• Remote Work Communication Tips

    Since AwardSpring makes it possible to manage scholarships and review applications from anywhere, many users decide to restructure their workflow to include remote work. Whether that means distributing responsibilities across several campuses, working with remote reviewers, or working from home occasionally yourself, there are a few important adjustments that should be made to include all team members, regardless of work location. Here at AwardSpring, we support a remote work environment for many of our staff, so we have some tried-and-true methods for maintaining clear communication without face-to-face contact. Read on for our advice, and enjoy the freedom that remote work offers you and your staff!

    - Define responsibilities. The key to successful remote collaborations is to assign each team member clear responsibilities. In AwardSpring, grouping remote departments together under department administrators can help you manage this process better. Since department administrators are limited to managing only those scholarships in their department, it’s one way to define duties.

    - Make expectations clear. Once your team has divvied up tasks, you can create guidelines around timing, task milestones, measurable results, and anything else that’s important to your team. Make sure that everyone understands how and when they’ll know when it’s their turn to take action. Will there be someone responsible for tracking project progress, or are you using a project management tool? Creating a clear process will help everyone play his or her role at the right time.

    - Choose a primary communication method. While your team may use a variety of formal and informal communication tools, such as instant messaging, email, phone calls, video chats, and texts, selecting one as your primary vehicle for important project-related messages will help ensure that no messages are missed. A project management tool like Basecamp is ideal for managing project-related communications.

    - Communicate regularly. Structured meetings - daily and weekly - can help identify problems early, provide opportunities for collaboration or advice, and keep team members informed about progress. But don’t forget about impromptu check-ins; since you won’t bump into remote workers in the hallways, it’s important to make an effort to connect with coworkers occasionally to build and maintain a friendly relationship.

  • 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.

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