Some might believe that finding suitable scholarship recipients is an easy task. After all, if donors want to award money to students, any suitable candidate with a pulse will submit an application… right?

However, there is a complex set of interrelated problems that plague both donors and applicants throughout the scholarship application process. This leads to situations where qualified students collectively under-apply for scholarships they would otherwise have a good chance of receiving.

Detailing every problem would demand its own article, but in general, three key reasons contribute to low application rates:

  • The parameters of the scholarship are too broad or too narrow.
  • The method of applying is taxing applicants’ limited resources.
  • The marketing of the scholarship is not reaching the desired audience.


Defining Scholarship Parameters

A frequent mistake committed when designing a scholarship is setting too broad of a parameter. While it is admirable to want to reach out to the broadest swath of students, broad parameters are often discouraging to students.

If the parameters are too big, students will feel that their application will just be one on a rather large pile. Additionally, students will not feel they have a competitive edge if the pool of qualified candidates is large and diverse.

That said, going too far in the other direction is also a problem. If very few applicants would actually qualify for the scholarship, then the guidelines need to be changed. Guidelines should not be geared toward finding one perfect candidate, but various candidates you can choose from.


Applicants Have Limited Resources

Students have a lot on their plates. Between school, extracurriculars, familial responsibilities, and part-time work, many students have limited time to spend looking for scholarships. 

While the prospect of financial support may be enticing, if students think there is little-to-no chance of receiving the scholarship, they simply will not apply. And at a minimum, applicants will have to make decisions about the scholarships they will focus on.

That is why the role of guidance counselors is crucial in the application process. They can direct students toward scholarships that suit their strengths and encourage them to focus their efforts there. 

Even then, it is not as simple as applying for everything they see: it is about honing in on specific scholarship targets. There is a scarcity of applications they actually do — and making yours one of them is difficult considering…


Marketing Matters

In general, there are exceptional candidates out there for just every scholarship that donors would be thrilled to support. However, these candidates may not apply for one simple reason: marketing. If they do not know about it, they cannot apply.

Many donors do not know how to market themselves effectively. Sharing by word of mouth and social media is a good start, but guidance counselors are critical in getting your scholarship to qualified applicants. 

However, guidance counselors are already overburdened, so standing out from the crowd is a must. In a way, it is its own application process.

But there is a reason scholarships like Rhodes and National Merit are well-known, and not because they are better than comparable scholarships. It is all about marketing.


How Do I Get Applicants?

And so, we circle back to the question at the core of this piece: how to get scholarship applicants.

Broadly speaking, the best thing you can do is effectively market your scholarship. A competent marketing campaign will get the attention of students and counselors alike.

Ideally, the scholarship should be designed so that qualified applicants who discover it will feel encouraged to apply. This requires a tight-rope act between making it both accessible and selective.

Effective marketing is easier said than done, but there are a few simple ways to get started.

Word of Mouth

The importance of word-of-mouth cannot be overstated. When students hear about other students applying for and receiving scholarships, it becomes concrete in their eyes. Once one applicant from an area receives a scholarship, future students will be much more likely to apply.

In this regard, marketing tactics that generate buzz in the local area following the award period are a great tactic. Consider holding a small ceremony for award recipient(s), reaching out to the local press for interviews, or featuring recipients on your site. On that note…

Digital Advertising

Having a dedicated online presence is huge in marketing. Not only is social media rapidly becoming the predominant way we disseminate information, but young people are also among the most engaged with it.

At a minimum, a site that lays out the guidelines for your scholarship is necessary. Ideally, this will also feature testimonials and interviews from prior recipients. That said, the more social media you can get on, the better your chances.


Scholar’s App

Scholar’s App is a service that matches scholarships with qualified candidates through a streamlined, easy-to-understand process. Scholar’s App provides not only an online directory for scholarship offers but a means of collecting, sorting, and reviewing applicants.

Donors input their fully customizable application into our database. Want a student who played baseball? Or one who is bilingual? You can input just about any variable, and our algorithms will match you with qualified applicants.

This process bypasses the complicated forms and reviews process endemic to the scholarship process. Scholar’s App offers a central dashboard that makes keeping track of new and existing applications easy for reviewers. With a few simple clicks, you can grade each applicant using our easy-to-understand tools.

We collect letters of recommendation, transcripts, essays, and resumes, tying them all to each student’s unique profile. We also keep in contact with students and counselors alike, sending reminder texts and emails about application deadlines, so no one gets lost in the process.

For a full breakdown of Scholar’s App and the various benefits it provides, we encourage you to check out our site here.

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