Why It Worked - Young & Free Alberta Scholarship Program

In light of yesterday's show with Kelsey and Sacha from Young Free Alberta, where it was revealed that they received over 240 applicants and 220,000 votes, I thought it would be interesting to delve into why I feel this program has been so successful.

I didn't do any direct work on this project - I was aware of it, but not privy to the many conversations that surrounded the planning, inception and creation of it.

Scholarships in the finance community aren't anything new - as a matter of fact, while I was making the transition from high school to college, I applied for many and received a scholarship from a local bank.

However, the majority of the scholarships I applied for were merit-based - that means that the dominating factor in choosing the winner was GPA. A handful of students at my high school received the bulk of those scholarships, and even though I wasn't a poor student by any stretch of the imagination, I just couldn't compete with the top two percent in a 600+ class.

By taking a tack that has been successful with previous Young & Free competitions, and doing it on a huuuuuuge scale - 30 people will receive $1000 scholarships - this scholarship promo is one of the most successful pushes that I've seen in my (admittedly short) credit union experience.

The concept of non-merit based scholarships is nothing new - looking past grades and into more fluid, creative criteria is something many civic unions, religious organizations and national youth involvement leagues have been doing for a while.

One thing that the Y&FA team did differently was to include a social media aspect - create a 60 second video, and use whatever tools you have at your disposal to tell us why you deserve this scholarship. 

This leveled the playing field.

Not to say that merit based scholarships don't have their place - my motivation for making good grades throughout most of college was keeping my merit based scholarship, and I'm thankful for it.

However, by putting out the message that applicants don't need to be a genius, and don't need to have a perfect 4.0, they just bring what you've got to the table - this scholarship drive garnered a lot of attention from those who may not qualify for merit based scholarships. 

Think outside the box. Think of new, creative, awesome ways to reach out to all of the young people in your area. How has your credit union leveraged scholarships to give back to the community and engage? Tell us in the comments!



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