Blog: 5 Ways to Empower Scholarship Reviewers

April 9, 2019

Reviewing scholarships can be one of the most complicated processes to manage during the scholarship season. Reviewers are a critical piece to the scholarship cycle and you are dependent on them to complete the rest of the scholarship process on time. If they fall behind, awards are delayed, which ultimately means the rest of your job is delayed. Empowering your reviewers is a key way to keep them on schedule and excited about completing reviews.  We’re sharing five easy ways to empower your reviewers and keep momentum up during the review season.  

1.  Hold a meeting with reviewers each year (or each review season)

A yearly check-in is the easiest way to get reviewers committed and remind them how important they are to the scholarship process. Instead of only communicating over email or phone calls, set up in-person group meetings that will guide reviewers through the current review process. During this meeting, you can show any changes made from the previous year, walk through the reviewer workflow, and clarify qualifying criteria. This allows new reviewers to learn the process while giving existing reviewers a refresher.  This is an opportunity to show reviewers the impact they have on the process. In return, they are more empowered to complete their work on time and to make sure they are dedicated to picking the best possible candidate(s) for the scholarships.

2.  Allow them to have a say in the deadline date and give them enough time

When it comes to deadlines, sometimes administrators don’t give reviewers enough time to get the job done. This can lead to a bad experience for everyone. Reviewers feel rushed and they may not take the time to review each candidate properly. This can result in the best candidate not being selected. To help with this, in your yearly check-in meeting, you can propose a timeline and get reviewer feedback. This conversation allows reviewers to feel that they are contributing to the deadline rather than you just telling them a hard date they may or not be able to meet. This conversation can help them feel more empowered to actually complete reviews by the agreed upon deadline.

Pro Tip: Allow for reviewer “make-up days”. Life happens - it may have been out of the reviewers control to not get reviews completed on time. For these cases set up a “makeup” day or weekend.

3.  Keep reviewers updated on final award recipients to close the circle and increase buy-in for next year

Sharing final award recipient info with reviewers may seem redundant because  they helped pick the recipients. However, going the step further and showing them the “thank-you letter” or photo of the recipient can really bring the reviewing process full circle. It allows the reviewers to put a face to a name and shows how much their work has impacted that student. Can you imagine giving the reviewers a thank-you letter from a student that describes how much this scholarship has impacted their life? It works to increase the reviewer’s commitment to making their deadlines and to review thoroughly.

4.  Get feedback from your reviewers

This doesn’t have to be done right away (we know you have a million things to do after getting reviewer scores). But once you have a chance to breathe, it would be beneficial to see how you could improve your process for future cycles. Did they have enough time? Did they have too many applications to review? If so, do they suggest you bring in more reviewers? All these questions and more show the reviewers you care about them, their time, and their feedback. It also allows for a chance for them to give their opinion, they will in turn be more willing to listen to what you have to say in the future. This feedback loop could be as simple as an email to all of your reviewers or a formal survey that you send out after the review season ends.

5.  Allow the review committee chairperson to award

We may have already lost a few of you with the title alone. It’s a bold move and one we would recommend only to those of you that have a good relationship with your review chairperson. Allowing the reviewer chairperson to select the recipient(s) and award them takes the burden/tasks off of you and also gives the reviewers more power. Not only are they reviewing, but they’re also given the satisfaction of awarding an individual with a scholarship.                                          

We have found reviewing season can be one of the most complicated and stressful times for scholarship administrators. Not because the tasks are extremely challenging, but because you have to get all these different groups of people together to accomplish one goal, often multiple times a year. By empowering your reviewers, the stress and complications of the season will decrease making your job that much easier!


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