The Planning Process For Choosing A Scholarship Recipient – A Case Study
A friend of mine, Jim, recently passed away after an unexpected illness. His friends and family decided to celebrate his life and legacy by creating a scholarship fund. It turned out to be a bigger project than we thought.
Jim believed in providing opportunities for those most in need. He spent decades helping women in the workplace; including donating his own salary at times to help pay the college costs for single moms in the community.
In creating the fund, we wanted to reflect his values and history in the criteria used to award the scholarships. Here is how we went about laying the ground work.
- What would the goal of the scholarship be?
- Who did we want to help?
- Would the scholarships be short term or long term?
For Jim’s scholarship, here was our mission:
Multiple ongoing scholarships for undergraduate students in Orange County. The focus to be business studies.
The next step was to determine what the scholarship qualifications would be.
Here were the issues we considered:
1. Need versus Merit. One of the key decisions that needed to be made was choosing among need, merit or a combination of both. In this case whether to give money based on an individual’s need or based upon their academic excellence.
We decided to give money based upon a student’s need, but for those who could maintain at least a C grade average. Grades should not overshadow the essence of a person, but we didn’t want to appeal solely to a bunch of flakes.
The applicant would be required to fill out a FAFSA Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available online at www.fafsa.ed.gov in addition to our application. This is how we would certify the needs basis.
2. Institution To Fund. There were many types of school that we could provide the scholarships to:
- private colleges
- public/private universities
- trade schools
- graduate schools
- state colleges
- community colleges
Jim was very active in the community. He frequently hired and mentored young students from the local community colleges. We chose to award the scholarships only to the state and community colleges to match Jim’s history.
3. School accreditation. This was simple; either Yes or No.
Given that there are a number questionable schools around, we required that students must come from a reputable, accredited institution. To ensure this, we picked out the specific schools that we would accept applications from. It also ensures that the schools belong to the community of which Jim was a part.
4. Enrollment Status: The required enrollment status could be either full-time or half time.
At the undergraduate level, enrollment for 12 credit hours minimum is considered full-time. For half-time, it can be six to 11 credit hours. This would be per quarter or semester.
At the graduate level, enrollment for eight credits minimum is full-time; four to seven credits is half time.
We decided to allow either full-time or half-time on an undergraduate level only. The minimum must be at least six hours per quarter/semester. The scholarship would be adjusted accordingly.
5. High school diploma requirements. Is a G.E.D acceptable? Any specific school?
We would accept a G.E.D.
6. Age. Could the student be a high school senior at the time of application. (yes) We were open to students of any age.
7. Residential status. Was there going to a requirement for where the student live? Options that came up included
- Did the student need to live in the local county?
- Did the student only need to be a state native?
- Have lived in the required area _________________ for _________ number of years.
- No requirements on residence
We decided to provide support only to local residents of Orange County.
8. Citizenship – Do you want to require U. S. citizenship? We chose to require citizenship.
9. Outside activities or circumstances. Do you want to take these into account? If so, decide what is important to you and how much weight you want to give.
We do have a list of preferences that we’re keeping private.
10. Who would we exclude? Is there an exclusion that you want to make public. For example, scholarship is restricted only to women or students who studies architecture.
We’re restricting our studies area to business. We are also excluding and disqualifying any children or employees of Jim’s old company. This is to prevent any perception of favoritism and to meet certain IRS requirements.
It was a great experience just reviewing the applications. In addition, it is tremendously rewarding to help a struggling student be able to get through college.
One last parting thought: when creating a small scholarship, choose a local community college to award the scholarship–because every dollar goes a long way. I’ve seen the power of even a small sum such as $200 when I saw several thousand doctors, lawyers and professionals gather to thank a janitor for the opportunity he gave them when they were starting out.
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