How to crowdfund your degree
If you don't have the cash needed to study your dream degree, why not try crowdfunding? It might sound crazy, but plenty of students have done it before.
If you're struggling to pull together the funds you need to get yourself to university, crowdfunding probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind.
It's certainly not the easiest way to make money, but if you’re good at marketing yourself, and you've got a great story to tell, crowdfunding for your studies could be just the ticket!
However, it’s worth remembering that crowdfunding isn’t for everyone, and you should have a serious think about whether you really need it before you get started.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about crowdfunding your degree, and whether it could be the answer to your financial woes!
What’s on this page?
What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is basically relying on the generosity of others (family, friends, academics and strangers alike) to donate towards a cause – in this case, the costs of your degree.
You set up an online crowdfunding page (these are the best sites to use) and promote it to the public, the press and the internet at large in the hope that generous people will come a-runnin', and be nice enough to contribute in some way towards your financial goal.
Use your fundraising page to tell the world your story and explain why you’re asking for donations. You'll also have to set a financial target that matches the cost of your degree and be honest! Don't set your target at £20,000 if you’re applying for a Master’s course that costs £10,000 unless you make clear why you need the extra cash – otherwise, anyone can just Google your course and see how much it costs.
What happens if you don't meet your crowdfunding target?
Different crowdfunding sites have different policies on this, so you'll have to check the small print to be sure. Some sites will refund all your donors if you don't meet your target, whereas others will allow you to keep however much you make.
Can anyone set up a crowdfunder?
Technically, yes! Anyone can try their hand at crowdfunding their degree, but whether you'll be successful with it is another story.
Crowdfunding is clearly a better option for some students than others. For example, there's no point in crowdfunding the costs of your tuition fees if you could easily get the money through a Tuition Fee Loan from Student Finance. And if you're trying to crowdfund a bit of extra money to help you cover living costs, people might wonder why you don't just get a part-time job to help you through.
On the other hand, crowdfunding for a Postgraduate degree is a bit easier, and a lot more common. Although the government have now introduced financial support for Master's degrees and PhD's, it doesn't go as far and can be more difficult to get a hold of.
International students often use crowdfunding too, as they face much higher tuition fees than home students and get very little government financial support.
Are you an ideal crowdfunding candidate?
Here's an idea of some of the situations that would make you an ideal candidate for crowdfunding your university costs. Have a read through them and think if any of these (or something similar) would apply to you!
Postgrad candidates ineligible for the Postgraduate Loan
The government’s new Postgraduate Loan (PGL) has been available since August 2016, but many prospective students are ineligible because they don't fit the criteria.
Not only this, but the PGL isn’t the best option for everyone, whether you meet all the criteria or not. Loan repayments will be steep if you already have an undergrad loan you’re paying off (they need to be paid off at the same time) and the maximum £10k loan won’t stretch that far – this will barely cover tuition fees for a Master’s at many UK universities, never mind additional costs.
Postgraduate courses often have a very specialised focus and candidates will normally have a clear idea of what they want to research. This is an advantage when it comes to crowdfunding, as you can be more specific about exactly what you plan to study and how much it means to you – strangers (particularly academics in your field) are much more likely to donate if they're convinced you're passionate and focussed.
Crafty art students willing to dish out freebies
The great thing about being an art student when it comes to crowdfunding is that it’s easy to show off your talent to the world and attract attention from potential donors (and the media, of course!).
A great crowdfunding idea is to offer something in return to those who make donations – for example, a sample of your work to anyone who donates £100 or more.
In fact, with some crowdfunding sites, giving something back is now an official requirement. Make sure you provide lots of photos and examples of your work on your fundraising page to wow your audience!
International students with a great story to tell
Whether you’re a UK student looking to raise money to study somewhere abroad, or you’re an international student hoping to study in the UK, crowdfunding can be a good option provided you know how to market yourself properly.
Is there a reason you're desperate to study this particular course at this particular uni in this particular country, rather than the one you’re currently living in?
Lower-income candidates without a grant
Are you in a position that has meant you’re particularly affected by all the recent changes to university funding? With tuition fees tripling in 2012 and maintenance grants scrapped, many students from lower-income households are finding that university has become financially difficult.
Pros and cons of crowdfunding your degree
- The publicity you receive could potentially be great. Getting your name out there is handy, particularly for art students who need the exposure
- Free money, and the chance to leave uni debt free! Who could ask for more?
- It can be rewarding to work hard for your donations and the experience will likely encourage you to work harder at uni knowing that people have put so much belief in you
- It's great for your CV! Successful crowdfunding efforts demonstrate that you’re great at marketing, are committed, and can apply yourself to get results.
- You might get some stick from the general public, particularly from those who have funded themselves (but you'll find plenty of supporters too!)
- If you don’t meet your target, your money might be refunded to donors (depending on which site you use). You also need to think of a back-up plan if you don't generate enough money
- You might feel extra pressure to perform well in your degree if you know your fees have been covered by kind donations from others.
7 top tips for crowdfunding success
- Don’t make it all about you – focus on how your research will benefit others as well as yourself
- Start a blog – create a blog and use it as a platform to tell your story in more detail, giving potential donors a better picture of who you are and why you’re asking for their help. You can also use this to keep track of your target, and remember to link to it from your fundraising page!
- Use your connections – it obviously helps if you've got a lot of friends and family, who have lots of friends and family... you get it. Spread the word!
- Be controversial – controversy is always a good way of getting attention online, but if you're worried about ruffling feathers, at least try to stand out from the crowd in some way
- Promote, promote, promote – in order to reach your target, you’ll need to get stuck in and spend time reaching out on social media and other platforms. This includes to the press as well as individual donors
- Don’t set your target too high – or you may risk losing it!
- Keep your donors updated - They'll want to see how you get on with your studies and how you've put their money to good use!
The best crowdfunding websites for students
So where do you go if you decide you do want to set up a crowdfunding campaign? These are the most commonly used sites for students crowdfunding their degrees.
Loads of students opt for GoFundMe as their crowdfunding platform as it's focused on individuals and their personal stories than projects.
This site would be a good choice if you have a story to tell about overcoming a particular struggle to get to uni, or something similar.
Just be aware of the transaction fee which will reduce your donations slightly.
Charge: 2.9% transaction fee + £0.25 per donation
Crowdfunder is a more creative and community-focused platform, so a good option for those interested in socially conscious studies, environmental arts, and similar subjects.
Their aim is to ‘crowdfund the future’ so make sure you focus your fundraising page on how you can help others, not just yourself!
Charge: £1.67 transaction fee + £0.25 and VAT on each donation
Students who have crowdfunded their degree
Ebun Azeez got a place on a prestigious Law course at Oxford University, but as an international student she wasn't entitled to any Student Finance and set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise the whopping £31,000 needed.
She successfully raised £8,000 before her campaign was noticed by an Oxford alumnus who offered substantial support, which was matched by the Oxford Law Faculty. Together with her crowdfunding money, she had enough to take her place a few months later!
Similarly, Lindsey-Anne Bridges spent months raising money to help fund her English MSt at Oxford, only to be offered a scholarship shortly after reaching her target! In response, Lindsey refunded all her donors, and invited them out for a pint!
Sometimes it's just about being noticed by the right people! Fiona Asiedu, an Oxford University student, set out to raise £12,000 so she could study at Harvard in America. She raised it in less than 24 hours after Stormzy generously donated £9,000!
Finally, Joanne Garner funded her Master's in Jewellery and Metal at the Royal College of Art by offering donors free pieces of her jewellery in exchange for their generosity.
I mean, if this guy can raise £80,000 to make a potato salad, surely you're in with a chance!