Getting a tertiary education isn’t cheap, nor is it getting any cheaper – tuition fees and living costs can only go up.

So what’s a cash-strapped student to do?

Besides juggling a part-time job (or several) or applying for highly-sought after scholarships, more and more students are turning to crowdfunding to pay their way through college.

Sounds like a crazy idea, but for thousands, it’s actually worked.

Many students view setting up a campaign on popular crowdfunding sites such as HubbubGoFundMe, and Indiegogo as a last resort after exhausting all other options.

Though desperate, these students have also had their doubts as to whether they could raise enough money to support their studies.

Ellie Burch, 24, created a campaign on Hubbub to raise funds for her Master’s degree in Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths University, as she was ineligible for a postgraduate loan.

Burch decided to give the crowdfunding strategy a go after seeing the success of other students’ campaigns. Her initial target was to raise £20,000 from relatives, friends, and generous strangers.

However, as of July this year, she only managed to collect £2,468.

Back in April, she told the Guardian that she was worried about what others would think of her, saying: “There is a fine line between begging for money and genuinely asking people for help when you need it most.”

However, she added that crowdfunding was becoming more common among students unable to bear the full costs of their education.

“Over recent years, it has become an option that more and more students are having to explore. It is now an increasingly normal thing to do,” she said.

In an effort to not make it all about her, she also pledged to donate a percentage to cancer charity the Fountain Centre.

After observing the growing number of students setting up campaigns on GoFundMe, the site decided to launch its own scholarship.

“Getting an education in this country is brutally hard, and we saw that GoFundMe is starting to fill the gap and helping a lot of people,” said its CEO Rob Solomon, as quoted by USA Today College.

In September, GoFundMe held a contest and chose 10 students to receive a US$10,000 scholarship each.

Bezaleel Balan, an Architecture and Urban Design graduate student at University of California, Los Angeles, was one of those lucky students.

The final year student said she was shocked to find out that she had been awarded the scholarship.

“I’m just so thankful for this opportunity. Sometimes it’s hard to pay for school, it’s hard to find the confidence to keep trying to be in school because of how much it costs and the fear of being able to pay it back.

“This changes my life, all because some people gave me a chance,” she said.

According to Solomon, GoFundMe donations for college fundraisers total more than US$1.5 million a month, and more than US$40 million has been raised for college expenses since the site was founded.

Keen on giving crowdfunding a try? Here are some tips on how to run a successful fundraising campaign:

1) Lead with a strong pitch

There are loads of other students with fundraising campaigns, so why should people donate to you? It’s all about the pitch – share a bit about yourself, like your background, why you want to study, and what you hope to achieve in the future. And try to make it as genuine as possible. You may even want to channel some of your donations to your favorite charity, so that it’s not all about helping yourself.

2) Set a realistic goal

If your target is set too high, some people may be disinclined to donate.

3) Get the word out

You can’t just rely on friends and family to help you reach your goal, so be sure to spread the word. This should be even easier in the age of social media, as you’ve got many platforms to reach out to more potential donors. You can even come up with an original hashtag.

4) Track your progress

Engage with people by sharing regular updates. You can keep a blog or post video updates to keep the momentum of interest going.

5) Offer rewards

If you’re good with art or handicrafts, perhaps you could consider offering trinkets or drawings for backers as a sort of incentive.

6) Keep it short

Limit your campaign to four to six weeks, as any longer than that may give potential contributors an excuse to put off donating, which often results in not contributing at all.

Image via Shutterstock

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