There's more work to do after the award. Connecting with your scholars as they navigate college - particularly during difficult issues like the current pandemic - is pivotal to the long-term retention and success of your scholars, and of your program.
As a member of an organization that enables students to get the education they deserve, you are well aware of the network of factors that can create barriers for young people seeking to get ahead. Whether the barriers are economic, disability based, or personal, your scholarships are often a much-needed missing link that helps students thrive.
But once these students are awarded scholarships, many of these barriers can still exist — and they can have devastating effects on scholar engagement and retention. In particular, the coronavirus pandemic created a butterfly effect of difficulties for students all over the world, from international students losing their ability to travel, to campuses shutting down due to outbreaks, to the loss of jobs that students and their guardians depend on.
The good news is that you’re in a position to help. A good place to start might be your organizations’s mission: We bet it doesn’t end at simply providing scholarships. The work that you do creates opportunities and access. It can also help students stay engaged and feel supported as they manage this crucial step in their lives. Here are some ways to stay in touch with your scholars as they navigate new opportunities in a complicated world.
Keep Apprised of Scholars’ Progress
We all know that grades only tell one part of a students’ story. They’re important, but they don’t necessarily reflect a student’s entire scope of capabilities. Still, if a scholar’s grades are slipping, it indicates that something’s wrong. This can be as simple as a poor fit in a program or something more serious, like a life event or illness. Be sure to check in with scholars using progress reports. Transcripts can be just one part of the check-in; consider asking questions about their mental health, time management skills, and general happiness. If you notice a drop in a scholar’s grades or other issues that may impact their ability to continue through their schooling, see if you can provide assistance. Scholarship funds are meant to help students get through college -- not just to it. Their graduation and subsequent success in their communities is what brings your mission full circle.
Connect Scholars with Their Cohort
Using a centralized scholarship management software system comes in handy at moments like this, allowing you to easily access records of a scholar’s cohort. You can even look up past scholarship winners who may be willing to serve as mentors to your current scholars. Plan ahead by including scholarship application questions that gauge for interest in either mentoring or becoming part of a program that enables communication among a cohort to provide mutual support during a school year.
Check In Via Email
Scholarship management software can be easily integrated with email marketing software that allows you to reach out to individual students or to send a newsletter-type regular communication that shows you’re there for your scholars. This newsletter can contain links to resources commonly used by students, or they can have specialized themes, such as Gearing Up for Fall, Managing Money, or Support for Creating Cover Letters and Resumes.
Collect Stories for Donor or Annual Reports
Learning about the challenges that your scholars have faced - as well as how they have persevered - can be powerful for those that support your program. This information can also help you adapt your scholarship program to both prepare future scholars on how to face these issues, and to create scholarship benefits or additional programs to prevent the issues from occurring at all.
This school year will lead the educational community into uncharted territory. You can be there for your scholars and help them fulfill the ultimate goal of the scholarships you offer: to take advantage of a unique opportunity to shine.