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Eighty percent of university students work while attending college. Yet, 64% still take out loans to pay for their degree. As the price of higher education skyrockets, it would seem there’s little scholars can do to minimize costs and afford college on their own.
That’s where education sponsors come in. Private donors, nonprofits and corporations have a lot to offer students in terms of financial assistance. Thus, tapping into their resources might be the best way to pay for an education. So what is an education sponsor, exactly, and how do you go about getting one?
What is an Education Sponsor?
An education sponsor is an entity that invests in education-related programs. Often, wealthy individuals and organizations will become education sponsors to support student clubs and organizations. Others grant scholarships to individual students. However, only the scholars who explicitly ask or apply for such assistance will have a chance to receive it. Therefore, it’s essential that you take initiative and reach out to potential sponsors.
What Are the Benefits?
Education sponsorships are symbiotic relationships in which both the recipient and donor benefit. For students, the arrangement expands their network and increases their education and career opportunities. Meanwhile, donors enjoy more credibility and positive brand recognition. They might also benefit from your knowledge and skillset if they decide to hire you after you earn your degree. Of course, this development would be a huge perk for you, too, as it would jump-start your career and improve your chance of success in your field of interest.
Finding one or multiple education sponsors is especially advantageous to students who can’t afford a college education on their own. When needs and merit-based scholarships aren’t viable options, you either have to get a job or find someone who’s willing to pay for your degree. Studies show that students who work have lower grades and are more likely to drop out. Therefore, having a sponsor will give you a better shot at success.
Educational sponsorships are different from loans in that you won’t have to pay your sponsor back after earning your degree. Subsequently, you should graduate debt-free unless you took out loans for some other endeavor. Entering the working world without debt to weigh you down is a huge advantage. Instead of spending the first few years — or decades — of your career paying off loans, you can start building wealth right away and enjoy further success down the road.
1. Identify Prospective Sponsors
There are plenty of willing sponsors out there. You just have to know where to look. Often, the best place to start is online where you can find nonprofit organizations, private donors and corporations that already sponsor students. Just remember to review all of their eligibility requirements before submitting applications and letters. Otherwise, you risk wasting everyone’s time and missing out on assistance and opportunities for which you may actually qualify.
Nonprofit organizations are all about giving back to the community, which means they may be more willing to sponsor students like yourself. Make a list of local religious, political and social justice organizations that share the same values and passions as you. Have they sponsored scholars in the past? Who might you contact to learn more? Even those who don’t have an established sponsorship program may be willing to make a charitable contribution, so it never hurts to ask.
Many small businesses sponsor students, too. However, large businesses and national corporations offer larger scholarships more frequently because they have more revenue at their disposal. That’s why big names like Wells Fargo are top sponsors in the collegiate scene. Other companies like Google, Dell and Microsoft sponsor also sponsor students directly by granting deserving pupils various scholarships. If one of these companies shares some or all of your values or you could see yourself working there someday, apply for a scholarship or ask an employer to sponsor you.
Family and friends are great resources when it comes to finding a sponsor. However, they can just as easily become sponsors, themselves, so don’t hesitate to ask. Sure, asking loved ones for help — especially the financial kind — can be difficult. Yet, they may be more willing than most to graciously fund your personal and professional growth. Connect with immediate and extended family members and get in touch with close friends. You never know how much they’re able to help until you ask.
2. Write a Persuasive Letter
Once you narrow down your potential sponsors, write each one a letter introducing yourself. Describe your skills and passions and explain why you deserve sponsorship. What sets you apart from other students? How will your degree help you change the world? Refrain from asking for too much, but know your worth. Be realistic. You obviously want to get as much funding as you can, but you’ll have to be persuasive.
Explain the Benefits
Because an educational sponsorship is symbiotic, you’ll both benefit from the interaction. However, a busy executive may fail to recognize how a sponsorship might help them. They’re going to want a return on their investment, and you can reassure them by explaining the benefits. Remind them that, by donating their time and money, they’ll receive increased marketing connections, better brand recognition and a higher profit overall.
Proofread and Edit
Persuasive wording and a strong vocabulary will catch a potential sponsor’s attention and set you apart from most applicants. However, using proper grammar and punctuation is key to sealing the deal. Proofread your letters and ask a friend or family member to do the same. Then, wait a few days and edit again. Hand-write a final copy on letterhead in black or blue. Make a few copies and sign each one.
Try to find a specific person to whom you can address the letter. This way you don’t have to jump through so many hoops to end up on the right desk. More importantly, send your application well before the deadline. Some corporations and nonprofits have a predetermined amount of funding they use to sponsor students, and it usually runs out earlier in the year. Therefore, you’ll be more likely to score a sponsorship if you send letters sooner rather than later.
3. Follow Up
If you don’t hear back from potential sponsors within a week, follow up with an email or phone call. Maybe your letter got lost in the mail or it never ended up on the right desk. Even if it did get to the right person, they’ll likely appreciate a reminder to respond. Continue to inquire about funding until they give you a direct yes or no. It might feel like you’re being pushy, but your persistence will pay off when sponsors see how determined you are.
Whether they sponsor you or not, it’s essential that you express gratitude to everyone who took the time to consider supporting you. Send a quick but sincere thank you note in the form of a card or email. Then, outline your goals for the first year and distribute copies to everyone who’ll be funding your education. Doing so will show sponsors that you’re organized and determined from the start and give them confidence in your ability to deliver results.
Strive for Excellence
Scholarship recipients know that it’s not just about getting sponsors; it’s about keeping them. Many donors will renew their sponsorship each school year if the student turns proves themselves to be a high achiever. Therefore, you must stove for excellence from day one. Maintain good grades, get involved on campus and serve your community. Show them that you’re worth the funding and they might just grant you more.
The best way to ensure both you and your sponsor are benefiting from the arrangement is to maintain correspondence. Keep an open line of communication in the coming years and send them frequent updates to inform them of your progress. What are you learning in class? How will that knowledge help you succeed in the real world? Invite them to your graduation so they can celebrate your achievements and see the results of their investment first-hand.
How to Find Education Sponsors
A quick online search will likely reveal plenty of potential sponsors. However, if your efforts yield few options, talk to your advisor. They may know a business or donor with whom you can connect. Join student organizations that already partner with sponsors that share your values and passions. Then, ask your employer if they offer compensation packages or would like to fund you directly. If you work for a large corporation, they may already have a program in place that you simply aren’t yet aware of.
A Win-Win Situation
Finding an education sponsor is a win-win situation for both students and donors. However, you must take initiative quickly if you want to access funding and secure a bright future. Be confident and make as many inquiries as you can. After all, the worst they can say is “no,” so you have nothing to lose. Plus, if they say “yes,” they might even contribute to your earning a master’s or doctorate degree. Who knows.