Scholarship Program Toolkit, a comprehensive resource guide on starting and managing scholarship programs.

There is a fee to join NSPA, so you’ll want to check out their offerings and member benefits here.

Getting your program on NSPA is a great start, but the more places your program is listed, the better. Include details about your offering on popular scholarship search sites like GoodCall, FastWeb,, and Niche.

3. Make applying easy.

Back to our favorite word -- easy. Applicants are enticed by free money, but ease of use ranks high as well; scholarship application questions themselves are often the dealbreaker and determins if your applicants will take that final step and submit an application. How can you improve your application process? We talked a lot about this in our Top 4 Scholarship Application Stumbling Points for Students, and How to Help Them, but here are some additional tips: 

    • Add conditional fields for personalization: Ask applicants questions and dynamically display the next question based on their answers. For example, if an applicant indicates they are a business major, dynamically display another question about their particular field of study.
    • Include pagination: Break your application form into parts so applicants don’t have to scroll through a never-ending list of questions. This can make the process less overwhelming and increase the number of applicants.
    • Allow for stop and save: Allow applicants the opportunity to save and take a break when they a need a rest or want to work on an answer offline. This ensures applicants are submitting their best work and aren’t giving up when it gets difficult or too time-consuming. Through a scholarship management system, you’ll be able to see exactly who has saved their application but not finished, and can gently nudge them to complete and submit via automated emails.

How to manage it all?

So, you’ve enhanced how you promote your scholarships and now have an influx of applications. How do you manage it all? The bonus is if you have a scholarship management platform, intake, administration, and review are all streamlined, so the increase won’t translate into extra hours sorting through incomplete PDFs or sorting additional emails. Built-in tools, including automatic emails, reviewer assignments, and reporting dashboards make managing your program easier, too.


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