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Through Student Eyes: Optimizing Scholarships with E-Newsletters and Social Media

This article was written by Melia Swirsky during her internship with Foundant Technologies.

Imagine you are in a crowded supermarket trying to find ingredients for dinner. It seems simple enough.

But people are bumping into you left and right, making it hard to find what you’re looking for. 

This makes you feel as if you shouldn’t have come to the supermarket at all.

As a student, this is what it can feel like when trying to find a scholarship application. Web searches can be overwhelming. Applications sent via email may be long gone in junk mail and jumbled with spam.

In my opinion, the most effective way to get a student to apply for your scholarship is to bring it to them from established and trusted sources through: 

  1. Email
  2. Social Media

Email: Promote in existing e-newsletters

While interning at Foundant Technologies, I am also pursuing a degree in marketing at Montana State University (MSU). At MSU, I serve as the president of an all-women’s outdoors club. The club's department sends a monthly newsletter that includes a section with scholarship opportunities. Businesses in the community want to share these opportunities with MSU club leaders, knowing their target applicants could be in this niche group. By promoting their scholarships in this existing newsletter, these companies bring the application to the student without making them open another email. I already open this email as a club leader, so including the scholarship opportunity makes me more likely to click on it and apply.

You may wonder, “What if I want all students in a specific department, not just club leaders?” The Jake Jabs College of Business at MSU sends a monthly newsletter with an “Opportunities” section. Organizations in the community reach out to the college to market their job opportunities or scholarships in this newsletter. Universities, high schools, and colleges across the nation have segmented email lists that could include your target applicants. 

As you know, students tend to be overwhelmed and busy. Reaching them through an email address they are already familiar with, instead of sending them an email from a sender they’ve never received anything from, increases the likelihood they’ll see your application. Bringing your scholarship to them makes it more convenient for the students and more likely that your application won’t be sent to junk mail. 

Social Media: Partner with local businesses

Students may not check their inboxes regularly, but they definitely check their social media accounts. The use of social media perfectly aligns with the concept of bringing the application to the student. 

One of Foundant’s Coffee Talk discussions, Fall Scholarship Communication, was dedicated to this topic. Participants shared tips and tricks about how to market scholarships most effectively. During this conversation, Caitlin from Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes shared that they partnered with a social media company to run a social media ambassador campaign for high school Instagram pages. Caitlin explained that for the month leading up to the scholarship deadline, students created their own social media posts and tagged the community foundation. They shared their story about the scholarship, what they’re doing at school, and how to apply. The students were then entered into a raffle for prizes, such as a grant for their high school senior parade. Caitlin emphasized, “Students are more likely to listen to each other than me.” Understanding that school counselors only reach a percentage of students, she was pleased that her social media campaign allowed her to reach a broader audience. 

As a student, seeing scholarships posted on my university or high school’s Instagram page makes me more curious about the opportunity—especially if the post or the account’s bio includes a link to the application. I find it more effective when the scholarship is posted on an account I already follow. If a student already trusts a social media account (ex: their high school), they are more likely to click a link the account shares. Similar to the e-newsletter example, partnering with a local business to promote your scholarships on a social media account that many students already follow can help increase applicants. Social media enables you to bring your application to the student rather than making them search for it.

Wrapping it up

As a student, these methods have worked for me and my peers. I applied for a scholarship through my club's newsletter and was awarded a civic engagement scholarship for student leaders at Montana universities. I probably wouldn’t have applied for this scholarship or known about it if it wasn’t in a newsletter I regularly receive. College and scholarships are overwhelming for most students. Bringing your scholarships to students is a win-win—your organization will receive more applications, and more students will be happy after receiving their awards!

About the Author

Foundant Technologies has specialized in making philanthropy easier and more impactful through innovative software solutions and exceptional client experiences since 2007. Passionate about philanthropy, our team is dedicated to meeting the unique needs of grantmakers, scholarship providers, community foundations, and nonprofits to enable change-makers to make the world a better place for all.

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