The work of managing a scholarship fund is a deep and complex process. Setting selection criteria, sourcing applicants, looking at their submissions, and reporting outcomes are just some of the tasks scholarship fund administrators are expected to accomplish in support of deserving students and maximizing the impact of funds.
In order to improve the experience of the ultimate beneficiary of scholarships—the students—the entire process of administering scholarship funds should be evaluated and streamlined.
Get the job done right and maximize your efficiency as a fund administrator by referring to these best practices:
Determine and secure your source of funding
Undeniably the most important factor in scholarship management and fund administration, you need to determine and secure your source of funding. Starting a scholarship fund or looking for private donors are just some of the best ways you can initiate this.
Scholarship funds often have specific requirements such as eligibility criteria and disbursement schedules–particularly when the funds come from a specific private donor. These requirements must be followed when administering scholarships.
Outlining a clear budget allows you to determine how many students will benefit from the scholarship as well as plan for future management of scholarship funds.
Define your application process and eligibility criteria
Who would you like to help?
Whether it’s a group of students that have been historically marginalized in the admissions process or a specific discipline that’s being supported, be sure to communicate why you are choosing to award scholarships to them.
Other factors you might want to consider are current needs and concerns among the student population as well as where your scholarship funds are coming from.
Once you have this down pat, be specific about how winners will be chosen. Remember that applicants will look closely at these criteria and will even shape their applications to conform, so make sure that it aligns with your overall purpose.
With a clear purpose and specific criteria for selection laid out, it’s time to determine the applications process.
It’s always a good idea to make use of online application forms to save time, reduce manual paperwork and eliminate errors but you may still have to offer hard copies as a backup for applicants who possibly have limited access to the internet and digital platforms.
For backend management of the application process, your team will benefit greatly from a centralized platform for organizing submissions.
Make sure your application procedures are simple and straightforward for applicants. Simplify the design of the application form so that you’re collecting only the most essential information.
Your application should be long enough to collect all the information you need, but not so involved that it dissuades people from applying in the first place.
Promote the scholarship and set a deadline
Scholarship applicants need to deal with competing deadlines across multiple applications as well as other professional and personal commitments. Set a clear and definite deadline to help them manage such timelines and give them ample time to prepare their requirements.
Deadlines also help administrators stay on course to accomplish all of their tasks in a timely manner, including reviewing, awarding, and reporting on their scholarship before next year’s or next semester’s cycle starts.
Along with a strategic deadline, scholarship administrators should put considerable time and effort into promoting the scholarship in order to build a strong pool of applicants.
With organizations competing for talent at an increasingly frantic pace, posting a few headlines about scholarship opportunities on your organization’s website just isn’t enough these days—not if you want the top students walking through your doors on orientation day.
If the students you’re looking to attract are living on social media, get creative and get on social media platforms to promote your scholarship. Targetting online forums and student organizations where you can share funding opportunities works wonders too. Get connected to parent networks full of eager moms and dads looking for ways to support their child’s higher education.
Choose your winners
As submissions are being evaluated, keep up communication with applicants to let them know precisely how applications are being evaluated while setting out a clear timeline for notifications. Few things are more disheartening to hardworking students seeking financial support for their education than to be left in the dark without a sense of where they stand.
When it comes to announcing the winners, offer a personal touch. Whether it’s an actual phone call from an administrator or a personalized email encouraging applicants to push forward with their hard work, a little bit goes a long way.
Sending a form email in response to often deeply personal scholarship applications that took hours to construct is certainly less than professional and scholarship administrators can do better with just a little extra effort.
Unless you are dealing with mountains of submissions, taking the time at this stage will lead to better applicants down the line.
Award the scholarship
This is where the giving gets good.
Be sure to understand students’ specific financial situations and don’t be afraid to be flexible with disbursement timelines when awarding the scholarship.
Articulate why specific students were selected as well as how their selection in this particular year furthers the purpose of the scholarship. This adds more meaning to an extremely important moment in a student’s academic career.
Also, don’t be afraid to take an extra step in support of the students that were not selected.
Refer applicants who don’t make it to other scholarships that might be a good fit for them during and after the application process for your specific scholarship.
Evaluate your results
Managing a scholarship fund shouldn’t be a shot in the dark. With the right giving purpose and clear criteria for selecting recipients, it should be clear year over a year whether the scholarship is achieving its intended results.
One way to help understand the impact of scholarships is for scholarship administrators to use a scholarship management platform for scholarship submissions and evaluation. With all of your applicant and recipient data in one place, you can track trends over time and better understand the applicant pool, how exactly scholarships funds were used, and how students who received awards fared overall.
Scholarship fund administration is much more than just cutting checks.
From devising selection criteria for applicants and promoting the scholarship application to notifying recipients about their award to evaluating the overall results of fund disbursements, getting scholarships right is a complex business.
Scholarship administrators are often buried in applications and easing their burdens is one of the keys to improving how scholarships are given to students.
Help your scholarship selection committee streamline and modernize the whole administration of scholarship funds with scholarship management software that transforms how they do their work.
Create a smooth-running scholarship process with Scholars United, a platform to help universities, colleges, and corporations manage their entire scholarship application lifecycle in one centralized solution.
Need to import student data from enrollment systems, financial aid systems, home-grown student databases, or from systems like Banner and PeopleSoft? Scholars United enables these imports and our integration APIs are used to afford students and admins single sign-on using their existing SIS credentials, eliminating the need for multiple usernames and passwords.
Advisors, high-school guidance counselors, department heads, academic college leaders, and/or community organizations have the flexibility to nominate applicants to receive scholarships.
Flexible Scholarship Matches
With our “One-Click Apply” option, students can apply for all available scholarships in just a few seconds.
Match Applicants To Funds
Scholars United automatically matches all the applicants who qualify. Easily set up a scoring rubric and have the system create a pre-sorted list of applicants based on the highest relevance to the fund’s criteria and find the most qualified applicants.
Unlimited Review Workflows
Whether you have a one-step review process or a 10 step review process the system allows you to create unlimited evaluation steps and links them to evaluation/review rubrics. Add scores to the review rubrics to filter the applicants that have the highest committee review scores.
Share funds-specific reports and spending policies with reviewers. Scholarship administrators can access all the reviews using a single administrator dashboard.
Flexible Awards Process
The platform also allows awards to applicants from single or multiple funds. Students to accept or deny the offered award, and you can select your first and second favorite for the award in case your first choice declines. This saves the time and hassle of reevaluating all qualified applicants. Review funding overlaps for applicants with multiple considerations; and to speed up the awards process, the system can perform batch awards.
CommunityForce enables you to collect information from the applicant post-award process. Scholarship administrators can create reports that can help them ensure that the applicant continues to comply with the fund requirement year after year.
Report and Analyze
Slice and dice that data however you wish using real-time ad hoc reporting. Create reports to help with data accuracy and ensuring compliance with donor-advised funds requirements. Administrators can generate statistical reports from the system that can be used for annual reports.
Whether you’re a startup organization or a leading corporation, CommunityForce provides fully customizable, all-in-one online scholarship management solutions to maximize your efficiency, simplify complex processes, and improve collaboration so you can focus on increasing your impact. We’ve helped organizations streamline their entire process no matter the size and scope of their giving.
We enable organizations to reduce the amount of time spent on administrative burdens and focus on what matters: increasing their impact.