Best practices to running an online scholarship program
Here at Reviewr, we have had the wonderful privilege to work with organizations of all types, sizes, and goals. In this journey, we have seen literally every imaginable type of scholarship program -both the good and bad. We think of all our clients as partners, and it’s on us to share the best practices we’ve gathered in running online scholarship programs online.
Many organizations store computer documents online without fully using online capabilities — they just as well be running a manual program! Take full advantage of the power of the Internet and specialized scholarship management software using these five best practices to make your program the best it can be.
1 – Running an online scholarship program: Make the applicants life easy.
Everything begins with the scholarship application. However, scholarship applications can be hard to get, because people often don’t think they have the time or are uncertain how to do it. The easier you can make the applicant process, the more scholarship applications you’ll get and the more energy and excitement you’ll create to keep your program dynamic—or at least alive.
So, how can you make it easier? Here are some ideas:
- Don’t make the applicants submit everything. Often times in scholarship programs, the applicant is required to submit things such as letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc. Often, these documents come from a third party. Using the Reviewr guest attachment feature, allow this 3rd party to receive an email notification requesting the supporting documents. Once uploaded, this document will get attached directly to the scholarship application.
- Keep it short. Don’t require lengthy tomes or time-consuming processes. Short scholarship applications make for better experiences. We often find ourselves in a pool drowning with data. It’s important to figure out what’s essential, and stick to it. Allow the applicants to spend their energy on what matters most and avoid the fluff.
- Dumb-proof the process. Make it easy for the applicant by allowing them to apply in a brief and easy online form and then upload supporting documents in the same place, rather than depositing them into Dropbox or attaching to email. Online scholarship management software and scholarship management systems can be customized to make it all very simple.
2 – Running an online scholarship program: Gather, manage, and crunch data.
One of the beauties of online scholarship management software and scholarship management systems is automatic crunching of data. Don’t miss out on this potentially life-changing feature of scholarship management software. For best results, customize your software to gather, compile and track exactly what you need. Here are a few examples:
- File uploads. Online scholarship management software can collect and automatically organize supporting documents, such as CVs and letters of recommendation, as well as multimedia documents (photos, videos, PowerPoints, spreadsheets) for marketing use later. Backend data structures ensure documents are always associated with the correct application. Even better, Reviewr allows you to access and view these documents embedded within the software itself. This means no more spreadsheets, no more powerpoint, and no more PDF viewer… how great does that sound?
- Multi-person participation. In a similar way, scholarship management software can permanently associate materials from more than one person with a single submission. This allows multiple people to participate in one effort. For example, the transcript office might provide a transcript for an applicant, while a colleague provides a letter of recommendation.
- Participant surveys. Software can be programmed to automatically distribute surveys and help you collect key insights about the program, including participant satisfaction with deadlines, ease of participation and other positives and negatives they would like to see in the future.
- Conversion tracking. How successful is your application process? In addition to participant surveys, you can measure page traffic, numbers of started-but-not-completed applications, total completed submissions and other important conversion-related actions.
- Year-over-year metrics. To provide justification for your program and support for funding, measure important metrics, such as overall participation, number of applicants, multi-year scholarship recipients, etc.
3 – Running an online scholarship program: Don’t overwhelm your review committee.
Just as you don’t want to scare away potential scholarship applicants, it’s worth your efforts to make your review committee’s lives easier. Reviewers are often volunteers, and the more streamlined you can make the process of reviewing, the more likely they are to keep working with you to execute the program—and do a good job. Online reviewing can be quick, easy and well-organized, thanks to online scholarship management technology!
Here are a few best practices to keep your review committee happy:
- Limit the number of applications each reviewer must process by splitting the work and breaking it into categories or award types.
- Avoid bombarding reviewers with separate spreadsheets, emails, and links to Dropbox and YouTube. Give them one place to access everything. Hint: Use Reviewr 🙂
- Keep evaluation metrics simple. There’s usually no need for advanced scoring algorithms. We suggest using an actual ranking/scoring tool versus complicated spreadsheets, and ranking based on information submitted rather than purely subjective assessments.
- Virtualize the process, so reviewers don’t have to spend a weekend in a room together in deliberation. Provide virtual access to all application materials, including mobile access.
4 – Running an online scholarship program: Work smarter, not harder.
Unless you are running an international scholarship program with full-time staff, you have other things to do. The health of your scholarship program depends on your ability to consolidate your efforts, while avoiding watering down the richness of your program.
Here are four ways to work smarter not harder:
- Consolidate administrative tasks. Establish one online location for workflows, communication, submissions and evaluations. This helps eliminate the unnecessary clutter of spreadsheets, email inboxes, cloud storage software and hardcopy paperwork.
- Create auto tabulations of reviewer evaluations. This not only ensures data accuracy, but provides immediate results in easy-to-understand reports.
- Keep communication centralized, so messages aren’t lost and discussions can flow easily toward timely conclusions. Centralizing communication also helps ensure documentation.
- Make data reports easily accessible. The ability to access insights through automatic tabulations and measurements of your scholarship program helps fine tune the process midstream, as well as plan for future cycles.
American Society of Association Executives says about using tools like Reviewr. “Associations that focus on leveraging data, improving processes, and investing in new technologies, the hard work will likely pay off in more engaged and satisfied members”.
Subscribing to scholarship management software doesn’t mean you’re making the scholarship process more complex. Nor does it mean it is completely changing what you have done for years. The purpose of online scholarship software is to simplify things and make your teams life a bit easier. When you set up the software the way it works best for your program, you can trim time, increase accuracy, boost participation, provide deeper participant engagement—and build a reputation that draws increased applications and funding.