Finding scholarships can be difficult, time consuming work, particularly if you have exotic hobbies (for example, you may practice a little known form of yoga) or other characteristics that are distinctive, but that are not well-funded by more popular scholarship programs.
If you find that existing scholarships can’t fit the bill, and you don’t want to rely exclusively on student loans to pay for college, then why not start up your own scholarship? The basics of getting a scholarship fund up and running are relatively easy to do, relatively cheap to do, and can yield tremendous results. Here’s how:
Step 1 Create a Web site for yourself. You’ll need a place to call home, somewhere on the Web that you can present your case for why individuals and corporations should help you get through college. We mentioned this in the tools of the trade section.
Step 2 Create your content. When it comes to creation, think of your personal site like a generic scholarship application. Put up an essay about yourself. Provide as much relevant information as you can to help a potential contributor understand why you’re worth sponsoring. If you have rich media content, such as videos, audio, an art portfolio or a music CD, be sure to feature them as well (if applicable).
Remember, what sets you apart and above the crowd is what should be center stage on your personal scholarship Web site. One important thing to do is disclose as much as you feel comfortable about your financials, about your personal financial situation. Obviously, omit things like account numbers or financial institution names to minimize the risk of identity theft.
Asking for help paying for college is easier when you can demonstrate financial need to the people you’re making an appeal to. It may also be easier to ask for help if you can clearly detail what your plans are and how completing a college education with as little debt as possible will work to further your plans.
Step 3 Set up a contribution mechanism. Accepting contributions is the most important aspect of your personal scholarship Web site. Give donors as many avenues for helping as possible, such as PayPal or Google Checkout, a mailing address for paper checks, and so forth. Be sure that the avenues for donation are explicit and obvious for visitors to find. Make it as easy as possible for people to donate to your education.
You’ll also want to tie your contribution mechanism of choice to a bank account, but be sure that it’s set up to deposit only – meaning you can transfer money from PayPal or Google Checkout to your bank account, but not the reverse. In the unlikely event that your contributions system is ever hacked, your savings won’t be taken as well.
Step 4 Locate potential sponsors. Once you’ve got the groundwork in place for your campaign, it’s time to find people to ask for help. Craft an appropriate cover letter, and then get a hold of a business directory for your area (such as the Chamber of Commerce). Inside these types of publications you’ll find lists of the area’s noteworthy companies and Chamber members – big, small, new and old. Start locating companies that are relevant to your field of study – if you’re looking for a major in advertising, then look for advertising firms in your area.
Step 5 Ask for help. The appeal for help is going to be one of the most difficult things to do initially. However, after a few letters, emails and telephone calls, asking for help gets increasingly easier. Writing your appeal should cover a few points – think of it like a cover letter for a job, in the sense that it should be concise, powerful and clear. Some key points include:
•Cover why you’re asking for money (financial need, etc.)
•Cover what you’re studying in college and how you’ll use your education
•Cover what value you can bring to your donors\
The last point is the most critical. There are those individuals and companies who will make a contribution simply because they wish to help students advance their education, and for that, we’re grateful. However, there are also those who would be motivated to donate if they received something. Even something small, in exchange for their contribution. Some ideas for this include:
•Links on your Web site
•Mentions in your podcast, blog, video blog, or YouTube videos
•Wearing a t-shirt promoting your donors
What creative things can you offer of value to prospective donors? The more you can come up with, the more compelling your appeal for help will be.