• AwardSpring and Arbor Day: The Positive Environmental Side Effect of Optimizing Scholarship Management

    We here at AwardSpring pride ourselves on providing a platform and corresponding world-class service to organizations seeking a meaningfully optimized approach to managing their scholarship offerings. By nature (pun intended), we’re also able to help reduce the impact on the environment through the reduction of paper waste by transitioning organizations from paper-based, manual processes to a digital, paperless system.

    Let’s say you’re an organization with a 5-page application that garners 250 applicants. And, because you haven't optimized your application down to a single questionnaire (like you can with AwardSpring, wink wink), you have 4 different applications to cover the dozens of scholarships you offer. This means you are receiving, at minimum, 5,000 sheets, or 10 reams, of paper per award cycle. (Also consider shipping materials required and fossil fuel emissions generated to ensure those applications are delivered!)

    So, what does that mean for the environment? Research shows that every adult pine tree, the standard tree used for making paper, can produce about 15-20 reams of paper. If you can eliminate 10 reams of paper from use in one award cycle alone, you’re saving almost one entire tree from needing to be used for paper. Imagine what our industry can accomplish if we move scholarship management online and away from paper-based application processes!

    The best part? This is simply a positive side effect of our core mission to provide customers with a remarkably easy-to-use, cloud-based scholarship management platform that drives an increased number of applicants, and decreased workloads for you, your administrators, and your reviewers.

    We call that a win-win.

    Happy Arbor Day from the AwardSpring Team!

  • Post-award Best Practices

    Managing your awarded applicants can be a time-consuming process. You might need to collect required documents from students, ensure that they still meet minimum qualifications, or have students formally accept your awards. You might need to create information packets for awardees to give them next steps. Some scholarship managers even need to plan events to publicly honor the students who have been awarded.

    All of these moving pieces can add up to a lot of manual work on your part. Creating a plan for what items you need in advance of your awarding period will allow you to use your time and effort in a more effective way. Here are some common types of follow-ups that you might want to incorporate into your process.

    Instructions for follow-ups Clear and concise steps will be helpful to ensure that you get all the correct items from each awardee. This will limit the amount of back and forth required to collect everything you need. Additionally, you could pass out information about next steps. Can the student be awarded a second payment for their scholarship? Are they allowed to apply again in future cycles? It is a good idea to spell out this information to reduce confusion for your awarded students.

    Thank you letters The most commonly collected items from students are thank-you letters. These letters are not only a great way to drive donor engagement, they also create collateral to demonstrate how important the scholarship management process is in helping students. Awardees will have an easier time writing effective letters if you have provided them with information about the donor that they are thanking or some guidelines on writing a well-crafted letter.

    Award acceptance forms If you need a student to formally accept an award before you can make a payment, you might want to consider creating a form that they can sign, either physically or electronically and return to you.

    Headshots for publicity The ability to create marketing materials for your scholarship program can help bolster your donations and attract new donors to your foundation or institution. If you want to include photographs in these marketing materials, you can request them directly from the student. Keep in mind that you might also need to ask them to sign a photo release to publish their image.

    Event RSVPs If you need to plan a scholarship award ceremony, it will be very helpful for you to know the exact number of guests to plan for. This follow-up will allow students to tell you if they can attend the event and how many people they are going to bring.

    School bursar address If you need to send the scholarship check to the college or university that the student is attending, instead of to the student’s home address, this is a good time to collect that information.

    Qualification validation Some scholarships have criteria that need to be met which a student might not have proof of during the application period. For example, if one of your scholarships has a requirement that the student be accepted into a particular program or school, the student might have only recently been accepted. You can collect this additional information during the awarding period to confirm they do in fact meet the requirements of the scholarship.

    All of these follow-ups, and many more, can be included in a packet that you physically mail or email to students at the time that you notify them of the award. This packet can be reused with minor updates from year to year which will save you time in the current cycle and streamline the process for years to come.

    If you are currently an AwardSpring customer or are interested in becoming one, be aware that we have functionality in our system to automate the follow-ups process. You can collect all materials online as well as provide any necessary documents or instructions. Additionally, you can review student answers and pass back to the student for additional attention if there is something missing or they have missed the mark.

    We’ve worked with our clients to provide suggestions, help adapt platform features to fit their processes, and even facilitate conversations with other clients. If you are interested in learning more about AwardSpring to determine if it meets your scholarship management needs, please email inquiries@awardspring.com. If you are a current customer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team to schedule a strategy call to talk through any questions or concerns you may have.

    Cass Montemagni
    Implementation & Training Specialist

  • Dealing with the Ongoing IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) Outage

    We all know the importance the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) plays in the lives of Financial Aid administrators, student applicants, their parents and the affordability of higher education in general. The FAFSA is complicated, time-consuming, and collects a wealth of information about a given student’s ability to qualify for additional aid. The IRS has a Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) that has helped students and their families fill out the FAFSA with greater efficiency and accuracy.

    As you’re likely painfully aware, the DRT has been unavailable since March 9, 2017. The IRS has issued a formal statement, available on the US Department of Education website, that outlines their perspective on how the outage of the DRT affects students and the application process. In short, the implications are:

    - Tax data usually made automatically available by the DRT is unavailable indefinitely

    - Students and their families have been directed to manually review their most recent tax returns in order to find the information usually provided by the DRT. They should request copies from their family’s tax preparer, the IRS website, or by calling 800-908-9946

    - Online applications for the FAFSA and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan are still operational

    Our friends at the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) have been doing an excellent job staying on top of this issue. If you’re an NSPA member, we recommend following their updates on the matter which have been coming through their usual weekly announcements. The National College Access Network (NCAN) also has an excellent running blog post about recommended actions to take that doesn’t require membership to follow.

    Our team at AwardSpring has been briefed on the implications of this outage. If your students or their families call in to our team for support on this matter, we’ll be sure to share this information with them and direct them to your Financial Aid team for any additional information or concerns.

    Kurt Reilly
    Co-Founder & CEO

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