You’re coming to the end of your undergraduate degree and quite frankly you’re no closer to deciding what you want to do with the rest of your life than when you first arrived at university. You’d quite like to study a Masters or Postgraduate degree but after checking out the tuition fees you feel a little bit sick. Don’t panic just yet! According to the creator of The Alternative Guide to Funding they managed to raise £50,000 throughout their PhD. I raised nowhere near that amount, I raised £5,800 through a combination of charity funding, a scholarship and work. I also started my journey into securing funding fairly late, so it’s not to say that you wouldn’t be able to raise several thousand more. That’s where hopefully this blog can help you out a little bit from the experience of someone who had just gone through raising alternative funding for a Masters degree. Here are my tips:
- Start early! I say this because I wish I had started earlier. I had so much more charities/trusts I could have applied to and I also missed quite a few deadline dates but at the time I wasn’t quite sure whether I would go back to uni or pursue a full-time job. By early I’d say the beginning of your last year of uni, that gives you a whole year to do your research and start contacting charities.
- First things first, before you delve into the labyrinth of alternative funding, check what Postgraduate funding your uni offers or the uni you’re planning on going to has. Some universities will offer loyalty type scholarships to add an incentive to doing your Masters there. For example, to celebrate the centennial year, my first university was offering to pay the full tuition fees for (current) undergraduates who received First class degrees and a £4,800 reduction to those who achieved a 2:1.
- Check if your university has paid for a license for its students to have access to the Alternative Guide to Funding If your university doesn’t provide it, I believe it would be worth you purchasing online access or a hard copy yourself.
- Now you’re ready to start searching, it’s time to prep. You’re going to be researching and contacting a lot of different institutions so it’s worth keeping a record of who you have contacted, who you’re planning on contacting, if they have replied and what their decision was/how much they are willing to award you. I wish I had made a database on excel to keep track of who I’d contacted rather than scribbling on a notepad.
- Prepping part 2: buy a pack of envelopes and a book of stamps. As mentioned above you’re going to be sending a lot of letters. In addition to that, many charities ask for a SAE inside your letter. That way you’re increasing your chances of a reply having already paid for the postage and, believe me, a lot of institutions will not reply.
- Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves, you’re ready to start researching. If you have access to the Alternative Guide to Funding use the search engines to filter what charities/trusts you are eligible for. There are many different search engines that you can use so don’t stop there. Usually, the search engines are pretty futile. You can search in the Under 25’s or Over 25’s category, the U.K. or international and some sites search by subjects e.g. humanities. Obviously these are quite broad. You can also search by key words on some sites e.g. Wales, woman. Once you start researching you’ll probably be shocked by how niche some charities are, for example: The Vegetarian Charity offers small awards for vegans and vegetarians, The Leverhulme Trades Charities Trust offers funding to sons and daughters of pharmacists, grocers and travelling salesmen and The Forsyth Charity offers awards to people with the surname Forsyth! So it’s worth getting to know your family’s history; your grandfather’s early career working as a baker could earn you some money.
- If you’ve had enough of tirelessly searching through databases, a simpler way (definitely not cheating) could be to read other student stories which are available on the Alternative Guide to Funding Website. I found this really helpful because some students may share the same links e.g. same subjects, from the same area. You can also see what charities tend to respond and what charities tend to reject. I will write my own student story for you to browse in my next blog!
- You’ve started to fill up your own database with charities/awards you may be eligible for, now you need to start contacting them. I think a good way to approach this is to write a general letter of your current situation, your plans, finances and why the charity should give you the money and not someone else. Some awards that you may be eligible for will give an explanation of what the charity does etc. others will just show a name and address. General letters are useful for the latter, then you can tweak this to appeal to the charity that gives more information about their aim. For example, The James Pantyfedwen Trust awards grants to Welsh students, when applying to this charity you could gear your letter towards being Welsh, your possible plans to work in Wales or what you’ve done in your community or how you would give back to Wales.
- A useful thing to think about when topping up your savings is work. Now this seems obvious but what you could try is applying to temporary jobs around your university. Keep a check on the student’s union and university websites. Surprisingly to me, I found that there were plenty of temporary weekly jobs that cropped up around results time and enrolment time. For example, I worked on the university’s clearing helpline during A-Level results for a week which earned me a decent £300. Keep an eye out for leafleting for companies around freshers’ week, helping out with handing out I.D. cards at enrolment or giving campus tours to new students. Take advantage of your experience as a uni student.
- Patience is key. I will say that attempting to secure funding isn’t an easy task. You will be rejected. A lot. That being said, it’s nothing personal, it’s normal, it happens to many people as many charities only have a small pot of money. On the other hand, there are so many charities/trusts to apply to and if you start early it gives you more time to work with. Some charities will only want to see a general covering letter, others may want an essay on a particular subject. What most charities do want to know is your financial background so don’t be shocked when they ask your income and outgoings.
Thank you for reading my guide! Please comment below if you are a Postgraduate student that has any helpful hints or, alternatively, share and like if you found this blog useful or know someone who might find this useful. I hope to write my own student story which will hopefully give you somewhere to start!