Nearly all of the 1.7 million private scholarships and fellowships in the USA face one of these two problems in some way, shape, or form:

  • not receiving many applications due to ineffective promotion for the scholarship
  • the tedious application review process

In other words, scholarship funds are unable to find sufficient qualified applicants. While scholarship applications may be able to reach several students, many applicants may not actually be qualified. Unfortunately, many of these scholarship funds don’t get enough applicants to begin with or are doing so at the cost of expensive marketing campaigns. 

Scholarships that are able to attract enough applicants, face a much bigger problem – finding candidates that meet the eligibility criteria. Thankfully, there are steps scholarship funds and individual donors can take to get more applications that meet their eligibility criteria.

Understanding Why You Aren’t Getting Enough Applications

Overall, the number of high school graduates has been steadily increasing since the mid-90s, which should also increase the number of scholarships being awarded. While the number of scholarships in the USA has increased slightly in the last two decades, the value of scholarships is where we see the real change. The total amount of scholarships has increased from $2.9 billion from the start of the century to over $7 billion in 2015. 

Accounting for other forms of financial aid such as grants and federal education loans, the value of financial aid awarded in 2019 was over $234.9 billion.

A growing number of scholarships means it has become difficult for smaller scholarship funds and individual donors to get visibility and applicants. Many funds opt for paid marketing such as Google and Facebook ad campaigns and while this can be effective, it’s an added cost and requires marketing personnel to run.

Some other common reasons for not getting enough applications include:

  • having very strict eligibility requirements
  • having an offline application process
  • targeting to an oversaturated field of study 

But there’s another problem on the other end of the spectrum  – getting too many applications.

Getting Too Many Applications

86 percent of American undergraduate and graduate students receive financial aid in one form or another, which is nearly 17 million students. And most students apply to multiple scholarships, meaning scholarship funds receive hundreds of millions of applications every year.

While this is great news, an increasing number of applications can very easily lead to administrative challenges such as overwhelming the staff, limiting the fund’s ability to properly assess each application, and even becoming a logistics nightmare for individual donors. 

Getting too many applications is a good problem to have – unless the majority of applications do not meet the eligibility criteria. There are a few reasons why this may be:

  • a lax or unclear eligibility criteria
  • having an outdated or offline application system that does not check student eligibility
  • promoting your scholarship in the wrong place

How to Ensure You Get Qualified Applications 

Most of the problems and mistakes we’ve discussed so far are fairly simple to remediate and do not involve any significant upfront investments. Here are five steps that scholarship funds and individual donors can take to get more qualified applicants:

1. Become a digital scholarship

One of the best things to do for your scholarship fund in this day and age is to host the scholarship online. Digitizing your scholarship makes it far more accessible to students on a larger scale. Additionally, most high schoolers in 2021 have never sent physical mail. 

Furthermore, becoming a digital scholarship makes sense from a cost perspective as well. Going paperless can significantly reduce operational and employee costs. 

2. Use a digital platform to shortlist applications

Another reason to become at least partially digital is that you can use online platforms for checking applications before they make it to your office. Communicating with counselors and reviewers digitally is also faster and easier for everyone involved.

For instance, scholarship management solution Scholar’s App brings various workflows including the review process on a single platform that the entire team can access using a web browser.

Most importantly, it’s incredibly easy to become a fully digital scholarship.

3. Promote your scholarship on student forums for free

There are plenty of online student forums that allow scholarship providers to post about their scholarships for free. Local Facebook groups, Reddit communities, LinkedIn, and numerous student-centric blogs on Medium are all viable options for promoting a scholarship on a budget.

4. Reassess (or clarify) your scholarship requirements

Your scholarship’s eligibility requirements may make perfect sense but it’s possible that there may still be some ambiguity. Look at it with a fresh set of eyes, forgetting what you already know about it, and make sure you’re providing all of the information needed for students to fill the application correctly.

It’s also possible that your eligibility criteria are too strict which means you’re only receiving incorrectly filled applications. On the other hand, overly lax eligibility criteria will also mean you may have to do a lot of filtering. 

Furthermore, using an online scholarship management platform like Scholar’s App ensures that students are only shown scholarships they are eligible for, according to the profile they have built. This way scholarship funds receive significantly fewer unqualified applications.

5. Target a less saturated field of study

Many scholarships are only awarded to a specific field of study or major and some of these interest areas have far more scholarship opportunities than others. For instance, students in education/teaching, healthcare, STEM fields, and English have far more scholarships to choose from, compared to students in pharmacy, physical therapy, nursing, special education, and social work.

In the same way, some student demographics are more likely to receive a scholarship than others. For instance, the odds for white students to get a scholarship are 14.2 percent while it is 11.4 percent for black students, 9.1 percent for Hispanic students, 10.5 percent for Asian students, and 10.6 percent for low-income students (compared to 13.8 percent for middle-income students). Thanks to scholarships for the underprivileged and underrepresented, we get closer to the goal of equal opportunities for every student.

How Scholar’s App Helps You Get More Qualified Applicants

Scholar’s App is an all-in-one platform for providing and managing scholarships. Scholarship funds and individual donors using Scholar’s App receive double the amount of qualified and completed applications than they did before, thanks to an intuitive user interface that makes it easier for students to find the right scholarships.

Post Listing

Easily post your scholarship listing, and let Scholar’s App create a customized application form. Using the specified criteria, we only display your listing to qualified candidates who can then apply online.

Reach Students

Scholar’s App markets to tens of thousands of students and counselors, who are verified before they can join our network. We handle both digital and traditional marketing campaigns for your scholarship.

Qualified Applications

Scholar’s App uses a comprehensive system to match scholarships with qualified students. We also ensure applications are submitted with essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and any other documents that may be part of your particular application process.

Collaborate with your Review Committee

Scholar’s App offers a central dashboard where donors and reviewers can conduct the scoring process together.


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