The Ultimate Playbook to Managing Scholarships

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The Ultimate Playbook to Managing Scholarships is a step-by-step outline on how to manage scholarship programs from start to finish.


Navigating the complexities of scholarship management can be a daunting task for scholarship providers. Recognizing the need for a streamlined and efficient approach, Reviewr, a leading scholarship management software, bridge the gap between technology and best practices in scholarship administration. 

Through its innovative software solutions and deep industry knowledge, Reviewr empowers organizations to manage scholarships in the best possible way. This blog post delves into the insights shared in Reviewr’s recent webinar, “The Ultimate Playbook to Managing Scholarships,” offering valuable advice on optimizing application processes, ensuring data security, and fairness in selection. 

Whether you’re new to scholarship management or looking to refine your process, this post will help you explore how Reviewr is revolutionizing the way scholarships are managed, making education more accessible and manageable for all involved.

Short on time? Here’s the TL;DR version

  • Scholarships are life changing opportunities for participants – we need to give them the energy they deserve.
  • Experience is everything.
  • Leverage your existing website as the starting point for rules, eligibility, etc. From here, link to Reviewr.
  • The 1st step in a scholarship workflow is a proof of process.
    • Sets expectations. When you apply for a scholarship this is what the process looks like.
      • Dates
      • Application experience
      • Review and selection experience
      • Post awarding process.
  • Data security and privacy is critical. Ensure your software is SOC2Type2 compliant.
  • The submission process should be low barrier and promote an engaging experience that empowers the applicant to focus on content creation of the strongest application as possible.
  • Ditch reference letters and instead do reference templates.
  • Here is an example scholarship application workflow.
  • Create review workflows that mimic the review workload capacity of review team.
    • Phases
    • Categories/Buckets
    • Set number assigned to review.
  • Auto assign a random number of submissions to each reviewer.
  • Provide a way for a reviewer to opt out with a conflict of interest.
  • Blind PII and sensitive data from review teams.
  • Leverage a mathematic based scoresheet.
  • Here is an example review and selection workflow and scoresheet.
  • Once applicants are reviewed and selected any communication and additional data collection should go through the same portal that was used the entire time for consistency and data aggregation/reporting.

Phase 1: Planning and Preparation

Before diving into the world of scholarship management, the cornerstone of any successful scholarship program lies in meticulous planning and preparation. This stage is critical, setting the tone for the entire process and ensuring that every subsequent step aligns with your organization’s goals and objectives. Reviewr, a leader in scholarship management software, emphasizes the importance of this foundational step and offers insights into making the planning phase as effective as possible.

Define Your Objectives

  • Purpose Identification: Clearly define the purpose of the scholarship. Is it to support students in financial need, encourage studies in a specific field, or promote diversity?
  • Goal Setting: Establish measurable goals. How many scholarships will be offered? What impact do you hope to achieve?

Target Audience Analysis

  • Demographic Targeting: Identify the demographic and academic characteristics of your target audience. Consider age, field of study, level of study (undergraduate, graduate), and any specific criteria (e.g., women in STEM, first-generation college students).
  • Needs Assessment: Understand the needs of your target audience. What financial, academic, or support do they require?

Budget Planning

  • Funding Sources: Identify sources of funding for the scholarship. Will it be funded internally, through fundraising efforts, or via sponsors and partners?
  • Budget Allocation: Determine the budget for the scholarship program. Include funds for the scholarship awards and operational expenses (marketing, administration, etc.).

Scholarship Criteria Development

  • Eligibility Requirements: Establish clear eligibility criteria based on the scholarship’s objectives and target audience. Consider academic achievements, financial need, community involvement, or specific talents.
  • Selection Criteria: Define the criteria for selecting recipients. How will applications be evaluated? Will you prioritize certain achievements or qualities?

Timeline Establishment

  • Program Schedule: Create a detailed timeline for the scholarship program, including the application period, evaluation phase, selection announcement, and disbursement of funds.
  • Milestones: Set key milestones to track progress and ensure the program stays on schedule.

Utilizing the Right Tools

  • Leveraging technology can significantly streamline the planning and preparation process. Reviewr’s scholarship management software offers a suite of tools designed to facilitate application collection, review, and communication. 
  • By automating administrative tasks, your team can focus more on strategic aspects of the scholarship program.

Preparing for Challenges

  • Anticipate challenges and prepare contingency plans. 
  • Whether it’s dealing with an overwhelming number of applications or addressing technical glitches, being prepared ensures that your program runs smoothly.
  •  Reviewr’s support team and comprehensive resources are always on hand to help you navigate any obstacles that arise.


Phase 2: Marketing the Scholarships


  • Direct Communication: Personalized letters or emails highlighting the scholarship program’s importance, criteria, and how to participate.
  • Digital Marketing: Utilize SEO strategies for your website, content marketing through blogs and articles, social media campaigns, and email marketing. Consider paid advertising through google, social media, and LinkedIn.


  • Regular Updates: Include a dedicated section in the regular newsletters about the scholarship program, with updates, timelines, and featured past winners.
  • Spotlight Stories: Share stories or interviews of past winners, focusing on the impact of winning the scholarship.

Email Campaigns

  • Announcement Email: Send a detailed announcement about the scholarship program, including key dates and how to apply.
  • Reminder Emails: Schedule reminder emails as deadlines approach, including tips for a successful application.

Social Media Campaign

  • Hashtag Campaign: Create a unique hashtag for the scholarship program and encourage people to share stories or posts with it.
  • Regular Posts: Share regular updates, quotes from previous winners, and countdowns to deadlines on social media.


  • Dedicated Web Page: Create a detailed web page on the organization’s website with all information about the scholarship program.
  • FAQ Section: Include a FAQ section addressing common questions about the scholarship process.

Partnership and Sponsorships

  • Industry Partnerships: Collaborate with industry partners for wider outreach and credibility.
  • Sponsorship Opportunities: Offer sponsorship opportunities for different scholarship categories.


Phase 3: The Submission Process

Utilizing Technology

Select a Platform, and use a tool like Reviewr to manage submissions and the review process efficiently. Here are key elements your scholarship management software should include. 

Streamlined Submission Platform:

  • A digital platform where applicants can submit all necessary documents and information in a structured, user-friendly format.
  • The platform supports various file formats and submission types, catering to the diverse needs of different programs.
  • Ability to collect third party references in a template format.
  • Ability to save, logout, and track progress.
  • Capture all the necessary scholarship application content such as long form essays, education, volunteer opportunities, etc.
  • This digital transition not only saves time but also enhances accuracy and the overall applicant experience.

Safeguarding Applicant Information

It’s essential that scholarships are managed through dedicated and proven scholarship management software. Not only do these platforms save scholarship managers hundreds of hours in management energy, but they also include dedicated features to ensure an engaging experience for all parties involved as well as mechanisms for scholarship compliance. Scholarships are high-impact programs and should be treated as such. Scholarship programs should never utilize tools that were not developed to manage the sensitive nature of scholarships such as online form and survey tools, emails, spreadsheets, file-sharing sites, etc.

Data Encryption

  • All data, especially PII (Personal Identifiable Information) and student information should be encrypted both in transit and at rest.

Compliance with global standards

  • In an ever-changing, dynamic environment, compliance standards must be constantly reviewed. This includes things such as GDPR, FERPA, California Personal Information Act, etc. Softwares such as Reviewr that maintain the gold standard for data protection such as SOC2Type2 are always ahead of the curve and take the guessing game out of the equation – as well as the headache and time requirements that scholarship managers do not have.

Audits and Certification

  • Saying a scholarship program is compliant and ensures data security and privacy is one thing – proving it is another. 
  • Ask your scholarship management software for their Soc2Type2 report (Gold Standard).
  • While many scholarship management application may be compliant in their own right, they lose scholarship compliance when used in conjunction with other tools. For example – collecting scholarship applications through a tool like JotForm may be a secure and reliable method, but once those forms are exported and moved into other tools the scholarship compliance goes out the window.
  • This is why it’s critical to utilize a full scholarship lifecycle management software.

Reference collection

Often an afterthought, yet critical to get right, is the collection of references. When an external variable such as references is added to the scholarship application and selection process we must ensure this too follows both proper protocol for data security, but also best practices.

Avoid reference letters:

  • Historically references were collected in a letter format but this is now an outdated and risky method.
  • Letters create a barrier for references.
    • Hard to write
    • Takes time and effort
    • Multi-step to create, write, and send back.
    • Not all references are created equal – some are better written than others, some had more time put into it, etc. Is this a fair representation of the scholarship applicant?
    • Hard to blind PII in a letter.

Leverage reference templates:

  • Outline 3-5 questions that each reference should answer.
  • Lowers the time and effort barrier for references.
  • Creates data consistency amongst all applicants.
  • Creates consistency in the review process with defined data sets.

Use Reviewrs automated reference collection process:

  • Scholarship applicant will enter the name and email of the reference
  • Triggers an email notification to reference
  • Reference clicks on a link that brings them to a reference template
  • Reference simply fills out the template with the ability to save, log out, and work at their own pace.
  • Visibility to both scholarship program managers as well as to applicants on the progress of references.
  • Actual reference content can be blinded from the applicant.
  • Upon submission, the reference template is automatically attached to the applicant profile.
  • Reference data can be blinded more easily by the review team.

 Impartial Review Distribution

All human variables that may lend themselves to bias must be removed from the scholarship management equation. This includes how scholarship applications are assigned to review committees. While many scholarship programs are committee based with all members reviewing all scholarships, may opt to deploy a process where not all committee members review all submissions.

  • Depending on volume, sometimes it can be overwhelming to ask review team members to evaluate all scholarship applications. 
  • If evaluators are overwhelmed, their review and selection process is often degraded, leading to potentially inaccurate and unfair reviews and selections.
  • Instead, start with a survey of the review team to define how many applicants they can provide 100% of their energy towards. This becomes the target.
  • However, scholarship review members being assigned only a subset of the total application pool adds a risk element to who is reviewing who.
  • Leverage Reviewr automation where an exact number can be entered (Assign each evaluator 9 submissions, assign each evaluator no less than 5 but no more than 7, I want every applicant reviewed 7 times, etc).
  • Reviewr will then automatically, and randomly, distribute submissions to reviewers based on the input. By removing the human element of deciding which applicants are reviewed by which staff members, we can ensure compliance.

Centralized Communication and Workflow Management

  • Facilitate streamlined communication with built-in messaging and notification systems, keeping everyone informed and engaged.
  • The platform allows for easy tracking of deadlines, with automated reminders and updates, reducing manual follow-up tasks.
  • A centralized dashboard enables program managers to oversee and coordinate all aspects of the program lifecycle in one place.

Enhanced Data Management and Reporting

  • The platform offers robust data management capabilities, securely storing and organizing applicant information.
  • Real-time reporting and analytics provide insights into program performance, helping in informed decision-making.
  • The ability to generate comprehensive reports reduces the administrative burden and supports strategic planning and evaluation.
  • Scalable Infrastructure: The system should be able to handle a high volume of submissions without performance issues.
  • Integration Capabilities: The software should integrate seamlessly with other tools used by the organization, such as CRM systems, Single sign-on, and AMS. 

Customer Support and Resources

  • Access to reliable customer support for troubleshooting and assistance.
  • Robust library of resources for all types of participants. 


Sample Scholarship Application Form: 


Page 1 of a scholarship application form. This page outlines the scholarships dates, deadlines, eligibility criteria, and deliverables required.

Page 2 of the scholarship application form that asks for personal details about the applicant such as name, email, address, etc.

Additional personal information being requested by a scholarship applicant on page 2 of the application form such as parent and guardian information.

Page 3 of the scholarship application form outlines educational institution information such as current high school, graduation dates, gpa, what secondary school the applicant will attend, etc.

Page 4 of the scholarship application form outlines academic achievements such as recognition awards, honorable recognitions, deans list, etc.

Page 5 of the scholarship application outlines membership in organizations, clubs, sports activities, or any other extra curricular participation the scholarship applicant has.

Page 6 of the scholarship application form ask scholarship applicants to outline volunteer services and activities they are involved with within their community.

Page 7 of the scholarship application form asks applicants to list what accomplishments they are most proud of and why

Page 8 of the scholarship application form asks scholarship applicants to answer 3 essay questions such as describing a time where they were able to help someone and the impact it had on them, if they could only accomplish one thing in life what would it be, and describe a time they faced a difficult challenge.

Page 9 of the scholarship application form asks applicants to upload a transcript or request directly from the transcript office.

Page 10 of the scholarship application form asks applicants to add additional uploads such as photos to be used if they are selected.Page 11 of the scholarship application is the last page where it requests scholarship applicants agree to the terms and do an esignature.

Phase 4: Judging and Selection

The scholarship selection process is a crucial phase that demands fairness, transparency, and objectivity as guiding principles. It is essential to establish a rigorous and unbiased selection mechanism to ensure that every applicant receives equal consideration, based solely on their qualifications and alignment with the scholarship’s objectives.

Reviewr has developed scholarship management software that upholds these principles at every step of the selection process. The software incorporates advanced features that safeguard against bias and streamline the review workflow, thus enhancing the program’s credibility.

Promoting Objective Reviews

A fair selection process is fundamental to maintaining the integrity and reputation of your scholarship program. It involves implementing strategies that minimize personal bias and ensure a level playing field for all applicants. This is not just about ethical responsibility; it’s also about identifying truly deserving candidates who best match the scholarship’s goals.

Blind (Personal Identifiable Information) PII from the evaluation team

  • Purpose: To prevent unconscious bias, Reviewr’s system anonymizes applications by hiding PII from review teams during the evaluation process.
  • Impact: Reviewers make judgments based on the quality of the application, such as academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, and essay responses, without being influenced by the applicant’s personal background.

Blind “non-critical” information

  • Often times scholarship applications include essential bookkeeping and data but it’s not essential for the actual review in the selection process – meaning the data collected will not be used in making scholarship selection decisions. In this use case, the data should be blinded from reviewers so as to also provide an engaging and non-overwhelming experience for them.

Random distribution of applications to review teams

  • Method: Applications are randomly assigned to reviewers to prevent any potential clustering of applications that might skew the fairness of the evaluation.
  • Benefit: This ensures that every application has an equal chance of being reviewed by multiple reviewers, balancing out individual reviewer biases.

Manage Review Team workloads

  • Approach: Reviewr ensures that each reviewer is assigned a manageable number of applications, preventing review fatigue and ensuring a thorough evaluation.
  • Outcome: A focused and less burdensome workload leads to more attentive and considerate reviews, contributing to the overall quality and fairness of the selection process.

Structured Review Phases

  • Initial Vetting to Final Selection: The process is divided into phases, starting with an initial vetting to filter out ineligible or incomplete applications, followed by more detailed reviews that narrow down the pool to the most qualified candidates.
  • Advantages: This phased approach allows for a more organized and gradual narrowing of applicants, ensuring that each stage is conducted with due diligence and focus.

Dedicated scholarship management software

    • While it is impossible to completely eliminate the possibility for review team members to export, screenshot, or save information – using a dedicated scholarship management system such as Reviewr does make it significantly more challenging to ensure that data collected in Reviewr stays in Reviewr.

Quantitative Selections

The last piece to a compliant, fair, non-biased, and equitable scholarship management process is leveraging scoring rubrics for a quantitative selection. By using scoresheets we can avoid comparison bias amongst applicants and let the merits of their entry and scoresheet tell the story.

  • Scorecards should match the scholarship application and scholarship provider’s guiding vision and principles.
  • The Proof of Process lays out why specific scholarship questions are being asked – the scoresheet needs to mirror those.
    • Example, volunteer experience GPA, family needs, etc.
  • This allows the review team to side by side review the scholarship application and references with a scoresheet that follows along. The review team simply plugs in their answers as they read the application.
  • Consider weighted scoring
    • While the scoresheet should mirror the questions answered in the application, some scholarship application questions are in more alignment with the scholarship provider’s mission than others – these should be weighted to reflect.
      • For example: If a plumbing trade association is offering a scholarship but that trade association specializes in pipefitting – then those students who are pursuing that career would get weighted higher for answering that question.
      • Other examples include weighting volunteer activity over grades, grades over intangibles, or essay writing.
  • Use a scholarship management system such as Reviewr to auto-result tabulation and leaderboards.
    • It’s critical to remove potential human error when tabulating scholarship results on a quantitative basis. Leverage Reviewr automation which calculates the quantitative results based on the scorecard input by the review teams. This will then outline non-bias, and fair, rankings.


Sample Scholarship Evaluation Form:

The first page of a scholarship evaluation form asks scholarship review committee members to rank applicants from low to high using Poor, below average, average, above average, and exemplary as score option for a series of questions.


Phase 5: Tie It All Together 

The keyword in “Proof of Process” is “Proof”. This means when the scholarship program is complete, provide transparent results that “prove” the process was followed.

  • Notify both scholarship recipients and those not selected.
  • Grant access back into the scholarship management system.
  • Allow applicants to anonymously review the scoresheets that were submitted about them.
  • Empower review teams to leave constructive feedback for applicants. Share this back with the applicants for self-development and growth.
    • Imagine a great candidate who didn’t receive your scholarship, but based on the feedback of the review team, was able to make changes to a future scholarship application and pursue their dreams with funding elsewhere.
  • Provide value to everyone. Not just those receiving the scholarship funding.
  • Collect essential data from scholarship recipients
    • Future Reviewr guides will be written on this topic… but:
    • Ensure programs stay compliant where acceptance letters, fund disbursement forms, etc are all powered through the same scholarship management system that was used to collect, manage, and review the initial scholarship applications.

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