5 Ways to Empower Scholarship Reviewers

Reviewing scholarship applications can be one of the most complicated processes to manage during scholarship season. Reviewers are a critical piece to the award cycle, and scholarship administrators are dependent on them to complete the rest of the scholarship process. If reviews are delayed, awards are delayed, which ultimately means students do not get the funds they need on time. You must empower scholarship reviewers to keep them on schedule and excited about completing reviews. So, how can you do that?  

1. Hold a kickoff meeting with reviewers each season.

This is the easiest way to get reviewers committed and remind them how important they are to the scholarship process. If an in-person group meeting is not realistic, schedule a video call via Zoom, Teams, or whatever virtual tool works best for you. The kickoff meeting gives you an opportunity to guide reviewers through the current review process and gives them the opportunity to ask questions. During the meeting, you can share any changes made from the previous year, clarify qualifying criteria, demonstrate how to use your scholarship management software, and emphasize the impact they as reviewers have on the process. This allows new team members to learn the workflow while giving returning reviewers a refresher, empowering them all to complete their work on time and ensuring their dedication to picking the best possible candidates for available scholarships. 

2. Involve them when setting deadlines.

When it comes to deadlines, some administrators don’t give reviewers enough time to get the job done. This can lead to a bad experience for everyone. Reviewers may feel rushed and not take the time to review applications properly, resulting in underutilizing funds or not selecting the best candidate. As part of your kickoff meeting, get reviewer feedback on timelines and deadlines. That conversation allows reviewers to contribute to the process rather than feeling you are enforcing a hard date they may not be able to meet. Ultimately, they will feel more empowered to complete reviews by the agreed upon deadline.

Pro Tip: Allow for reviewer “make-up days.” Life happens. It may be out of the reviewer’s control to get reviews completed on time. For these cases, set up a “make-up” day or weekend.

3. Share final award acknowledgements.

Sharing final award acknowledgements with reviewers may seem redundant because they helped pick the recipients. However, taking this extra step and showing them the thank-you letter, photo, or video from the recipient can bring the reviewing process full circle for them. It puts a face to a name and demonstrates how much their work has impacted that student. A thank-you message from a student describing how much this scholarship has impacted their life can bolster reviewers’ commitment to making those deadlines and to reviewing thoroughly in the future. 

4. Get feedback from reviewers.

After the awards have been made and you have completed your laundry list of things to do for that season, ask your reviewers for feedback. What went well, and where were the obstacles? Did they have enough time? Did they have too many applications to review? What are their suggestions for improvement? All these questions and more show the reviewers you value them, their time, and their feedback, and that you are willing to adapt as needed. Their input can help improve your process for future scholarship cycles.

5. Involve the review committee in making awards.

If your review committee chairperson has extensive experience and you trust them implicitly, you may want to consider having them select the scholarship recipients and make the awards. Not only would they be reviewing, but they also have the right to move forward with awarding an individual. This is a bold move and not appropriate for every school or in every circumstance, but it can alleviate some of your tasks and empower the committee even further.

Ease the stress of scholarship season.

Review season can be one of the most complicated and stressful times for scholarship administrators. You must coordinate multiple groups of people to accomplish one goal, sometimes multiple times a year. By empowering reviewers, you can ease some of the stress and complications and have a successful scholarship season. 

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