Reviewing: Best Practices

One of the most valuable benefits of using a centralized platform to manage your scholarship applications is the time it saves you and your review committee. Uniform scoring, when appropriate, can eliminate the need for your committee to review the same applicants multiple times across multiple scholarships. Allowing you to control what information is available to reviewers can also mean less opportunity for unintentional FERPA violations. As scholarship review season approaches, how can you achieve higher participation from your reviewers and get the most of out their efforts? Simplify your process! Here’s how:

Make sure your reviewers know what you’re looking for. What purpose are your scoring rubrics serving? You’ve asked your reviewers to rate applicants’ essays with a highest possible score of five. Does your committee know what to look for in an essay response? What separates a score of three from a score of four? Outlining your expectations and sharing them with the committee ahead of time will help ensure that there is a high degree of consistency in the way applications are scored as well as minimal confusion on the reviewers’ part.

Don’t duplicate your efforts by creating score cards based on scholarship eligibility. If this is your first time managing your scholarship process online, your review committee might have previously been tasked with screening applicants for eligibility in addition to evaluating the more subjective parts of their applications (such as recommendations and essays). Most online scholarship management platforms match applicants with scholarships they’re eligible for based on pre-set scholarship criteria so there’s no need for your reviewers to take on this extra work. Allow your reviewers to focus on other areas of an application and provide their subject matter expertise during the review process by not creating score cards for criteria that have already been evaluated by the software.

Pre-screen applicants before assigning them to reviewers. You may have scholarships with general criteria that give preference based on certain factors. You’re likely to get higher numbers of applicants on these types of general scholarships. If the number of applicants is so high that it would be a burden for the reviewers to evaluate all of them, consider identifying the top applicants and eliminating those applicants who are unlikely to be awarded that scholarship. For example, if the scholarship in question awards to college students with a 2.0 or higher GPA and gives preferential consideration to female applicants, consider having the committee review only female applicants.

Set the number of reads on each application. There may be some review committees that prefer that all members read all applications. Other committees might be open to dividing up applications evenly amongst themselves. In the latter case, determine how many sets of eyes you’d like on each application and set this ahead of time so as not to assign a disproportionate amount of applications to any one individual.

Blind certain pieces of information from reviewers. What do your reviewers need to see on an application? Some information you collect on the application might be considered sensitive or just plain unnecessary for the reviewers. Keep your review process unbiased and uncluttered by hiding this information from reviewers.

Promote your process. Review committees can be resistant to change when they’re used to doing things the same way year after year. The idea of transitioning to an online review process may seem daunting to them. Be sympathetic and make things easy on them wherever possible, but above all remind them why you’re moving online. Your unified goal is to award scholarship dollars to the most qualified and deserving applicants. Housing applicant data, reviewer scores, and award information in a central location provides benefits that extend beyond any one party involved.

Collaborate with peers. Networking with similar colleges, universities, and foundations can be beneficial when setting up your review process. Seeing how other administrators have overcome obstacles can help you avoid the same pitfalls.

There are plenty of ways you can improve your review process, and we’re here to help you figure out how! We’ve worked with our clients to provide suggestions, help adapt platform features to fit their processes, and even facilitate conversations with other clients. 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.

Jill Murphy
Implementation & Training Specialist