Lauren Ward, MSc and PhD Psychology, University of Northampton
Raising Funds for Fees, Maintenance, and to Organise Events
I am currently in my third year of my PhD, which is exploring how fire fighters manage emotion in their work.
My funding story began when I was working at a local supermarket, and about to hand in my undergraduate dissertation. I was worried about what I was going to do next, and after completing my degree, I applied for jobs and received rejection after rejection. I decided to continue my studies at the University of Northampton by doing an MSc in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. I lived by myself with my younger sister, and was concerned about how I would afford the fee instalments. I saved for the initial few payments but then worked hard to gain funding for charities/funding bodies. It was a risky move for me to start my course in such a precarious financial position, but I judged that I would stand a better chance of gaining funding once I had actually begun my course rather than telling charities 'I might do it'.
And so, I applied for funding from internal bodies within the university and charities external to it. Funding bodies will award money on the basis of a variety of different factors applicable to the candidate, and so it is important to apply to those that relate to your situation. I spent several days in the local library with the Educational Grants Directory, identifying which grants/charities would be applicable to me and my studies. For example, some charities make awards based on your age group, and your location. I gained funding from the Dorothy Johnson Trust and the Becketts and Sergeants' Educational Foundation on the basis that I was under 25 years old and lived in Northampton. Other charities award you funding largely on the basis of need; in my case, this helped me gain awards from the Sidney Perry Foundation, and Northampton University's own Chancellors Fund.
I sent over 50 letters to a variety of different charities and kept track of responses using a spread sheet. If I didn’t receive a response, I sent another letter. The main challenge I experienced was the time it took to send initially enquiry letters and fill out application forms that they sent back if they deemed your situation applicable. I also found it difficult to talk/write very openly about the difficulties I was currently experiencing (i.e. being a carer, low income, working several jobs) which led me to apply for funding. However, for charities to support you it is important to be honest and open; they need to know about your situation to adequately justify giving you their financial support.
As a PhD student, I also became heavily involved within the department. One of my proudest achievements was organising a free, one day student conference, for early career researchers (postgraduate and undergraduate) titled the Psychology of Emotion and Feeling. This also included the publication of an open access journal, as well as blog and website. To organise it, £2,000 was secured from various funding bodies (including the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group) and the university itself. Over 150 students, from several countries, attended the conference.
In total, I have managed to secure over £8,000 funding. This enabled me to do an MSc and PhD, support others to produce research, and organise a conference. I hope the main message from my experiences is to never give up, particularly if funding is your ‘only’ barrier. I also felt that studying locally was a particular help in my case, enabling me to apply to many local charities. Studying continually at the same university from Bachelor's to PhD also ensured that lecturers grew to know me and realised my motivation for my subject. This networking also afforded me several ‘money making’ opportunities within the university, such as marking, a PhD Studentship, and now a research post.
I hope my story has demonstrated the importance of motivation and determination when seeking financial aid. I wish you all the luck in your educational journey, and am more than happy to be contacted for advice/support.