How to Set Up Your Award Committee Process for Success

Is your financial aid award committee meeting going overtime? Every single time?

Do you get caught in the weeds on each family folder you evaluate?

Creating efficient processes for your award committee process helps save your school valuable time, better serves your families, and helps you feel confident that you are leveraging the data available to you.

Alisa Evans, Managing Partner of Mission Enrollment, recommends focusing on four keys to success for award committees:

·         Preparation

·         Prevention

·         Process

·         Management


“It’s so important to be a good steward of your data,” said Evans. “All the keys to success are contingent on having good data.”

  • Close out the “traditional aid” season (2021-2022). “I call all financial aid that’s unrelated to COVID supplemental aid ‘traditional aid’ for clarity,” said Evans.
  • Close out any COVID-related aid rounds
    • If your school offers COVID-related supplemental aid, ensure that any requested documents, statuses, and/or supplemental questions are completed
    • Send out an updated supplemental questionnaire, if applicable
  • Update all your records to reflect the correct:
    • Grant awarded (traditional and/or COVID-related)
    • Enrollment status
    • COVID tracking
      • “If you asked a question on your application specific to COVID impact or someone indicated in their application that they could have job or income-related changes due to COVID, you can identify those applicants in a COVID tracking field,” said Evans.
    • Send a welcome email to all applicants. Remind them of the process and all deadlines, dates, and documents required. “There can be a lot of stress and anxiety around this. Taking the time to reach out to families is important,” said Evans.

“The importance of reviewing your financial aid policy guide prior to your financial aid awarding season is to inspire confidence by the time the committee starts reviewing folders,” said Evans. “A consistent policy and process is confidence-building and also helps communication teams to build external FAQs for prospective families.”


“It’s going to be very hard for families to register for school if they aren’t exactly sure how much aid they’re going to get,” said Evans. “Be very, very aware of your timelines and your estimates.”

  • Be aware of timeline changes. This is especially important if you use prior year verification and prior year taxes, but job/income changed in current year.
  • Decide on your awarding schedule. It’s much easier to deal with appeals before enrollment and registration versus after the fact.


  • Communicate with your award committee. “I recommend reaching out to your financial aid committee, welcome them to the season, send them the policy guide, let them know the changes and the timeline, and plan no more than two or three meetings,” said Evans. “Before each meeting, send them a link to a Google Sheet or a shared Excel sheet containing the information of each family you’re evaluating so they can review ahead of time.”
  • Think about the important fields to share with the group. In addition to demographic data and the basics, what else do you need to know? Are essays important to your committee? COVID impact details?


  • Track over time to learn. Are appeals on the rise? What is the reason? (e.g., are you outpacing the ability of families to keep up because of tuition increases?)
  • Keep a consistent process to be fair and equitable
    • Always ask for the same items
    • If decision is made by committee, ensure that committee awards the appeal
    • Have an appeal timeline, so families aren’t left with open-ended timeframes
    • If follow-up is required, ensure that is completed so they don’t perceive required steps as empty requests

As you go into your award committee season, we’re here to help with any questions you have about financial aid applications, data, and reporting. To learn more about setting up your award committee for success, please see the on-demand webinar version of this topic to hear more tips and tricks from Alisa Evans. You can reach her at [email protected].