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4 Strategies to Manage Incomplete Scholarship Applications

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

4 Strategies to Manage Incomplete Scholarship Applications


There are many reasons you may have incomplete scholarship applications. Sometimes applicants may be confused about what they need to do, or the directions you give them are not as clear as you may have thought. Perhaps the applicant lost the scholarship link, was too busy to finish everything, or couldn’t obtain all the materials you required.

Suppose your scholarship program is experiencing more incomplete applications than usual. In that case, it may be time to look at your scholarship application process and determine if changes need to be made. If you're finding that many people are missing some essential information on their applications, such as in the essay portion for example, it may be time to make critical changes to your scholarship application.

With this in mind, below we’re sharing four strategies you can implement to help manage incomplete scholarship applications.

1. Prevention Is The First Option

The first step to managing incomplete applications is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Take preventative measures to ensure that your scholarship application is as clear and concise as possible. Now, you may be wondering how you can make your scholarship form easier to understand.

One idea is to add an FAQ section where candidates could go to find answers to common questions. Having an FAQ section is great because students will be able to see the answers without contacting you. If they're unsure about something, they can easily find a solution instead of skipping something and having an incomplete application.


Another thing you can do is make sure your directions are very clear. For example, if you ask students to upload something, make sure it's obvious how they should go about uploading it (Word Doc, Dropbox, or Google Drive). This is where question level hints and suggestions with SmarterSelect’s form builder can come in handy.

2. Proactively Answer Applicant Questions

Another strategy is to answer applicant questions proactively. This strategy goes beyond an FAQ section because it requires you to stay up-to-date on what your applicants are doing and how they're going through your scholarship application.

If applicants are having trouble with their scholarship application, you should be available to answer any questions they may have. Don't allow too much time to go between an applicant asking a question and responding. Down time may cause candidates to get frustrated. If they don't get their answer right away they may abandon the form completely. Or, they may have already given up on your program because it seems too difficult to understand.

For this strategy to work, you need to make sure the person or team who manages your scholarship application correspondence is there to respond quickly when applicants have questions.

3. Follow Up With Applicants of Incomplete Applications

If you have a student who did not complete their scholarship application, it may be a good idea to follow up with the person directly. That way, they know that there's still time to finish their scholarship application, and they don't feel discouraged about not finishing.

Follow-up messages are great because students will know that you are active and care about their success. It is helpful to let them know what parts of their application were incomplete when following up.


You can automate this process too! For example, if a scholarship form is incomplete, you could set up a rule that automatically sends your candidates an email reminding them it’s not done.

Remind each applicant what they should do before turning the application in as well. If possible, it is also good to learn why the applicant either skipped over this information or did not know they were supposed to complete it. Perhaps they thought it was complete and didn’t realize they missed something. By asking questions, and getting feedback, you can help current candidates receive more clear direction on what they need to do to complete their scholarship application. Simple steps like this will set your scholarship application process up for better success in the future! 

4. Take Action On Responses From Applicants

When candidates complete their scholarship application, it’s awesome! Their form can then move onto the next stage in the process. However, when they don’t complete them, it may be time to take action.

The way you choose to respond to incomplete applications will be dependent on the reason they didn't send in a completed application in the first place. If an applicant has an incomplete scholarship application because of missing information on the scholarship form, you need to let them know what was missing. If it's something they can quickly fix themselves, direct them to an accessible place to complete this information.  

However, if filling out information on your scholarship application is complex or confusing, it may be time to consider changing your scholarship application. The reason this is so important is if you have too many candidates that feel your form is too complicated, word can spread and your potential pool of applicants might stop applying for scholarships entirely.  


You want your applicants to see your scholarship form as simple and easy to understand, rather than an experience that isn’t worth the hassle! You also want the application process to be pretty autonomous. This means an applicant should be able to complete the application process with little to no direct help from you.

When applicants encounter a step where they need to contact you often or it's difficult to understand, they may turn away from your scholarship program. So before applicants give up entirely on applying for scholarships, take action!

Use the information you receive from current incomplete applicants to improve the process on your end. Future candidates will be thankful you improved your process, and may even come back to apply for scholarships again in the next round of the program.

Conclusion and Next Steps

To take action when you receive incomplete scholarship applications, you can send messages to applicants, ask them for specific information, or even improve your application process. This way, students will be more likely to submit a complete scholarship application the first time.

Managing your scholarship process can be a frustrating experience if you don’t know what your applicants are dealing with while navigating through your form. Using SmarterSelect, you can communicate with your candidates much more easily which in turn makes managing your

scholarship process much more efficient. As an added benefit, with SmarterSelect, you can manage your entire application process in one place. This includes managing your application, the decision process, and how you interact with applicants after submitting their applications.

Learn more about what SmarterSelect can do for your program. Get a Free Trial today!


1. How can I manage incomplete scholarship applications?

To manage incomplete scholarship applications, you can implement the following strategies:

  • Proactively answer applicants’ questions

  • Follow up with applicants of incomplete applications

  • Take action on responses from applicants.

2. How should I respond to incomplete scholarship applications?

If an applicant has an incomplete scholarship application because of missing information on the scholarship form, you need to let them know what was missing. If it's something they can quickly fix themselves, direct them to an accessible place to complete this information.

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