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Setting Up a Scholarship 101

Setting Up a Scholarship 101
5/10/2024
|
Kevin Ladd

There are a number of factors to consider when you are creating a new scholarship, for sure. However, if you stay organized and answer all of the important questions you will need to ask yourself, you will be helping students avoid student debt in no time.

1. Create the Scholarship

Establish the What and the Who

Something inspired you to begin this process. What was it, exactly? Who would be the intended beneficiary? Figure out what the mission of the scholarship is and you should be able to determine the criteria for eligibility, or the "Who". Review the following list of possible eligibility criteria to get started.

Potential Eligibility Criteria

  • Academic Merit
  • Athletic Merit
  • Academic Major
  • Geographic
  • School Year
  • Financial Need
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Clubs, Organizations, Interests
  • Community Service
  • Disability

Most likely, at least a few of the above will factor into your list of eligibility requirements. These are just 12 of the more common qualifiers we have seen scholarship providers employ. Some are quite broad and therefore competitive and generate a lot of interest. For example, a scholarship for a female high school senior who will be attending college in the fall.

Others might have a lot of requirements and therefore much less competitive, therefore generating less interest and fewer applications. For example, a scholarship that is only open to college juniors who are Female, Native American, have 100 hours of community service, live in a specific county in Texas and will be attending college in Texas and majoring in Entomology.

Budget and Frequency

Determine your total budget and the dollar amount you will be awarding. You may want to budget for expenses above and beyond the actual amount you will be awarding. If you have a third party host the scholarship or have to pay to build a webpage or website, for example, you will need to allow for that. Is it an annual scholarship? Or even semi-annual or quarterly? That will also be part of the math when establishing budget.

Review Team

Now you know the basic structure and you have the eligibility requirements established. All you need for the next step is some help managing the scholarship, reviewing applications and managing the funds. This is something you may have budgeted for and will be paying a third-party to do on your behalf. Or, you may get some volunteers to assist you with determining which applications qualify and which of those ultimately become your scholarship winners. It is important you know which so you can figure it into your budget if necessary.

Legal Structure

You will need to figure out whether this is a trust, a foundation, etc. For legal and tax compliance peace of mind, hiring a qualified professional may be a good idea. You will be able to accept, review, judge and award scholarship dollars with confidence, rather than having to worry about being audited.

Documentation

Prepare all necessary documentation and publish them and/or submit them for publication with your third-party scholarship management team. Be sure that every prospective applicant has proper access to all terms and legal documents.

Application Form

You are most likely doing all of this for an online application. Be sure to link to the terms and conditions and legal documentation from the scholarship application. If you are not offering the scholarship online, you will need to include all documents, along with the application, in the application packet.

Submission

Determine how the application and supporting documents will be submitted. Provide clear instructions, with any applicable deadlines, for the applicants. Invite feedback from applicants and anyone involved in the process of promoting and listing the scholarship. Outside perspective can be invaluable.

Selection

The selection process should be clear and fair. Applicants and your team of judges should be equally clear on what criteria are being used and how each is weighted. The selection criteria should be prominent in the description of the scholarship application.

2. Promote Your Scholarship

There are myriad ways to promote your scholarship, with one obvious option being listing it with Scholarships.com. Below are just a few suggestions for promoting your scholarship. If you don't know how to make digital posters or use all the social media apps, you can always hire a teenager.

  • List for free on Scholarships.com
  • Share on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok & YouTube
  • Create a digital poster (PDF) and publish to your site
  • Share your PDF with high school counselors and college financial aid offices

3. Review, Selection and Announcement

Now that you have created, published and promoted the scholarship, you will soon find out just how much work it will be to process the response. It could be dozens, hundreds or thousands of applications, depending on how successful your promotion of the scholarship was.

Application Review

Make sure all of your review panel members are clear about the criteria and review process and get started. Depending on the requirements of essays and other elements that can consume a lot of time, you may find that you need a few to several weeks after the deadline before announcing a winner or winners. Allow yourself plenty of time for the first year, as it will be difficult to anticipate how long you will need to get through all of the applications.

Award Notification

You may need to email, call, text AND announce on your website in order to reach the winner(s). This is something that should also be in the application description and terms as well as legal documents. You will need to determine how much time they are allowed to respond to their notification that they have been awarded your scholarship. That information will also need to be in the terms and conditions and legal disclosures.

Monitoring and Documentation

If you are allowing the scholarship to be renewable with certain criteria, such as maintaining a certain minimum GPA or staying with in a list of majors, etc. you should keep tabs on your winners and collect any feedback you can from them about the process.

It may be a good idea to prepare reports of the program's impact and financial status. The actual necessity of this component depends on the structure of the organization offering the scholarship, but it is always a good idea to keep records and review data to improve the process in the future. Having some basic data about the scholarship, such as number of applicants, number of winners, and total dollars awarded will enable you to intelligently respond to questions from applicants, their parents and others who may take an interest.

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