Scholarships in the Digital Age
by Esther Ng
We currently live in an age where memes rule the internet, people market their small businesses online, social media groups can be used to sell things, and people are basically glued to their mobile phones. It’s no wonder that more and more folks are turning to the world wide web for anything and everything– heck, even the President of the United States has a Twitter account. Since being online is basically being the new black(hah!), the question remains: why is it that the scholarship process itself remains in its traditional state?
By traditional, I mean the old-school way. As students, we’ve all known the drill. Approach your school counselor to get advice on scholarships and applications. Secondly, scour the internet for scholarships you may be eligible for. Identify those scholarships. Print out the application forms. For some, the application forms can only be obtained physically at the donor’s office or elsewhere, which means you would need to find some means of transportation and back. After obtaining the forms, there’s the usual flurry of putting together your application packet: referrals, essay responses, and other required documents. You mail in your packet, and pray that you didn’t forget any important documents, or that the packet gets lost in the mail. In addition to that, letters of recommendation from supervisors and teachers have to be mailed in separately.
The issue with dealing with physical forms of scholarship packets is obvious. In this increasingly digital age, we need to start capitalizing on the gift of the internet to help both applicants and donors. More scholarships need to start going digital if we are to see improvement in the issues that we currently face.
The number one problem with mailing in application packets is that it is time consuming. The scholarship process today still sees many donors insist on physical application packets be mailed in to specific addresses within a deadline. You can imagine the time consumed in order to separate and process each and every one of these packets, and that doesn’t even include judging the written responses!
Going digital will allow scholarships to speed up the technical processing of scholarships, such as the appropriate documents. This would leave more time for donors to process the subjective areas such as referrals and letters of recommendation, or written responses in some cases. Also, application submission online lets the applicant submit their packet within seconds. This eliminates the need to wait 2-3 days or even weeks for applications to arrive at their destination through snail mail. Less headache for the students AND donors, we think.
Millennials are Online 24-7
It isn’t just about being “online” on their laptops and computers all day– nowadays, everything digital has been made to accommodate mobile phones. If students are given wider and easier access to scholarships online, donors would get more applications.
Scholar’s App, for instance, is not just a website accessed on a laptop. We have a specific, free app that is downloadable on mobile phones and allows students to match with as many scholarships as they are eligible for. It is basically a win-win situation!
On another note, donors should also start switching to online communications with potential applicants. This might include email, live chat sessions, an active discussion board with questions, and for those who want to go the mile, live Skype sessions. Applicants are always needing answers to questions and queries, and many find it difficult to get in contact with donors. With today’s technology, donors could really maximize on improving donor-applicant relationships for the benefit of both parties.
Increased Access to wider audience
To expand on the point about wider audiences, let me just say this: several million dollars’ worth of scholarship money go unclaimed every year. This is because these donors do not receive enough applications, or none at all due to lack of recognition. It is more difficult for organizations who require scholarship forms be picked up at their locations– marketing can generally be time consuming and not very effective.
That being said, there are multiple(and very quick) ways to garner a wider audience for your scholarship. Some like to go for advertisements, others may choose to list their scholarships on different websites. The point is, with millennials basically online every hour, every minute and second, the internet should be the place to start looking for potential applicants. Students are always searching for eligible scholarships– let them find yours.
Switching to digital applications gives students the chance to correct errors that would usually be missed by the human eye. For instance, if a particular document has not been uploaded, the applicant would be notified if he or she attempted to submit their packet. If they forget to write essential information such as addresses or contact info, the program would do the same thing.
Technology has improved much over the years since we developed Spellcheck(and even then, we’re still incredibly reliant on it), and we are constantly coming up with ways to prevent human errors. This is not to say that applicants are careless, but mistakes do happen, and it may or may not jeopardize your chances of obtaining the scholarship. Eliminating tiny mistakes and errors not only saves time for applicants, but also makes it so much easier for the donors to process application packets!
Scholar’s App believes only in making the application process far more convenient for both students and donors. There isn’t a problem with millennials getting online, obviously, but to bridge the gap between donors and applicants, donors should really look into going digital for their scholarships.
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