Although Sandhills Community College knew that an online scholarship application was essential to making the process more efficient, the simple tool that their IT department built quickly proved unable to cope with the idea’s popularity. While the tool provided an online experience for students to apply for scholarships, it automated nothing for administrators. Along with integration problems and limited data, “our award committees met at least 8 times a semester and each meeting required an IT person to compile Access databases just to find applicants,” said Jonathan Garrison, Scholarship Coordinator at Sandhills Community College. As more scholarships were made available to students and applications increased, it was apparent that a more sophisticated system was needed.
Sandhills Community College chose AcademicWorks to help further automate their scholarship process because it offered the flexibility that administrators and reviewers wanted. “We loved the idea that AcademicWorks would help us get rid of paper award letters and allow us to notify students directly via email,” says Garrison.
The AcademicWorks automation brought immediate results for administrators. “We were thrilled when we entered all the scholarship qualifications in AcademicWorks, and we knew we wouldn’t have to do it again in the future,” says Garrison. “It’s great to have one place to house every scholarship qualification,” he says.
Another improvement has been the flexibility and functionality that end users experience with AcademicWorks. When an application question or scholarship requirement needs to be updated or changed, “I can take care of it myself instead of submitting a request through IT,” says Garrison.
AcademicWorks functionality has increased awarding efficiency, too. Since implementing the solution, committee meetings have gone from 9 each year to 2. Now, Garrison looks at the applications and pulls together the top students for each award, which could be based on need, academic performance, or other criteria.
Garrison meets with each committee, and they review the applicants within AcademicWorks. Smaller scholarship opportunities sometimes do not have a committee and are decided upon by staff from financial aid and the foundation. The college tries to spread scholarship money among many different students, rather than giving all the awards to a select number of them. AcademicWorks lets decision makers see the current scholarship offers for each student, so over-awarding does not happen. The final decision maker for each award is a joint effort between the financial aid office and the foundation.
Students learn about scholarships that are available through the efforts of the marketing and communications team on campus. This past year the team created a campaign around the “scholar pig” theme that showed up on campus posters and fliers promoting their AcademicWorks scholarship website. The school website and emails banners are also used to encourage applications.
For students, the application process is easy because they have single sign-on with the student information system. The college also provides students with “how to” resources, such as “How to Write an Essay,” to help them submit the best applications they can. Higher quality applications help donors feel good about awarding scholarships to deserving students and allows them to create a personal connection to award recipients. Their efforts have paid off as Garrison notes, “not only have applications increased, but their quality has also increased.”
Sandhills Community College is working to continually improve their scholarship process through the AcademicWorks Platform. For example, in the past, they have had students send their thank-you letters directly to donors. “In the future, we are looking forward to asking students to submit thank-you letters directly through AcademicWorks so we can track them and improve donor stewardship efforts,” says Garrison.
Simplify Scholarship Management
AcademicWorks is transforming the way Sandhill Community College manages their scholarships. Please contact us to see how we can assist your campus.