Finding Scholarships Should be as Easy as Browsing Amazon

We have all heard the saying, “The only constant is change.” And generally, that’s true, except when we are talking about scholarships. 

The first scholarship search engine was created in 1995. Seemingly overnight, the internet made it possible to do away with hundreds of printed pages of scholarship opportunities. Hallelujah, we had arrived! Or had we? 

More than a decade after the first scholarship search engine was launched, I began my first job in financial aid. The school I worked for still had a slog of physical scholarship paperwork in binders, as did most other schools around the country at the time. While the search for movies, books, products and even jobs were transitioning from physical searches to digital ones, scholarships lagged. Unfortunately, scholarships lagging in other industries have not changed. It is the only constant. 

A quest gone wrong. 

Many of us are searching for something. Digital nomads are looking for that next exotic work locale to share envy-inducing photos on Instagram. Some of us embark on greater searches to find ourselves or discover the meaning of life. But these types of searches are more like endeavors or quests. Searching for scholarships, however, is nothing of the sort. It is a test of endurance. And too often, an act in futility. 

Work hard for the money. 

Many universities are decentralized when it comes to scholarship management. It is quite possible a student could be eligible for scholarships within their own major or department, as well as financial aid, admissions, the school’s foundation, the honors college, the alumni association and even study abroad. But if students don’t know about this and aren’t able to conduct, an exhaustive search—often multiple searches—students miss opportunities, a lot of them. So, it is no surprise most schools struggle to fully utilize their internal donor funds every year. The right students cannot find the right opportunities. 

But the search for opportunities does not end at the institution. There are thousands of external opportunities strewn across the web that students must search for in order to narrow down to a few viable opportunities. Many manual searches end up with students coming across duplicates, scholarships with past deadlines, scams and scholarships that do not exist anymore but are still listed.  

Moreover, most of the scholarships students do find have innumerable eligibility requirements associated with them, and they are incredibly limiting. Read through requirements for ten random scholarships and a student might be lucky if they are uniquely eligible for one of them. 

So, when everyone tells a student to make applying for scholarships their full-time job, they are only partially correct. What they should say is, “make searching for scholarships that you’re uniquely qualified for, your full-time job.” Applying is overtime.  

Students are customers, too. 

Although today’s scholarships are more digital than ever before, search processes aren’t helpful.  However, other industries have once again upgraded their customer experiences.  Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, LinkedIn and Uber represent just a small fraction of the services students use where relevant recommendations, not searching, rule supreme. 

These companies utilize customer interests, preferences, behaviors and location to deliver highly relevant recommendations at breakneck speeds, versus customers searching on their own. 

“Without the past, there is no future.” 

In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson discusses a term called the Adjacent Possible. Simply put, it means someone cannot simply go from crawling to running. The adjacent possibility also applies to technology.  

Let’s talk about Youtube.  Even though 1995 marked the beginning of the dot-com boom, the idea that people could upload 500 hours of video to a website every single minute was unimaginable. And that is because it would have taken two days to download a two-minute cat video in 1995. Had YouTube launched in the 90s, it would have been nicknamed, “YouWait” and failed miserably. The site was founded in 2005, where it piggybacked on the growth of broadband. 

The scholarship industry has been walking (searching) for 25 years now. Searching was a major step, but it was not meant to be the destination. With the advent of mobile, cloud and sophisticated algorithms, the scholarship industry is due for an upgrade. 

The search is over. 

Students never have to search for scholarships again with ScholarshipUniverse: Winnable, relevant, verified scholarships find them.  

Students match to both institutional and pre-verified external scholarships in a single mobile-enabled source. More than 13,000 external scholarships are continuously reviewed and added to by Campuslogic’s full-time research team to ensure students are only matched with relevant, open, and legitimate opportunities. 

Schools streamline their internal scholarship management as well, from scholarship matching, reviewing, awarding, posting, communications, donor stewardship, reporting and analytics.  

Higher education is overdue for an upgrade, and ScholarshipUniverse answers the call.  

About the Author

Ken Downs, Product Evangelist

Evangelizing how technology and best practices can remove friction for students, schools, and organizations in the scholarship and financial aid space, Downs is CampusLogic’s Product Evangelist. He was instrumental in leading the development of the University of Arizona’s national award-winning ScholarshipUniverse product, now part of CampusLogic’s platform. A longstanding member of the National Scholarship Provider’s Association, Downs has given workshops titled: Big Data and the Coming Scholarship Sea Change, Scholarship Hacking, and the Scholarship Universe Story.

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