Rebecca Band, PGCE, Goldsmiths University of London
Funding for PGCE to supplement a loan
At the age of 27 after working 6 years in the charity sector and (for the most part) hating my job, I decided it was time to change careers; so I signed up to do PGCE Teacher Training. Unlike many other post-degree studies, PGCE students are eligible for government funding meaning I got a loan to pay for the £9000 tuition fees and cover maintenance for about 5 months. But, as I was going to be out of work for a year, even this large loan left me with a huge shortfall.
I started to research alternative fundraising and it didn't take me long to find the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding Online, where I learnt all about charity awards. Initially I thought that I couldn't apply - I felt I wasn't worthy enough, that I wasn't poor enough, or that I wasn't smart enough. But it just simply wasn't the case. After reading some of the other success stories here I was inspired and having been through the process myself, I truly believe that there is funding out there for everyone who needs it.
The trick with charity awards I think is to firstly work out your different niches: things that might make you a bit different from the norm of students (such as your age, area you live in, beliefs, ethnicity, subject, family history etc). It is then simply a case of finding trusts where the eligibility seems to match these niches. Then send out as many initial enquiry letters as you can. I must of sent at least 50 to date and I plan to send more.
So far I have been successful in securing £1000 from the Sarum St Michael Education Charity, £200 from the Aldworth's Educational Trust and £1650 from The Queen Mary Foundation. The last trust was actually recommended to me by another charity I had contacted where I was not a suitable candidate. So it goes to show that even if you are not sure it is worth trying as you never know where it will lead.
To supplement the charity awards I also looked into other ways I could make or save money. I have a 2 hour commute every day and I wanted to make the most of it. So I used this time to look for deals online to keep my expenses cheap and sometimes filled in online surveys which you can collect points for to swap for shopping vouchers. I also do a lot Comping (entering free online competitions in bulk) which has worked out to be the most successful use of my time. I set up a new email account, then set up autofill on my computer and use forums where competitions are posted to enter as many as I could during my commute. So far I have won a laptop which will be really useful for my course, £200 in supermarket vouchers, cinema tickets and two free dinners which means I can save money elsewhere plus on top of all of that I won a holiday (not so useful for my course but I'm certainly looking forward to it!).
Just like applying for charity awards, being successful in things like Comping or searching for deals online comes down to one thing - persistence! People keep telling me I'm lucky and I always reply 'it's hard work being lucky'. For every success I've gained I have worked hard for it. This is my top tip when looking for funding. Keep trying and don't give up. Persistence really does pay off.
We particularly applaud Bex for using Comping to support her studies. This is an example of another highly innovative approach that can supplement charity awards.