• Optimizing Your Scholarship Application

    Is your scholarship application as easy to fill out as it could be? When was the last time you reviewed it in detail? We recommend revisiting your application every year to simplify, streamline, and clarify your application questions as much as possible. Increase applications and improve your review process with our application optimization tips and tricks!

    Debrief with your reviewers.

    Ask your review committee for feedback about last year’s application. What information was most crucial? What information did they not use at all? And what questions were missing that would have helped them make decisions faster? Your reviewers’ responses will help you make changes to your application that will improve the reviewing experience.

    Imitate successful applications.

    Here at AwardSpring, we’ve noticed a few trends among applications that have a high percentage of completion. These applications typically have:

    - Fewer than five sections 

    - No more than three essays  

    - Only one transcript requirement - the most recent one  

    - Only one required letter of recommendation  Very specific essay prompts (rather than a generic “Why should you receive this scholarship?”)

    In general, the most successful applications have limited requirements, specific requests, and user-friendly formats that provide students with flexibility in their answers. Adjust your own application to meet these standards and you’ll gain more applicants, more efficient review processes, and a better experience for all.

  • Award Cycle Preparation Best Practices

    Here at AwardSpring, we’ve seen many award cycles come and go - and we’ve noticed some important preparations that can help an award cycle run like a well-oiled machine. Read on for the steps you can take right now to make your next award cycle your best yet!

    Determine when your important milestones will be.

    When is your application deadline going to be? When should scholarship money be distributed? Once these dates are settled, it’s much easier to work backward to determine when the application window should open, award decisions should be made, and other important scholarship activities should take place.

    Set goals for the year.

    Figuring out your biggest priorities up front will help you use your time wisely throughout the award cycle. This year, is it more important to recruit new students or retain existing students? Do you plan to give away an entire endowment, or reserve some portion of it for next year? 

    Revisit students’ previous questions and problems.

    We suggest taking a look back at last year’s biggest problems or most frequent questions to guide you towards impactful changes to make this year. Review correspondence with students, notes you took, or memories you have about any aspect of the application process that proved troublesome. 

    Confirm all scholarship details.

    Review all of your scholarship listings for needed updates before the new award cycle begins. In particular, double check whether the award values and qualifications have changed. If you had a hard time attracting qualified applicants to a particular scholarship in years past, stay tuned for an upcoming article on increasing qualified applicants for specific actions you can take this year.

    Engage donors.

    Engaging donors throughout the award cycle can ensure a strong future for your scholarship program. Before a new award cycle starts, consider reaching out to donors to discuss any changes to scholarship requirements, to thank them for their support, and to report their impact on student recipients. 

    Review and update your application.

    The final step before starting a new award cycle is to make updates to your application. AwardSpring users may wish to review our previously published blog post about updating your AwardSpring site. For a complete primer specifically focused on applications, look for an upcoming guide to optimizing your application.

  • 3 Simple Ways to Promote Your Scholarships

    Need more qualified applicants for your scholarships? The first step is to make sure your potential applicants hear about your scholarships in the first place. Here are three scholarship promotion strategies that can increase awareness and drive more applications.

    Strategy #1: Word of Mouth

    Word of mouth is generally considered the most effective form of marketing, so it’s our top recommendation for promoting your scholarships. As soon as your scholarships are ready to accept applications, reach out to four key groups of people for scholarship promotion help:

    - Engage alumni and past recipients to help spread the word. Prepare a short message for alumni to post on social media about the scholarship and send an email with all the scholarship details for them to forward on to their networks. Making it simple for alumni to share your message will increase the chances that they do.

    - Inform local high school guidance counselors and major employers. Guidance counselors can shepherd high school students through the application process while local employers will help you reach non-traditional students. Focus on those organizations that are likely to employ students who are a good match for the scholarships that lack applicants. For example, if you want more applicants for your nursing scholarship, your local hospitals and major medical centers will be the best places to focus your scholarship promotion energy.

    - Notify your institution’s instructors and counselors. Instructors have a lot of face time with students, so they’re well-positioned to promote your scholarships for you. Make sure to inform campus staff if your scholarships are available to part-time students, too. Since part-time students don’t qualify for financial aid, they may be extra motivated to apply for scholarships.

    - Remind your reviewers and volunteers. Scholarship reviewers can be enthusiastic supporters of your institution in addition to being pretty knowledgeable about your scholarship offering, making them great scholarship advocates. Ask them to spread the word among their friends and family!

    Strategy #2: Contact Potential Applicants Directly

    If you collect student phone numbers and email addresses when students apply to your institution, you can send messages through those channels to promote scholarships. Just make sure you receive permission from students to contact them in this way.

    Social media advertising is another way you can reach students directly. Its primary benefit is that you can target a very specific market in terms of age, location, and interests. You can also fine-tune your promotions based on budget and need. For example, you can promote all of your scholarships continuously or only those scholarships that are lacking qualified applicants as the deadline nears. The key to a successful social media campaign is to check in your ads’ performance regularly to make sure you’re getting the results you want. Learn more about using social media platforms to reach prospective scholarship applicants.

    Senior Days and similar events in your community provide the chance for you to talk to potential applicants face to face. During your presentation, you can ask students to text a friend or two to spread the word about your scholarship opportunities.

    Strategy #3: Early Bird Deadlines

    If all of your scholarships share the same application due date, consider implementing an early bird deadline to attract more applicants. Offer students the chance to qualify for an additional small scholarship if their applications are received before the early bird deadline. Motivated students will complete their applications early, allowing for plenty of time to troubleshoot any problems they have with the process. Plus, the early bird deadline gives you more opportunities to contact students about the deadlines and incentives.

    By employing these three strategies, you can drive more awareness of your scholarship program and increase the overall number of applications you receive, which is a great first step to ensuring a successful scholarship cycle. To make sure your applicants are well qualified, read our guide to increasing qualified applicants, too.

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