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.


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.


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.


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.