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Evaluating the Scholarship Rubric and Picking Recipients

Better application management of scholarships, grants, awards, and more.

Evaluating the Scholarship Rubric and Picking Recipients

Choosing your scholarship recipients can be one of the most exciting, and yet also one of the most contentious times in a scholarship program. Establishing a scholarship rubric to evaluate applications is key to optimizing your scholarship program, it eases the pressure in determining both the recipients and the award amounts. Don’t start gathering or evaluating any of your scholarship applications for your scholarship program until you read this post!

What is it about scholarship evaluation that is so time-consuming and heart-wrenching for evaluators? Answer: The vast number of people who seem like they need the money, or really deserve it.

The selection process can become quite emotional as your evaluation team goes through the essays and learns more about your applicants. Dramatic essays and pleas to be chosen can pull at the heartstrings. Because people involved in scholarship programs tend to have a giving nature about them, evaluators sometimes struggle with wanting to give more money than the program allows for. 

Since awarding everyone who submits an application is likely impossible, it’s critical that you create a scholarship rubric to take some of the emotion and difficult decisions out of the equation. Ideally, before you even begin your application process, you should develop a scholarship rubric to determine what you’re looking for in a recipient.

If you’ve already received applications, you may still want to develop an internal rubric for your admin team members in an effort to make the selection activity a little easier.  Our Reports and Autoscore feature can really help your team here.

Determine Scholarship Qualifications

Scholarship qualifications are typically quantifiable numbers that can help evaluation teams quickly dismiss ineligible applicants. They are objective, and therefore require little time or energy using Autoscoring to filter out applicants that don’t meet the requirements you’re looking for in an ideal scholarship recipient. 


Some scholarship qualification examples may include:

  • Applicant must have a 3.0 GPA or higher
  • To be chosen as a scholarship recipient, they must have completed 150 community service hours during high school 
  • Students under age 18 or over age 39 are not eligible
  • Annual gross income of the applicant must not exceed $20,000
  • Total SAT score must be 1059 or higher  

Before your evaluation team even sees the first application’s answers, these qualifiers can remove ineligible applicants from the potential pool of recipients. The more people you can eliminate right off the bat, the less time you’ll spend in the assessment phase. 

Establish Your Scholarship Eligibility Criteria

After setting your qualifications, you’ll also want to develop some criteria to help your evaluators move quickly from application to application. You can assign defined point values to these criteria to help quantify what would otherwise be considered more subjective responses. For example, you could assign point values to questions based on how the applicant responded. 


Here are some scholarship criteria examples that may help inspire you as you are developing your rubric:

  • You could use a scale of 0-5 points with 5 being the most thorough answer to an application question. Perhaps your question is assessing the accomplishments of the applicant. A point value of 5 may be awarded to an applicant who has listed several accomplishments across the board in academia, extracurricular activities, community service, etc…

  • You could use a point value for letters of recommendation. For instance, you could assign the highest number of points to a candidate that has a letter of recommendation that provides enthusiastic support, states several reasons why the candidate should receive the award, and also provides multiple examples of the candidate’s merit. The lowest number of points, on the other hand, would be given to a candidate who submits a letter of recommendation that shows no enthusiasm, and barely mentions why they deserve the award. 

  • You could also assign points for candidates who filled out every question, went above and beyond in their responses, turned in applications on time/early, used proper grammar and punctuation, etc…

The bottom line: The more defined point values (e.g. multiple accomplishments, leadership positions, etc.) you can assign to subjective answers, the easier it will be to work your way through the submitted applications. While your team may still find themselves in a heavy debate over a handful of candidates as you get closer to choosing your recipients, a rubric will at least significantly reduce the number of applicants being considered

Simplify the Development of your Scholarship Rubric with SmarterSelect 

Want access to multiple scholarship rubrics to inspire you in the development of your own? When you work with SmarterSelect to run your scholarship program you gain entry to our community forum and Program Library filled with suggestions and ideas from program administrators who have created applications before you. You can share knowledge and experience, and ask for advice as you build your assessment forms. 

With SmarterSelect, it’s also easy to customize a scoring rubric that fits your scholarship’s unique needs. You can develop custom reports, share notes, create a unique evaluation scheme, and more. 

We’ve helped countless program administrators make quick work of their own scholarships, and we can help you too. Click here to download our in-depth scholarship management guide for program managers.


1. What is the need to develop a scholarship rubric?

It’s critical that you create a scholarship rubric to take some of the emotion and difficult decisions out of the equation, because it is impossible to impossible to award everyone who submits an application.

2. At what stage should we develop a scholarship rubric?

Ideally, before you even begin your application process, you should develop a scholarship rubric to determine what you’re looking for in a recipient.

Download eBook: The Ultimate Scholarship Management Guide for Program Managers

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