An Inside Peek: CROSO’s Annual Scholar Selection Process

Written by Elsa VanHove, CROSO Board Member and Chair of the Scholar Support Committee.

An Inside Peek_ (1).jpg

As we welcome our 2017 cohort of CROSO scholars, we wanted to provide insight into how CROSO selects our participating scholars. Many of our Scholar Selection Committee members can attest that this is rarely an easy or stress-free project, but always an uplifting and rewarding one. It is also a great way to gain an intimate knowledge of the students our organization supports, and connecting with our scholars is the best way to understand the importance of CROSO’s work.

What is the Selection Committee trying to achieve?

Very simply, the Scholar Selection Committee is tasked with recommending on an annual basis the next cohort of CROSO scholarship recipients. Each year the Committee has the ability to accept around ¼ to ⅓ of the students who apply for scholarships (though as our organization grows we hope to increase this statistic). CROSO provides scholarships to students coming from the Mbale-based C.R.O. organization, which is one of four C.R.O. locations throughout Uganda. One day, we would like to open the application process to students across all C.R.O. locations.

What does the Selection Committee look for?

The Committee looks to a blend of tangible and intangible factors, but essentially we try to determine which applicants will meet with the most success in their tertiary education. We consider factors like applicants’ grades, their school and community involvement, recommendation letters from teachers and C.R.O. staff members, and learn about what students hope to study in school and be when they graduate. We ask about applicants’ backstories, interests, and ambitions, and through these more personal factors we learn about students’ grit and ability to actualize their goals. CROSO’s aim is that its graduates become the next generation of local Ugandan leaders, and in applications we look for examples of students who exemplify this.

What steps are involved?

Each April, CROSO releases a soft copy of the scholarship applications to our partner at C.R.O. in Uganda, and students have a month to complete and return their applications. By late May CROSO receives completed applications, which are hand-written by applicants. The applications are transcribed and typed copies are distributed at the beginning of June to the Selection Committee.

The month of June is really the most serious time for the Selection Committee. During the month, each member of the Selection Committee reads and reviews each application, then evaluates them against a rubric. This team meets via phone and in-person 2-3 times throughout the month to discuss their progress and any questions that arise. Questions are then brought to our partners in Uganda and feedback is shared with the Selection Committee. The final meeting is an intense one, in which the Committee selects the panel of scholars. This panel is put before CROSO’s Board of Directors for an approval vote, and from there CROSO notifies all applicants if they have been selected for a scholarship or not. Students will know if they will be receiving a scholarship by mid-July, which still gives them time to prepare for their first semesters of school, which often begin in August or September.

What challenges does the Selection Committee face?

Probably the biggest challenge the Committee faces is a lack of financial resources. While some students will stand out above others, CROSO has never had an applicant that was completely unqualified. The Committee often laments during the process that we have to make selections at all - our applicants have such amazing stories of resilience and determination that we would ideally accept everyone who applies.

The other most recurring challenge the Committee faces is a solid understanding of the current state of work and the economy in Uganda. By the nature of our organization, the Committee is traditionally largely made of Americans, and the quick turnaround time of our process means that we do not have a lot of time to do research about the industries/majors that our applicants are choosing. While we consult our partners in Uganda, we consistently are looking for more ways to get Ugandans involved in this process, so that we can make more informed decisions.

Want to get involved? Here are some ways to help:

There are many ways to be involved in CROSO, but participating in the Scholar Selection Process is a great entry point into the organization, as it involves only a month-long commitment of a few hours, and most of the work can be done on your own time.

We would love your help with this annual process in the following ways:

  • Do you have spare time in June and early July? Volunteer to join the Selection Committee
  • Do you have experience with running similar programs? We would love to hear your thoughts on how we could improve our processes.
  • Are you plugged in to the local Ugandan economy? We would love your input as we try to build out our Committee’s cultural understandings of the current status of work and the economy in Uganda.
  • Are you a high school or university student who needs to fill volunteer hours? Consider being on our Application Transcription Team to transcribe student applications in late May. Since the applications are all hand-written, transcriptions really help out the Committee.

To get involved, please reach out to