Get the inside scoop on our scholarship selection process

By Rob Taylor

For the past two years, EDge Interactive, the company that produces, has offered the EDge Directory Scholarship for students entering into university or college. I thought you might like an insider's view on what happens after you submit your scholarship or award application.

What we do to pick someone for winning an award is specific to our company and not everyone will do it the same way, but they will have some sort of process in place.

BEFORE you submit your application – how we made the award
When we thought about offering a scholarship, we had to think about who we wanted to grant the scholarship to and why.

We're a Canadian company and we wanted to reward Canadian students, so we made the award open to Canadian citizens or landed immigrants.

The biggest section of our audience, from the people who read the Newsletter to the people who use the Web site, are either in secondary school or are entering into college of university. Our biggest print publication, the Entrance Awards Directory, also caters to students entering into the first year of post-secondary studies. So we made the award open to students who were entering the first year of college or university.

EDge employees believe strongly in Canada and are proud to be Canadian, and we wanted to make our award reflect that, so we asked that students write us an essay explaining how they have made or are making Canada a better place to live.

We set a deadline (May 31) that we thought would allow students enough time to prepare for the essay and give us enough time to judge the essays and award our winner by the fall when they are preparing for or just entering school.

Advertising the award was easy for us, since we had an audience of over 320,000 people who receive the Newsletter. We also placed an ad in our Entrance Awards Directory, which is distributed to schools and libraries across the country.

All the things we considered and did in the lead-up to actually offering the award are things that most people or groups who offer an award must consider as well.

After you submit the application
The first thing that you must consider, as when you apply for a job, is that the person who first sees your application is probably not going to be the person who selects the ultimate recipient of the award. In our process, we have a committee of six people who select the winner, but since we're all pretty busy, they don't have the time to go through all the essays and pick one.

So what we have is what people in publishing call a slush pile. The slush pile is made up of all the applications for the scholarship. Last year we had over 70 applications, which meant that we had roughly 1,400 pages of essays to read. Someone had to go through that pile and separate the good from the bad. In the end, that person was actually two persons, myself and Research Editor Stephanie Abba.

Stephanie and I read through all the essays and assigned each one a letter grade. The letter grades are the ones you're familiar with from school: A, A-, B+, etc.

In the end we needed to whittle the selection down to 10 essays. After grading the essays, we had eight As and four or five B+s that we thought were exceptional. We argued the pros and cons of each essay that was not an A to see which would make it to the top 10. Eventually we agreed on 11 essays (there was one B+ we were not willing to cut from the top 10) to present to the Entrance Awards Directory Scholarships Committee.

The EDge Scholarship Committee
Last year, we selected the scholarship winner internally, choosing people from within our own company to read though the top 10 essays and pick a winner. This year we created a mix of people from both inside and outside our company:

  • Taylor Gunn – Chief Elections Officer, Student Vote
  • Kathleen Heithorn-Althoff – Director of Communications, EDge Interactive
  • Rob Taylor – Senior Editor, EDge Interactive
  • Chris Wilkins – President and CEO, EDge Interactive
  • Dr. David Stermole – Teacher, Sir John A. Macdonald Collegiate Institute
  • Kathleen Ko – Student, University of Western Ontario

Each of these committee members was given a clean photocopy of each essay, as well as a grading sheet. The grading sheet had a list of all the committee members, the requirements of the scholarship and a chart for calculating grades.

Specific criteria was highlighted and given different weights out of 100. The calculation sheet looked like this:

Student Contribution to Canada Effect that the person has had on Canada Quality of essay and writing Total
  /45 /45 /10 /100

All the committee members were given at least two weeks to make their picks, and at the end of the process a consensus was reached. We were lucky this year in that everyone was able to agree on the winner: Mallory Danae Statham from Powell River, British Columbia.

An even happier ending
The amount of money we awarded for the scholarship was equal to one dollar from every directory sale we made, so the amount was $450. Taylor Gunn and the rest of Student Vote was so enthusiastic about the process that they decided to chip in and give a further $450 to Mallory, bringing her total up to $900.

We feel really good about the entire process and about helping students and we're offering the award again this year. We're glad we can give someone a happy ending.

Modified on April 23, 2009