Scholar’s App was built on the belief that every student, irrespective of their socio-economic background, should have a fair shot at financial aid for higher education. As individuals seeking scholarships, we found that not all scholarship programs were designed with accessibility or freedom in mind. The rigid system meant students are often unable to share their full stories. As individuals seeking to start their scholarships, we found that managing a scholarship fund comes with challenges that create a huge barrier to entry for donors, especially for individual donors with a smaller donation amount.
At Scholar’s App, we believe that digitalization and going paperless is the future of scholarship management. However, education policy cannot be driven simply by beliefs and ideals. Even the smallest of changes in education can have long-lasting effects for millions of students across the United States and even outside of it. Even the most obvious decisions should be preceded with thoughtful discourse from different angles.
And to begin that conversation, we’ve decided to look into our own platform – its success, its shortcomings, and its value to students, parents, donors, and others involved in the application review cycle. This is a case study into the efficiency of Scholar’s App, an online scholarship management platform.
The Need for Digitalization Within Scholarship Programs
There are nearly 2 million scholarships and grants in the USA – most of which are managed and awarded through traditional, offline management systems. Clearly, the system isn’t “broken” but it’s crucial to understand that most of the practices and policies that we still rely on today, were put in place decades ago when technology wasn’t nearly as refined or accessible as it is today.
Out of the millions of scholarships awarded, the vast majority run perilously close to deadlines (often behind schedule). Additionally, in most places, the review process is disintegrated and doesn’t leverage document management, collaborative platforms, or basic automation that can save hundreds of hours every review cycle.
Digitalization also brings significant cost savings from reduced paper usage. Apart from the explicit purchase cost of papers, scholarship programs benefit from paper taking up physical space in offices, missing or damaged documents, greater security (encryption), and also a lower carbon footprint.
Our current way of handling scholarships may not be broken but it does have design flaws that become more apparent by the day.
What Online Scholarship Management Offers
There are a few things that make online scholarship management platforms an upgrade over traditional techniques.
1. Reaching the right students
One of the biggest challenges that individual donors with new scholarships find is reaching enough applicants. There are hundreds and thousands of scholarships in most areas of study and finding your target recipient becomes incredibly difficult. Paid mediums such as ads can help but they are only an expensive, short-term solution.
Scholar’s App solves this problem by using in-depth student profiles to directly connect the right student with the right scholarship. Donors get the flexibility to enter their exact eligibility criteria and students get the freedom to create a comprehensive profile.
In fact, donors on Scholar’s App have doubled the number of qualified applicants they receive in just a short period of time.
2. Giving donors advanced analytics
Tracking hundreds of applications and finding trends in them manually is an incredibly inefficient process – therefore, most programs don’t try at all. However, trends in applications can reveal important details about your scholarship including your actual audience, ambiguity in your eligibility criteria, specific questions/stages causing problems, and more.
Donors can then fine-tune their scholarship description, criteria, and other details to ensure they reach their target recipient.
3. Catering to other stakeholders
Typical scholarship programs don’t have systems other than a phone line to keep stakeholders such as parents and high school counselors informed. Mostly because having such an offline system would be a logistical nightmare. However, it’s also possible if things are online.
At Scholar’s App, we know what a difference parent and counselor guidance can make in this stressful situation. That’s why Scholar’s App has a dedicated interface for parents and counselors with numerous features designed to help students secure funding.
Counselors using Scholar’s App see a 75% increase in completed applications.
The Cost of Switching
Perhaps the single most important question in this discussion is, how much does it cost for a donor to switch to Scholar’s App? After all, every dollar that goes to a third-party vendor is a dollar that could’ve gone to a student.
The good news is it does not cost anything to go digital with Scholar’s App other than your time – Scholar’s App is free. Donors, big and small, can sign up for a free account, list their scholarships on our platform, and be visible to all of the students on our platform.
Donors do have the option to upgrade to a paid account that helps us continuously improve our platform, reach more students, and keep things running smoothly – but all of the important donor features are available with the free account.
EdTech is a growing and exciting field but scholarship management and technology are still too separated. We think that going paperless or online is an inevitable reality in this day and age. At the same time, it shouldn’t be forced. Becoming an online scholarship with Scholar’s App comes with no upfront costs, no vendor lock of any sort, and zero commitments.
The goal here at Scholar’s App is not just to make it easier for students to secure scholarships but also for donors to share them. And in 2020, Scholar’s App helped hundreds of individual donors and scholarship programs with the disbursement of over $20 million in scholarships and grants – all thanks to you.