Tips & Tricks

4 strategies to increase scholarship applications

Ross May

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like collecting scholarship applications should be a breeze. After all, students love free money! But while it sounds easy, those who administer scholarships know that numerous challenges and obstacles arise when promoting programs and soliciting applications.

Opportunities have to be easy for students to find, requirements and criteria need to be plainly defined, applications must be straightforward and simple to complete, deadlines need to be clearly communicated… the list goes on. There’s certainly a lot to think about, and scholarship providers can often struggle with collecting enough applications for their programs.

But there are a few simple, often forgotten, strategies that you can use to increase qualified application rates for your scholarship programs, without increasing workloads for you or your staff.

1. Enlist alumni and past recipients to serve as recruiters

Word of mouth can be an extremely valuable and cost effective form of marketing, so put your award alumni to work! Your past recipients are likely to be friends with other students, and in most cases, they’ll be more than happy to help others find and secure scholarship aid.

Reach out to past recipients via social media, email or letter, and encourage them to act as recruiters for future years. Ask them to forward information about your scholarship programs to their friends, and to post it across their social media accounts. The response could be exponential: students are more likely to apply for a scholarship if it was shared with them by one of their friends.

SurveyMonkey Apply Tip: Using SurveyMonkey Apply, you can automate an informational email to go out to all award alumni at the start of each scholarship application cycle, helping you promote your programs.

2. Use one application for multiple programs

If you’re administering multiple scholarships, create a single application where students can submit all of their general information once (like their name, major, GPA, class standing, location, etc), and use this information to automatically match them to all of the scholarships for which they could be eligible. If additional information is needed from a student on a particular scholarship, ask additional questions to obtain that information.

With a single general application, students will only have to provide their information once, encouraging them to apply to multiple scholarships. It’ll make their experience significantly faster and simpler!

SurveyMonkey Apply Tip: Using SurveyMonkey Apply, you can automatically match students to all of the available scholarships they’re eligible for, based on their answers to a customized eligibility quiz.

3. Expand application windows

Make sure to give students sufficient time to complete and submit their applications. By extending application windows, you’ll give more students the opportunity to discover your scholarship and prepare their application, which will result in a larger number of candidates. It’s best practice to provide students with at least 2 months to submit applications.

Looking for some tips on how to make your application process easier to complete?

Leaving more time for the application round will also give you the opportunity to intervene and take action if something goes amiss. For example, if you notice your application numbers are lagging, you’ll be able to invest in more promotion. Or if you’re not receiving quality applications, you’ll be able to adjust the eligibility requirements to broaden your potential pool.

4. Create an innovative marketing strategy and use broader communication channels

The more people you attract, the larger your applicant pool will be. Consider going outside the box and incorporating these new media options into your outreach:

• Scholarship directories (like GoodCall or Fastweb)
• Facebook advertising (a great guide to getting started can be found here)
• Student message boards (for example, a Reddit board for Medical Students)

Make sure that your outreach and communication strategies are relevant and targeted towards the students you’re trying to reach. With online channels, you can get extremely specific. For example, with Facebook Ads, you could showcase your scholarship to students between the ages of 18-24, in New York State, who are pursuing a degree in Literature at a 4-year-institution. While some forms of advertising will require a financial investment, others will only require time, and the potential pay-off is certainly worth it.

To learn how you can leverage SurveyMonkey Apply to implement some of these tips, get in touch by filling out the form below!

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