Volunteering for Scholarships Plus

Change a life in just five hours!

Thank you for your interest in joining our dedicated team of volunteers who play a crucial role in shaping the educational journeys of aspiring students. We believe in the transformative power of education, and your contribution as a volunteer reviewer is instrumental in helping us award over $6 million in college scholarships annually.

In 2023, we received nearly 11,000 submitted student applications, and we expect a similar number in 2024! We can’t award these scholarships without volunteer support from community members like you.

We are proud to share that we have reached our volunteer goal for this year! Volunteers will receive information about scoring applications in the next few weeks. Please use the resources below to learn how to review applications.

Signing Into and Overview of the Scholarship Review Portal
In February, you will receive an email from PEF with a link to Academic Works, where you will create an account to review scholarship applications. Our team has created this video to give you an overview of the Scholarship Review Portal.

Scoring the Scholarship Application
Once you have created your account and are familiar with the Scholarship Review Portal, you can navigate to the scholarship applications assigned to you. You should have received an email from PEF with a document to help you score scholarship applications and your deadline for reviewing applications. This video should be used as a guideline for scoring the applications.

Tips for Reviewing Scholarship Applications
Reviewing PEF scholarship applications? Here are some helpful tips. View PDF HERE.

We’ve compiled some “good” and “great” scholarship application materials from past recipients. You can use these as a guide when scoring applications.
Good and Great Essays
Good and Great Financial Need Letters
Good and Great Recommendation Letters

Your account will unlock after 30 minutes. After being unlocked, you can log back in. If you forgot your password, you can reset your password. If you’re having issues with this, please contact volunteer@thepef.org.

One of our team members can assist you in updating your account with a new email. Please email volunteer@thepef.org with your account information and the updated email address.

While you have a student’s application open, there will be three tabs near the top right corner. Click the “Side-by-Side” tab. This will allow you to look at the student’s application and your scores at the same time. Review our video here for a visual guide.

In the case where you know you won’t be able to finish scoring your applications, please contact the Scholarships Plus team immediately at volunteer@thepef.org so we can get them reassigned.

If you recognize a student’s name during the application review, it could pose a conflict of interest. Please reach out to our team for reassignment of that student’s application. You can contact the Scholarships Plus team via email at volunteer@thepef.org to inform them of the conflict and continue to score the other student applications assigned to you.

Internet Explorer and Safari do not always allow reviewers to see transcripts, letters, and nominations. Please try another browser, such as Chrome or Firefox. If the issue persists or the document is incorrect, score them as if the document was not submitted and email volunteer@thepef.org. If possible, Scholarships Plus personnel will attempt to retrieve the document and update the score on the student application.

At least two people will read every scholarship application, and finalists will be selected based on average scores assigned to each application.

Recognize that not all students have access to the same opportunities. Some may need to work, take care of siblings, or contribute to their family in other ways. Consider all the various responsibilities and activities a student engages in when evaluating their achievements and potential. Also, some reviewers may be sidetracked by poor grammar. While it’s important to consider the grammar of each student’s application, please also take into consideration the content of the application.

No, students are not required to provide documentation as part of their financial need letter. Some scholarships require separate documentation from students, such as FAFSA documentation and pay stubs, but that will be listed as a separate requirement from the financial need letter. We have listed examples of “great’ financial need letters on this page. In general, you are looking for students who describe their family’s income sources, how much the family struggles with basic expenses, what other circumstances their family faces (such as the number of dependents at home and the number of dependents currently enrolled in college), etc. that provide you with insight into the family’s ability to pay for college.

Each scholarship opportunity varies depending on donor preference. Some donors put a cap on how many scholarships they are willing to award at the beginning of the process, and some wait to decide how many they will award based on the number and quality of applications. We encourage you to provide one “top” score for each application you review so we can see your first preference. Remember that at least two people will review each scholarship application and that scores will be averaged to determine the finalists for each scholarship opportunity.

Artificial Intelligence tools such as Chat GPT are increasingly available for free. After this scholarship cycle, PEF will work with educators, students, and donors to determine whether we want to utilize AI-detection software platforms and whether using AI should affect a student’s score. Some educators let students utilize AI tools as a “starting point” for their work, and some educators prohibit them entirely. This is a complicated conversation happening in educational institutions throughout the nation. In the meantime, as you review student applications, look for essays that indicate the student has spent time thinking about the essay question. AI-generated essays tend to be more repetitive and use surface-level thinking instead of diving into topics. We have provided examples of “good” and “great” essays on this scholarship volunteer page under “Tips for Reviewing Scholarship Applications.”

Our scholarships platform provider, Blackbaud, also offers services to many other organizations. You may have another Blackbaud ID which is connecting you to another system. If you already have a Blackbaud ID from another organization, please use an Incognito or Private Browsing window to log into the PEF portal, or use a different browser entirely.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact volunteer@thepef.org.

Thank you for being a vital part of the Scholarships Plus family. Your generosity and dedication serve as the pillars of our program’s success. Together, we can make a meaningful difference for our students!

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