How to Assemble a Scholarship or Bursary Selection Committee

Best practices on bringing people together to choose a scholarship or bursary recipient

This article is part of our series on developing your own scholarship program.

If you’ve got to make decisions on a scholarship or bursary recipient — especially if you’re choosing more than one — having a selection committee can help ensure the process is fair. Assuming you already have a rubric created, when putting together a crew to review and score scholarship applications, there are three major factors to consider:

1) Diversity of Perspective

Plenty of evidence exists to suggest organizations with more diversity in perspectives fare better, so try to bring in a diverse array of people to the committee.

Canada’s got a handful of historically-underrepresented groups who have faced barriers to employment; bringing folks in from some or all of these groups may help:

  • women
  • Indigenous folks
  • people of colour
  • people living with a disability
  • LGBTQ+ folks

Other factors to consider include age, socioeconomic status, and geographic region. Go for variety rather than overlaps, where possible.

Businesses may want a committee rep present from each area of the business; Finance, Development, Marketing, you name it. Smaller organizations may instead prefer individuals from different career tracks; say, artist, tradesperson, chemist, rather than three MBAs.

Another great suggestion, courtesy of Janet MacDonald of mycampusGPS, is to include a previous scholarship winner in the selection committee. If you’ve already chosen a great candidate in the past, having their perspective on the committee could prove invaluable, giving a student’s-eye view of the program and applicants. Thanks for the suggestion, Janet!

2) Size

Next, how many people will actually sit on the committee? Internally, we’ve never seen more than 10 at the top end, and this may be too many in most cases.

Indeed, as part of its best practices for hiring, recommends roughly 5 people as the sweet spot — even just 2 or 3 for small organizations. Going for an odd number of folks, rather than even, may help in the event a tie-breaker is needed.

If you’ve got subject matter experts, or technical know-how required on the team, that could also affect the size of your committee.

3) Roles and Processes

You’ll want to make clear the roles, responsibilities, and processes your team will use to select a scholarship recipient.

Generally a good idea to have a Chair or point person; probably the lead of the scholarship program can fill this role. The Chair’s in charge of the meetings, processes, and keeping order.

Otherwise, you’ll want to lay out expectations for time commitments and individual responsibilities. Will folks read 5 apps, or 10, or every application received? Will they need to make thorough, detailed notes, or just rank a couple of factors on a simple scale?

During meetings, you may want a formal procedure (like a simplified version of Robert’s Rules of Order), or you might be better served with the Talking Stick approach. Either way, it’s a good idea to have someone responsible for taking minutes, or at least detailed notes — you may also want to record your Zoom calls to take advantage of automatic transcription.

Next steps

Check out the rest of the articles in our series on developing your own scholarship program, or reach out to a SchoolFinder Group team member to learn more about building, marketing, and adjudicating your own scholarship program.

Good luck!

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