3 Challenges and 4 Solutions to Increasing Scholarship Applications

Scholarship programs are critical tools for students to propel themselves forward and for schools to court and steward donors. Yet, institutions often struggle to get enough qualified students to apply for available scholarships. This complicates and prolongs the award process and contributes to a more significant issue: underutilized scholarship funds.

Addressing this challenge is crucial for institutions to ensure deserving students receive the financial support they need to pursue their educational goals. Increasing utilization of scholarships can also help allay stewardship concerns when donors see their generous contributions are being used for their intended purposes.

The first step to increasing the number of applications is simplifying the scholarship application process. Below are a few common issues that impact applicant engagement and reduce fund utilization:

1. Difficulty accessing scholarship information.

With no centralized location for all available scholarships, students may have to visit dozens of college, departmental, and program websites to find everything available. This makes the search process incredibly time-consuming and frustrating for applicants and increases the likelihood of missed opportunities.

2. Scholarship applications are redundant.

Each scholarship fund may have a different application process, with each application requiring very similar information. Students become discouraged when asked to enter the same information into numerous online forms, which reduces their overall application rate.

3. The right student is hard to find.

Keeping scholarship information within siloed systems not only makes it harder for students to find those funds, it also creates smaller, disparate applicant pools throughout campus. Despite the presence of students who qualify for scholarship awards, many schools’ scholarship administration processes are decentralized. They may have challenges sharing applicant pools and lack the means to identify potential applicants.

Award Management System

Transform your institution’s student awards program.


Learn more

By simplifying the application process, institutions can maximize fund utilization and enable more students to benefit from these valuable opportunities. Here are a few tips:

1. Post all scholarships in a centralized location.

A simple way to increase the visibility of scholarships is to post everything available in a centralized online location. Schools with dedicated scholarship portals have proven success attracting a wide variety of new and existing applicants. Over time, students become accustomed to visiting that website for all their scholarship needs. This gives them immediate access to scholarship-specific information and enables them to explore the various opportunities across campus. Ideally, this could also mean they only enter their applicant information once to apply for multiple scholarships.

Including details about the donor alongside the scholarship information allows applicants to understand the significance of the scholarship for which they are applying and the impact it could have on their education.

2. Make your scholarships searchable.

Implementing search functionality within your scholarship system enables prospective and current applicants to discover the scholarships that are most relevant to them and their interests. Keyword searches allow students to quickly locate specific scholarships or explore multiple opportunities within a particular program, major, or field of study. This streamlined approach enhances the user experience and facilitates efficient scholarship navigation for applicants.

3. Proactively communicate with potential candidates.

Email is still an effective strategy for enhancing scholarship visibility, and texting is even better. Effective award management software helps identify candidates in the system who match each scholarship’s requirements and facilitates emailing and texting those students. This type of proactive communication—especially when it includes instructions and a link to apply—can significantly increase awareness of and applications to available scholarships. It ensures that eligible individuals are informed about available opportunities and their deadlines.

4. Develop a robust promotion plan for scholarship season.

To effectively raise awareness of open scholarship opportunities and encourage student participation, it is essential to promote scholarships on campus. One successful strategy is to form a dedicated team tasked with creating a comprehensive promotion plan that leverages all main communication channels. This approach ensures maximized reach and engages potential scholarship applicants by effectively delivering your message across the campus community.

By consolidating your scholarship information, establishing a streamlined application process, and effectively communicating the availability of scholarships, you can significantly increase the number of completed applications. This approach streamlines workflow and generates a larger pool of qualified applicants when awarding scholarships.

The outcome is a remarkably simplified process that enhances competition for awards, optimizes fund utilization, and brings greater satisfaction to both donors and the students they support.

To learn more about effective strategies to steward scholarship donors, check out our on-demand webinar: Build Trust and Encourage Continued Giving with Effective Stewardship Strategies.