Getting accepted into one of the most prestigious universities in the world was only half of the battle for recent Rutgers University graduate Chinwe Oriji.
"I never felt like I was good enough to go to this school," Oriji said of the University of Cambridge. "I went to my adviser's office and he told me I should apply there. I told him no because I never thought that I would get in. After a month or so of turning him down, I said okay, I’ll do it; and then I wound up getting accepted. I was so excited, I didn’t even think of how I would afford it."
The 22-year-old Nigerian born student now faces a close deadline to pay more than $45,000 in tuition and fees to the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, or risk giving up on her dream of becoming a professor.
On her own, Oriji raised a few thousand dollars through the pursuit of scholarships and generous support from family and friends, but that still wasn’t enough.
"So, I thought, what else can I do?"
When her efforts fell short of her fundraising goal, Oriji turned to crowdfunding.
Oriji launched a fundraising campaign through a free crowdfunding web site called Youcaring.com. The site allows people to create campaigns to raise funds for everything from education and tuition assistance to medical expenses and funerals.
Chief Executive Officer of crowdfunding company Click Start LLC Kendall Almerico says people using crowdfunding for unique pursuits, including education, is an increasing trend.
"The normal situation in crowdfunding is that people are looking to start a business or to fund a new invention, or something along those lines. But in the last year we’ve seen it branch off into all kinds of different areas," Almerico said.
"Tuition is really an interesting area because going out to the crowd and saying, 'I need you to help me with my tuition,' it’s really a unique thing. If you’ve got a compelling story, it’s amazing how kind people will be and how much they’ll come forward and help."
To date, 74 supporters have contributed $12,950 to Oriji’s campaign.
Almerico says Oriji’s $45,000 goal could be difficult to reach, but not impossible.
"It does depend on the situation, but if you look statistically across crowdfunding in general, 90-percent of crowdfunding campaigns are actually raising under $10,000. So the grand majority of people that are out there crowdfunding are not raising $45,000," he said.
"When you start getting up over $10,000--the number of people that successfully crowdfund--the percentage goes way down. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It all depends on what it is you’re out there doing. If it’s something that’s compelling, if it’s something that tugs at people’s heart strings, if it’s something that’s a good cause or a good idea, you could raise an unlimited amount of money."
Is Oriji's story compelling enough to raise $45,000?
Well, last year, Oriji graduated from Rutgers University with a double major in Africana Studies and Public Health. According to Oriji, her parents came to the United States in the mid-1980’s, with hopes of giving their seven children a shot at the 'American Dream.'
Oriji would be the first of her parents children to attend the equivalent of a U.S. Ivy League university and one of a very small number of students who make it through the admissions process at Cambridge.
According to the University of Cambridge, in 2010, 44,888 students applied for admission to the university; 12,035 of those applicants received offer letters. Only 10,204 of those applicants were admitted.
Oriji says she hopes her campaign will inspire others to consider crowdfunding for educational pursuits.
"I decided to do it because I felt like my story would be so relatable to so many people because I’m no different from anyone else in the sense that I’m just a normal girl who wants to go to school and learn to be a teacher. That’s something so many people want to do. So, I felt like if I put myself out there it would encourage and inspire somebody else to do the same," she said.
If she is able to attend and graduate from the University of Cambridge, Oriji plans to pursue a doctorate degree, and to become a professor and mentor to students like herself.
"I want to get my PhD and become a professor; and I want to pretty much teach what I’m researching and that is the identity of children of Nigerian immigrants in the diaspora. And I really just want to be a mentor for the students that I would be teaching," she said.
With just 11 days remaining to meet her goal, Oriji is staying optimistic, but she’s also making plans for what she can do if she doesn’t get all of the money that she needs.
"I’m being very hopeful," she said. "Right now I’m just speaking with their financial aid office to talk about maybe creating a payment plan or anything I can do to move forward."
Almerico is also hopeful that Oriji will meet her fundraising goal.
"$45,000 is doable," he said. "Will she get there, well I certainly hope so."