• The Secrets to Keeping Reviewers on Task

    Managing the personalities, busy schedules, and complexities of human reviewers can be challenging, even if your scholarship management software has streamlined much of the review process. Through the years, we’ve identified a few simple, strategic organizational tactics that will keep reviewers focused and on task, easing frustrations for everybody. Read on for a collection of strategies you can employ before and during reviews to make this year’s review process seamless and stress-free!

    Before Your Review Process Begins

    - Pre-deny your least qualified applicants to reduce the number of applications that need to be reviewed. For example, if you have a scholarship with a 2.5 GPA requirement and you have many applicants with much higher GPAs, you can pre-deny applicants on the lower end of the GPA threshold. To take this a step further, we recommend observing your qualifications, applicants, and awarded students over a couple of years to see if you can tighten up qualifications well before the application period even starts.

    - Determine your assignment methodology. Decide how many reviewers you need and how many reviews each application should have. We recommend giving each application two initial reviews, with the option for a third review if there’s high variation between the first two scores.

    - Create a simple, easy-to-use rubric. Use as few scorecards as possible (3-5 is ideal) and keep possible scores between 1-10 points. Managing the complexity of your scoring rubric will make it easier for each reviewer to evaluate applications accurately, uniformly, and quickly.

    - Suppress unnecessary information from reviewers. There’s no need to bog down your reviewers with any application questions that aren’t directly related to your scorecards. In AwardSpring, you can suppress as many questions as needed so that reviewers can focus only on those responses that need to be scored.

    During Your Review Process

    - Communicate a clear deadline to your reviewers, even if it’s not truly critical. An unambiguous timeline will give you cover to check in with reviewers periodically, which may be all it takes to get everything done on time.

    - Host a group kickoff to communicate expectations, answer questions, and troubleshoot. It may be challenging or even impossible to regularly gather all reviewers at the same time, but a single meeting can give your reviewers the confidence to work independently afterward. (And that’s one of the perks of using AwardSpring - your reviewers can work from anywhere, on any device they choose!)

    - Send reminder emails. Send messages to the entire review team or just to individual reviewers to keep them on track. We recommend setting up consistent communications throughout the review period to ensure that important tasks remain top of mind for everybody involved.

  • Reviewing: Best Practices

    One of the biggest benefits of using a scholarship management application like AwardSpring is the time savings for you and your review committee. This year, invest some of that saved time into optimizing your review process following our best practices below. You’ll find that your process becomes simpler, faster, and more enjoyable for everyone involved.  

    Collaborate with peers to improve your process. Network with similar or local colleges, universities, and foundations to see what works for them - and take their experiences into consideration as you set up your review process. You’re likely to run into similar obstacles or decisions, so it’s helpful to know what your peers have done to overcome them.

    Pre-screen applicants to save reviewers’ time. If a scholarship has a large number of applicants as well as preferred qualifications, consider eliminating those applicants who don’t meet the preferred qualifications before the review period to cut down on evaluation time. For example, if your scholarship awards to college students with a 2.0 GPA or higher and gives preferential consideration to female applicants, have the committee evaluate only the female applicants.

    Decide how many times each application will be read. Perhaps you’d like all review committee members to read all applications. Or perhaps you’d like to divide applications up amongst the committee. Either way, decide ahead of time how many times each application should be read so none of your committee members take on a disproportionate share of applications.

    When it comes to score cards, forget about scholarship eligibility. If this is your first time managing your scholarship process online, your review committee may be accustomed to screening applicants for eligibility in addition to evaluating the more subjective elements of their applications. With AwardSpring, you can be confident that every applicant in your pool is qualified. There’s no need to include any eligibility criteria in your score cards; allow your reviewers to focus on other areas of the application instead.

    Establish scoring consistency. Make sure your review committee understands how to score essays by thoroughly outlining your expectations for each possible essay score. Clear expectations will minimize confusion and maximize scoring consistency among all reviewers on your committee.

    Blind some information from reviewers. What elements of the application are absolutely essential for reviewers to see - and which aren’t? Keep your review process unbiased and uncluttered by hiding any unnecessary information from reviewers, and you’ll create fewer opportunities for unintentional FERPA violations.

    Promote your process. If this is your first year using a scholarship management application, your review committee may be apprehensive about the changes that accompany a new online process. Take some time to remind your reviewers about the reasons you’ve switched to an online application - to save time, improve accuracy, maximize fund utilization, increase applicants, eliminate paperwork, etc. Overall, everybody’s goal is to award scholarship dollars to the most qualified and deserving applicants. Centralizing your applicant data, reviewer scores, and award information in one application helps you do that, even if it takes some getting used to in the beginning.

  • Managing Incomplete Scholarship Applications

    Switching from a paper process to an online process can reveal a challenge that you may not have dealt with before: incomplete applications. With an online process like AwardSpring, you can see who has started, but not yet submitted, a scholarship application. That gives you an opportunity to help those students submit before your deadline, ensuring that you have plenty of qualified applicants to choose from during the review process.

    There are a few reasons why students don’t finish their applications, including:

    - Students have technical difficulties that prevent them from completing their applications.

    - After beginning an application, they take a break to work on essays or other sections that require more thought and effort.

    - Students decide they aren’t good candidates for the scholarship(s) and abandon their applications.

    - With most sections completed, students wait for required documents from a third party before submitting.

    - Students step away from their applications and simply forget to return.

    You can alleviate the problems faced by most of the students described above by planning to take some concrete steps before, during, and at the very end of your application window.

    BEFORE YOUR APPLICATION WINDOW BEGINS

    Make your application easy to complete. The very best way to ensure that students actually finish applying is to make it as easy as possible for them to do so! Check out our Universal Application Best Practices for guidance on how to optimize your application for students.

    Offer students a way to get in touch if they have questions or problems. Make sure that your contact information is readily available on any flyers, websites, or social media posts that advertise your scholarships. You can also include your contact information within your online application, in case students have trouble as they apply.

    DURING YOUR APPLICATION WINDOW

    Run the AwardSpring Student Answers report. AwardSpring’s Student Answers report will tell you which applicants have started and not yet finished their applications, along with the specific questions that have not yet been answered. Consider running the report halfway through your application cycle and again a couple of weeks before the application deadline to see what questions are holding students up. It’s common for essays to be completed last; it’s less common for basic demographic questions to keep students from submitting. If straightforward sections are incomplete, you may have confusing instructions in your application.

    Check your dashboard when you log in. Your dashboard can also alert you to application problems that are holding students back from submitting. Check for major discrepancies between the number of applicants and the number of completed applications in your dashboard. If you’re approaching your application deadline with less than 50% of applications submitted, it’s time to investigate what the problem is.

    Email your stragglers. We recommend sending out just one or two emails to remind students that their applications aren’t yet complete. If you send more than a couple of emails, you may find that applicants begin ignoring your messages, so make them count! Your last reminder email should go out at least a week before your deadline, so that students have plenty of time to track down documents or write essays.

    AT THE END OF YOUR APPLICATION WINDOW

    Run - and save - a Student Answers report one final time. Since every institution has its own unique application process, typical completion rates vary. It’s best to track yours so that you have a benchmark for future award cycles.

    Check for students that haven’t completed additional requirements. At the end of your application window, you may find that some students submitted their general application but haven’t yet completed the additional requirements for specific scholarships. Follow up with those students via email to encourage them to finish the final steps.

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