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The Scholarship Judging Process

by Laura DiFiore

You fill out the application, mail it in, and it seems like it’s gone into never-never land, lost forever, never to be seen or heard from again. Why? Having an understanding of the basic judging process may help you to improve your odds of winning.

Every organization that offers a scholarship has their own way of judging the applications they receive. Please understand that this article is intended to be more of an “overview” based on a variety of judging committees than a description of how any one particular scholarship contest is judged.

1. “Weed out the Junk” Stage.

Some organizations open up applications as soon as they are received. Others will simply let the applications pile up in a corner of the office, waiting until the deadline date.

Some organizations are very organized. They will enter each application into a log book as it arrives, assign it a number, and keep track of it.

Others are not very organized – remember, many of these organizations are SEVERELY understaffed, under-funded, and overworked. Some applications might, unfortunately, be lost, probably ending up in the same place that your socks go after they enter the dryer.

Either way, eventually, someone is going to open up the applications. Often, the person opening the applications is a secretary, a volunteer, or maybe even a stay-at-home dad watching the afternoon soap operas. Quite often, it is NOT a scholarship judge that actually opens the envelope to look at your application for the “first look.”

As each application is opened, a “quick check” is made of the application.

  • Is the application neat?
  • Are all required documents included?
  • References, transcripts, photo, etc.?
  • Are all questions answered? etc.

This “quick check” is exactly that: QUICK. If your application has been looked at for 30 seconds at this point, you are lucky.

Important: This stage is also where MOST applications end up in that big “NO” pile, never to be seen again. In many cases, up to 90% of applications are “killed” right here – after 10-30 seconds of consideration. (Seriously. Up to 90% of applications lose after 30 seconds of consideration. For the percentage impaired - if the organization received 1,000 applications, up to 900 of the applications received lost the game right here.)


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