Crowdfunding: A Creative Way to Pay for Study Abroad

So you want to study abroad, but you don’t know how you will afford it.

You’ve talked to your parents and study abroad counselor, researched scholarships online, and you still come up financially short. Heartbroken and seemingly out of options, you turn to your social networks, pouring out your emotions in 140 characters or less:

My dreams are shattered. Study abroad is sooo expensive!!! #why #upset #stuckintheUSforever

But wait…is there a way that social media could serve as more than a way to vent? Could social media actually help you pay for your trip?

Enter crowdfunding, a type of social networking that can “help better cast-iron skillets and other big ideas become a reality,” a characterization conferred by Kate Murphy in The New York Times.

What Is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a growing trend among young adults that helps finance their projects, missions, and other big ideas. Websites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe provide users with a platform to request support for an idea fueled by passion but short on funds.

Crowdfunded projects can vary from technological inventions and arts productions to backpacking trips and birthday parties. Family and friends, new fans, and online philanthropists can browse through numerous campaigns and contribute money with just a few easy clicks. It’s a user-friendly way to bring philanthropy to the people through social media and to give individual projects a showcase so they can raise the funds they need to get started.

How Can This Help With Study Abroad?

Crowdfunding is becoming more common in education. Some colleges are incorporating their own crowdfunding platforms on their websites. Many universities use them to help students fund their projects, and some colleges even use the platforms to crowdfund scholarships. For example, you can find this on the Arizona State University crowdfunding platform, as well as the crowdfunding site used by Pepperdine.

For study abroad, the site that seems to be the most student-friendly is GoEnnounce, a crowdfunding platform geared specifically toward students and their academic missions. GoEnnounce has one of the lowest processing fees (only 3.5 percent per donation, as compared to four to nine percent elsewhere). It also allows instant access to contributions, as compared to other sites that release funds at the end of a project or only if 100 percent of the project cost is reached. Because the platform is also oriented toward developing a social network around the student's academic progress, sites like GoEnnounce help the student learn to promote herself and become more independent, much like study abroad programs help students cultivate similar skills.

How Else Can Crowdfunding Help?

Articulating the motives behind studying abroad can be an important step for a student. Crowdfunding helps build support in the student's family and social circles, and connects those people to the student's mission. It helps friends and family understand why the student wants to leave, and it allows them to become a part of the student’s experience. In addition to harnessing financial help, crowdfunding also generates moral support for the student as she prepares for the big transition of moving (temporarily) abroad.

Recently, a student named Kayla used crowdfunding so she could participate in a study abroad program in Peru. She was able to raise $2,250 from friends, family, and some outsiders. Once she was in Peru, she kept her followers and funders updated by using the social media functions of crowdfunding to share photos and news about her experience in Peru. She also wrote a summary review of her experience.

We often think of social media as a means of just being social, but social media tools are emerging as modes of sharing important milestones. Crowdfunding via social media also provides important lessons for students. Learning how to develop a mission, communicate the goals of that mission effectively, and share the story with loved ones is perhaps as beneficial as the financial support of crowdfunding.

And best of all, most crowdfunding sites are free to use, and they can help you raise some or all of the money needed to send you wherever it is you’re yearning to go. Don’t let anything — especially money — hold you back from an opportunity to travel the world and learn something new. Let the crowd help you make your dreams come true.