CustomizedGirl Scholarship: Is This the Future of Funding Your College?
CustomizedGirl has offered a scholarship to aspiring college students for going on four years. With 2016, the company has opened up its unique submissions process to everyone — guys and girls — and they’ve also cut the one top prize of $2,500 to five equal prizes of $500 (for tax purposes).
While many of your peers will be busy writing lengthy application essays — and let’s be honest, you will, too, since $500 alone isn’t going to pay tuition — CustomizedGirl is offering a more streamlined method of getting on the board.
The company is inviting applicants to tweet an original statement to their Twitter account, so instead of doing 1,000 words, you could end up winning $500 for just 140 characters. Considering the average word has 5.1 letters … we’ll say five for the sake of simplicity … that means you could end up with a scholarship for just 28 words.
It’s a process that seems too good to be true, and while there are a few additional requirements for applying, they are all pretty simple. You just set up the tweet as directed, fill out a short form to go along with it, and bam, you’re in the running.
The full details are available at this link.
Previous winning statements have included, “Don’t be afraid to use glitter pens while writing your future”; “Live your life as if you had an infinite amount of confetti”; and “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
Simple enough, right?
It set us to wondering — is this the future of scholarship awards?
We would say, on the surface, “No. Not really.” However, that advice is given with a great deal of caution. While you’re probably not going to be paying for college entirely through the programs of sites like CustomizedGirl, the contest is a microcosm for what you should be doing as a student concerned about student debt.
Putting ourselves in your shoes, we went ahead and ran a search on Google with the phrase “tweet for scholarships.” What came up? Only 689,000 results. Not all of those results will be worth your time, admittedly, but just going down the first page, we found some interesting information.
First up, the Twitter 140 Scholarship.
Presented by CollegeScholarships.org, this process involves writing up two tweets — one with your “application essay” on a predetermined topic — how can we use Twitter to improve the world, for example — and another that tweets directly to @Scholarship with a link to the original tweet.
“Essay” examples include, “By making EVERYONE a producer of news. Crises are reported in REAL-TIME. The SOONER the world knows, the SOONER we can work 2gether 2 help”; “It allows people to share ideas and information freely and relationships to form without bias, which can enhance empathy and diplomacy”; “We can change the world using Twitter because it’s going to be one of the few places left where free speech is still sacred.”
This scholarship has issued past grand prize winners with $1,400 and runners-up with $140 apiece.
2. The Short and Tweet Scholarship
Unfortunately the deadline has passed for this year, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from following @Scholarshipscom on Twitter, for there is always next year. The setup is similar to what you’ll see from CustomizedGirl and Twitter 140. Three winners are selected — one grand prize and two runners-up. The GP winner last year received $1,000 while the two runners-up nabbed $200 each. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, go ahead and follow the group and begin watching for open enrollment in late May. (This last year it ran from May 28 to July 4, and contestants were allowed to enter as many times as desired during that timeframe.)
Ways to get disqualified — tweet longer than 140, submit entries after the deadline, submit entries without following the Twitter handle, or fail to answer the entire question. For 2016, the question was, “What was the most important thing you learned this year, and why?” Keep that in mind as you slog through the school year. The more you learn, the better equipped you will be to answer questions like these! For more information, make sure you check out the website here.
3. Tweet for Success Scholarship Contest
DialMyCalls is another scholarship provider you may want to add to your list for next year. Deadlines are generally in September with the 2017 date already announced as Sept. 18. Full entry details are not yet available as the 2016 period has closed, but the group will make announcements soon. For the coming year, DMC plans to make four $500 awards. Applicants must be high school graduates or GED equivalent and must be enrolled or planning to enroll in an accredited two- or four-year college. Students must also be legal U.S. residents and have a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Who is DialMyCalls? Founded in 2007 the group has become a leading provider of mass notification services to schools all over the USA and Canada. The tech allows schools to easily notify parents, teachers and students within seconds of emergency events, school closings and a wide variety of other important messages. With no hardware to purchase schools can send a phone call, text message (SMS), and email notification in an easy and affordable manner.
As you consider these scholarship opportunities, keep in mind that social media has expanded quite a bit since “tweet for scholarships” opportunities opened up. There are now other social networks to consider like Instagram and SnapChat. There is also the old mainstay of Facebook. Companies and organizations realize the power of promoting their brand and the appeal of offering prize money to help in the process. Don’t limit your search to Twitter alone. It may mean that you have to write more than 140 characters for some of these — or even ditch the writing and go with a photo/video submission instead — but it’s completely worth it when you consider the myriad ways that it opens up your college funding opportunities.
For some quick search tips on how you might be able to maximize the opportunities on social media, read on.
*Experiment with your keyword terms.
We used “Tweet for scholarships” through Google, but also experimented with “Twitter Scholarships,” “tweet to apply+scholarship,” and a variety of other combinations as they occurred to us. Make note of the way that a scholarship opportunity is presented. Some phrases that may not immediately occur to you are worth trying out as you experiment. Also, look at who is following the account and what accounts the scholarship presenter is following. Opportunities tend to piggyback onto one another, so you may be able to find a trove of other opportunities just through that function.
*Don’t restrict your search to Google.
Search engines will only take you so far when it comes to finding scholarship opportunities. If you’re wondering about platform-specific awards — like the “tweet to apply” scenarios above, or perhaps others tied to Instagram and SnapChat — go to the networks themselves and run a series of searches to see what’s out there. Also, capitalize on related searches and followers/following counts.
*Follow scholarship websites.
There are several great sites out there that make it their business to keep tabs on scholarship opportunities. Most of these offers will follow traditional rules of applications, so prepare to write a lot more than 140 characters. However, for the awards that they offer, you cannot afford to ignore them. Many provide $500, $1,000, and $2,500 awards, and some do it on a by semester or by year basis. Bookmark the sites themselves. Follow them on all their social media platforms. Position yourself to get in on the ground floor.
*Track all of your applications.
Let’s be frank. You’re not going to win everything you apply for. Completely unrealistic to think you will. But even the failures are important because they give you more and more comfort with the application process, and they allow you to make each new package stronger. Also, when you do have success, you’ll have a template for what to do right through other applications. The important thing is that you keep good records. Knowing what is out there, what you’ve heard back from, what you haven’t, and your wins/losses will place you in the best possible position moving forward. Record-keeping is everything. It can also help you mine for additional ideas throughout the application process and time period. Do it wisely.
*Check with companies as well as foundations.
Scholarships are not confined to the education-specific arenas. For a number of years, Kentucky Fried Chicken ran a “tweet to apply” scholarship where the top award was $20,000 over four years. They have since retooled that scholarship to focus only on those who work for them in lower-level positions, and the application requirements go beyond a simple tweet. However, it demonstrates that scholarship opportunities are all around you and not always in the most noticeable of places. Consider doing some searches for major companies in your area with the word “scholarship” attached.
There are literally thousands of dollars each semester that you may be leaving on the table. If it seems like a long shot to you, keep in mind that others are thinking the same way, and because of that, these opportunities may not have as many applicants as you would expect. If you’re the one who says, what the heck, I’m applying anyway, then you stand a much better chance than if you simply sat on the sidelines. Now, what are some of your favorite methods for finding these off-the-beaten path scholarships? Sound off in the comments section below.
(Featured Image by Uncalno Tekno/Flickr Creative Commons/Resized and Cropped/CC BY 2.0)