How to Evaluate and Score Scholarship Applications

So you created a scholarship, you have applications submitted and now you are wondering what the best way is to evaluate and score scholarship applications. Having selection criteria is extremely important, and even more important if you have more than one person evaluating your scholarship applications.

So how do you best evaluate scholarship applications?

We got you covered with this blog post. Here we’ll explain a few different ways you can successfully evaluate student scholarship applications, provide tools and scholarship rubrics that you can download and conclude with our best suggestions for choosing a scholarship winner.

Let’s get started

Before we dive deeper, it’s important to go back to your scholarships mission and selection criteria. What were the key criteria in your scholarship application, and why? Take a minute to list these:

Scholarship application criteria 1:_________________

Scholarship application criteria 2:_________________

Scholarship application criteria 3:_________________

Scholarship application criteria 4:_________________

Scholarship application criteria 5:_________________

If you are having trouble thinking of criteria to include as part of your scholarship selection, we encourage you to look at your scholarship description and choose key points from there.

Alright, now that we have our application criteria listed in front of us, we can move on to looking at different ways to evaluate scholarship applications.

Create a Rubric

A rubric is a document that outlines how the scholarship application/documents are to be read and graded/scored. We highly suggest that most scholarship readers and programs use a rubric, because it helps readers keep consistent with minimum personal value bias. Keep the rubrics after selecting applicants also helps scholarship managers understand why a student or students were chosen as a winner. This system of evaluation for scholarship applications is the most popular amongst evaluators and scholarship managers.

Tip: For an example of what a good scholarship rubric looks like, click here.

Tie Breaker: Have another reviewer or two grade the scholarship applications.

Best for:

  • Individuals and groups

  • Small and large number of applications

  • Highly recommended for most groups

Rank Applications

Using this system, scholarship providers would be assigned a set number to applications to read and then rank all of the read applications amongst each other. This would mean that if there were 6 applications, the best application would be ranked number 1 and the least favorite application would be ranked number 6.

If you have many scholarship applications to read and many application readers, then you would pass around each set of x number of applications between 3-5 people. This allows multiple people to rank each set of applications without overwhelming the readers.

To conclude a winner, you would add up the score of ranks among all applications. The application with the lowest score would be the winner.

Tip: Make sure each set of applications is read the same number of times. It’s also helpful to print out applications or keep them in a specific and differentiated file, keep the set of applications together and to not let reviewers see previous members rankings. This also requires you to set due dates for reviewers in when they need to finish ranking applicants by.

Tie breaker: If you need a tie breaker between student applications, you can add an extra point to if the student was not ranked in the top three by a reviewer. You can also look to see who had the most first place ranks, etc.

Best for:

  • Large number of scholarship applications

  • Many scholarship application readers

Scholarship Review Committee

Sometimes scholarship providers have multiple scholarships, or awarding different scholarships based on different criteria. In this instance, it might be best to group your scholarship application readers together in a committee based on the different award criteria.

For example, if you offer three scholarships; one for financial need students that live in the SF Bay Area, one for academically outstanding students living in the SF Bay Area, and students who are on swim team in the SF Bay Area. Using committees, you would separate scholarship readers into three committees to evaluate scholarship applications of their given committee. Each committee member would rate a scholarship application application based on the specific criteria and how well the student fits the criteria.

Tie breaker: When a tie occurs, ask the committee to break the tie using their individual notes and ratings they made. Another helpful tool to use is to evaluate what is the one most important criteria for that scholarship and which one among the students best fits that. For example, if it is the academically outstanding scholarship committee, then maybe the number one criteria is GPA. In this case, you would select the student who has the highest GPA.

Best for:

Large groups

  • Giving multiple scholarships with different award criteria

  • Have multiple scholarship application readers

Averaging Application Scores

In this system, the points are scored over a set number of scholarship application criteria that is defined within a rubric. The averaging system is widely used in a standards-based environment. The students scholarship application grade then comes by adding all scores and then dividing the amount of points by the number of times the application was read, resulting in an average grade. The average grade could be converted to a letter grade depending upon the sponsor's policies or set criteria, which somewhat resembles scoring like a GPA.

Best for:

  • Small and large groups

  • Easily identifying a winner

Other tips for evaluating scholarship applications:

  • Before reading applications, go through each one and make sure that students met the minimum criteria. Eliminating the applications that did not meet the minimum criteria will save you time and you readers time and effort.

  • Don’t include student names when looking at applications.

  • How many evaluators will review each application? In a fair and objective process, it is essential to have multiple evaluators reviewing each application to minimize bias. This also reduces the pressure on any one evaluator. Being the sole decision-maker as to who gets a scholarship would be burdensome, undermining the evaluator’s self-confidence and possibly leading to score inflation


There are multiple ways to score scholarship applicants to choose a best winner or winners for your scholarship. How you score applications largely depends on how many applications you typically receive, how many staff you have reviewing applicants and ultimately how many students you can award your scholarship to.

No matter which of the ways you choose above, we recommend that you outline your scholarship evaluation process clearly for both students and your evaluators. This will result in better applicants that fit your criteria and a more cohesive decision on your application winner.

At Scholar.Shop, we provide our team of scholarship sponsors the tools to evaluate scholarship applications within a group or individually by rating and making notes. We provide a visual aid of using 5 stars with the ability to use half ratings as well. After all applications have been reviewed, scholarship managers can sort application scores by highest to lowest ratings.

Check out more about how Scholars.Shop can elevate your scholarship program by clicking here!

If you have an additional tip for scoring scholarship applications, we would love to hear from you! Add a comment below or email us at