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Why Establishing Evaluation Criteria to Match the Program's Goals is Imperative

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

Why Establishing Evaluation Criteria to Match the Program's Goals is Imperative

When starting a scholarship program, the evaluation criteria you develop can be the difference between whether or not you meet your program's established goals. When establishing these criteria, it’s critical to remember who your ideal candidate is, and how you will measure your applicants against that persona. It can be challenging to decide precisely what you will add to your scholarship program template to ensure that the right people are chosen as recipients.

It’s also imperative that the criteria be established before a single applicant is ready to apply. This is due to the fact that once people begin submitting applications, it can be nearly impossible to change what you’re looking for without appearing disorganized and unprofessional. Still, if this is your first time starting a scholarship, it’s normal for there to be ebbs and flows. It is our hope that this post can aid you in avoiding some of the missteps so you can have a smoother program experience.

Start with a Focus on Level of Involvement

If you’re like most program managers, when starting a scholarship program, you and your team are looking for the cream of the crop. This means you aren’t just looking for candidates who are involved in a large number of groups. Instead, you are looking for candidates who have taken on leadership roles and set themselves apart from the herd.

Although it can be easy to assess scholarship applicants based on the number of groups a candidate has participated in, or awards they have received, it is not the best way to evaluate their level of involvement. At the same time, you can’t assume that scholarship applicants involved in lots of extracurricular activities are more dedicated or passionate about one thing over another. That’s why it’s a good idea to see who has stepped up as a leader in their groups. This shows dedication to a cause - something your program needs to meet its goals.

What did your applicants contribute to their groups? How did they make things better? Learning this can give you a better idea of whether or not they embody the persona of a person deserving of your award.

Essays Should Be Worth The Most Points in Applications

When evaluating scholarship applicants for your program, you are likely to consider many important factors. It is crucial to assess each student's academic merit, extracurricular activities, community service, etc... 


However, the highest point value in your scholarship management system should be given to essays as they help offer in-depth insight into an applicant. With essays, evaluators can see more about the applicant's character and personality. They also allow the evaluation team to better see how closely candidates align with the goals of the program.

The Importance of Defining Your Evaluation Score

To know how well an applicant rates, it is important to have a scoring system in place before applications are submitted. This way, evaluators know how to grade and where to start.

You can provide a rubric or guideline within your application. An example of this could be using a scoring system of 0 to 15 for essays. A 0 would represent an essay that was not well written or didn't meet any of the provided criteria. A score of 15 would represent an essay that is well thought out, well written, and insightful. It would also be clear that the applicant understands all of the criteria presented by the program.

With evaluation scores, it’s much easier for your team to filter out lesser qualified candidates. If this step is executed correctly, they should only be left with a pool of the best possible options to select from to find your list of recipients.

Use The "Hide From Evaluator" Feature

One of the many reasons program managers love SmarterSelect for starting a scholarship program, is our “Hide From Evaluator” feature. You can use this feature on all pages with the exception of the Essay and Committee Scores pages. When you do it prevents the evaluator(s) from seeing data on the candidates themselves, and it also hides the instructions and other questions. This will also keep evaluators from seeing other calculated answers while they are scoring an essay.

hide-from-evaluatorsWhy would you want to hide anything from the evaluation team? It helps them to better focus on essays and evaluation questions. It will keep them from being distracted by auto-scored questions that have already been answered as well. Ultimately this will allow evaluators to score essays faster and more accurately without influence from the applicant's other answers and other app data.


It’s a good idea to create a calculation that adds up all the scores in your application and rubrics. This will ensure consistent scoring and allow you to look at aggregates as a whole. When evaluating potential applicants, this makes the application evaluation process easier for your team.

For example, you could give each part of the application a score that reflects how well the applicant did in that section alone. These scores can then be added up to give you an overall score for each applicant. Your main goal is to give the highest possible score to someone who is the perfect match for your program. Otherwise, there has been a disconnect somewhere, and you might need to make adjustments on future application questions and rubrics.

Get Input From Volunteers/Your Team Members

Your volunteers and team members are your most valuable assets during the entire application process. Get feedback from them on how they would like to see an evaluation rubric/scorecard managed. Ask them about essay rubrics and any other scoring they will be responsible for as well. This way, it is easy for them to use. It’s imperative that scorecards and rubrics make sense to evaluators. Remember, your evaluation team members are the ones who will be reading the applications, and will have a better understanding of what the components of a good essay are.

team-inputOf course, this is easier if you have been running your program for a while because past experience can give you better insights. However, even when just starting a scholarship program for the first time, feedback can help you ensure there are no unclear parts in the rubric. After all, they might see that the criteria in your rubric doesn’t match your program’s goals the way you think it does. And, when everyone is clear on expectations and goals, you’re that much more likely to find your ideal candidate(s).

Ready to make quick work of your application and scoring rubrics? We recommend using SmarterSelect. Our application management software makes it easier than ever to run a scholarship program. Start your free trial now.

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