5 Ways to Empower Scholarship Reviewers

  • January 23, 2020
  • by Lolly Ihrke

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 are delayed, awards are delayed, which ultimately means your job is delayed. Empowering your reviewers is a key way to keep them on schedule and excited about completing reviews.  So, how can you do that?  

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

This 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 meeting can 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 properly. This can result in the best candidate not being selected. To help with this, in your in-person meeting (see above), you can throw out a timeline or deadline and solicit 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 not be able to meet. This conversation can ultimately make 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 reviewer's 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 receipts

Sharing final award receipts with reviewers may seem redundant because they helped pick the recipients. However, taking this extra step 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 empowers the reviewer’s commitment to making those deadlines and to reviewing thoroughly in the future. 

4. Get feedback from reviewers

This doesn’t need to be done right away (we know you have a laundry list of things to do after getting reviewer scores). But, once you have a chance, it may be beneficial to see how you might be able to improve your process for future cycles. Did reviewers have enough time? Did they have too many applications to review? What are their suggestions for improvement? All these questions and more show the reviewers you care about them, their time, and their feedback, and that you are willing to work with them.

5. Allow the review committee chairperson to award

This is a bold move and one we would recommend to only 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 are also given the right to move forward with awarding an individual. While we know this can seem scary, if you have a good standing relationship with the reviewer group or chairperson it may be something to consider or look into further. 


Review season can be one of the most complicated and stressful times for scholarship administrators. Not because the tasks are too challenging, but you have to coordinate multiple groups of people to accomplish one goal, sometimes multiple times a year. By empowering reviewers, the stress and complications of the season will decrease.