Back-to-School Strategies for the Kids’ Chance Community

Scholarship Expert Shares How States Can Improve Student Outreach

Back-to-School Strategies for the Kids’ Chance Community

Back-to-School Strategies for the Kids’ Chance Community

Scholarship Expert Shares How States Can Improve Student Outreach

For many students and families, going back to school is an exciting time. However, for some students in the Kids’ Chance community, it also “can be a vulnerable time,” warned Kim Stezala, national scholarship expert. “State organizations can’t assume what kind of support a kid may have at home or at their previous high school. In many cases, kids are not well-equipped to get ready for the school year ahead.”

With over 25 years of experience consulting on scholarship programs across the nonprofit, education, and business sectors, Kim is all too aware of how pivotal the start of the school year is to ensuring student retention and long-term success. “On average, a student will know whether they’ll be dropping out of their higher education program within the first six weeks,” she explained. “That’s why encouragement and keeping communication open between the scholarship provider and recipient are very important early in the academic year.” 

Kim, now a Senior Design Partner and CEO of The Society of Process Consulting at Design Group International, first began working with Kids’ Chance when the organization only had 35 state organizations. She has since played an integral role in streamlining the Kids’ Chance brand, providing new or struggling states with best practices to optimize process efficiencies and create more uniformity across the organization. 

Kim shared three practicable strategies states can implement to foster connection with their scholarship recipients during this difficult transition period and show their continual support throughout the academic year.  

Establish a Summer Bridge Communication Strategy

 A bridge communication strategy consists of a series of communications, typically emails, designed to offer points of contact and connection with your audience — particularly when audience engagement tends to be historically low. Late summer is the perfect time to re-establish communication with your scholarship recipients and re-affirm Kids’ Chance’s commitment to their academic and personal success through thoughtful, curated email content. 

Some content ideas include creating a back-to-school checklist of important dates and tasks for each student or sending a personalized note of encouragement or advice from volunteers. If your scholarship recipient is unfamiliar with their school’s geographic region, states could also compile a suggested packing list of things they’ll need to feel comfortable in their new climate. 

Any kind of outreach, especially during the lead-up to the semester, will let your students know that they have a community cheering them on from afar. 

Disperse Scholarship Money Early for Initial Expenses

College expenses go far beyond tuition payments. Most students must spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on upfront costs for housing, dining plans, books, and additional supplies before they even take their first steps on campus. 

“State organizations should disperse scholarship money before the start of the fall semester,” Kim suggested, “so recipients have funds immediately available to them to take care of these additional expenses, stress-free.”

Organize a Year-Long Nurture Campaign

The first few months of school can often be overwhelming and lonely for students, no matter their age or grade. With the help of volunteers, state organizations can plan and execute nurture campaigns that offer continual resources and reassurance to scholarship recipients throughout the academic year. 

“The start of school means that states have a confirmed address on file for every scholarship recipient,” Kim pointed out. So, why not send a surprise care package with seasonal study snacks and a handwritten letter of encouragement from volunteers? Or provide Amazon gift cards or a credit toward their university’s bookstore to cover one or two unforeseen costs? Any gesture of comfort and support — regardless of its monetary value — could help students feel valued and less alone.

Lastly, Kim encouraged states to communicate with one another about the strategies or programming they’re using to reach their scholarship recipients. “More communication among states will lead to more ideas,” she said. “States will learn what works and what doesn’t work from each other and, in turn, set students up for success as they head back to school every year.”