November 27, 2017

Improve Your Scholarship Application, Get Better Applicants

How three tools can help you cut through the clutter and bring in the best scholarship applications possible.

When you run a scholarship management process, you have one goal. OK, you have like 483 goals, but if you boil it down, you have one MAIN goal: to ensure the most worthy applicants are awarded and provided a chance to further their education and ultimately make a difference. That’s why you manage your application process with care. Why you require transcripts and letters of recommendation and essays. Why you ensure your board and reviewers and supporters have a chance to lend their input.

But all those steps do more than help uncover the best applicants -- they create a lot of work. Work for you and your team of reviewers, many of whom may be volunteers. Everyone’s workload would be simpler if, to start, they were instantly able to eliminate all unqualified applications, focusing only on those that held real promise and potential.

By working in one or more of these three features into your scholarship application, you can reduce the clutter and move strong candidates to the top of the pile automatically, saving the time of everyone involved.

  1. Qualifying Quizzes. Your scholarship has basic criteria -- perhaps students must be from a particular state, or be interested in majoring in a discipline, or have a parent working at a certain company. Be there one qualifying rule or 20, chances are you will receive applications from individuals that do not meet them … a fact you discover only after beginning to review their application. Depending on the order of your questions, you may have already spent significant time reviewing the application before the issue is discovered. With a qualifying quiz at the outset of your online application, you ask the student to confirm their eligibility right away. If any question is answered incorrectly, the student is notified that they do not meet the criteria; if they respond correctly, the full application then displays. Unqualified students don’t waste time filling out applications, and your review team doesn’t waste time reviewing ineligible applications.
  2. Pre-scoring Rounds. Depending on the focus of your scholarship, it’s inevitable that some some candidates will be a better match for the award than others. In order to reduce the amount of work for some reviewers, many organizations do an initial round of review on submitted applications, only forwarding those who passed this first cut to their review team. But this process can be automated with pre-scoring. In pre-scoring, your first stage application is typical radio button, check box, or drop-down questions, but behind-the-scenes the database has assigned weighted scores to the various answers. For example, a question could ask “How many community service hours have you completed during the 2017-18 school year?”, with “None” receiving a score of 0, “1-5” a score of 5, “10-20” a score of 10, and “20+” a score of 20. As an applicant completes and submits these various questions, a score is automatically tabulated. You can then review the scores and decide to send only a top percentage or those above a certain score on to the review team, knowing that the time your team now puts in is evaluating verified, qualified applicants.
  3. Automatic Letter of Recommendation Requests. Once you know you have a qualified candidate on your hands, you need them to fill out the next round of the application and submit all of their supporting documentation. This often includes Letters of Recommendation from past teachers or coaches. Requiring a student to gather these on their own and then submit can become a logistical nightmare of matching names and emails, following up on missing information, and connecting paper copies with digital applications. A built-in request module allows the student to enter the emails of the individuals they would like to request letters from, add in a personal note, and then send off the requests -- right from within the application. The recipients will receive an email with the note and custom URL where they can upload their letter. That uploaded file is automatically attached to the application in the database, easily visible now to both administrators and the reviewers.

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