Applying for college intimidates many a high school junior and senior. Getting an acceptance letter is only part of the complicated, daunting process. There's securing financial aid, getting into a dorm, registering for classes, buying books.
But not everyone makes it that far. Maybe college is a financial burden. Maybe no one in the family has ever gone before and the application process holds them back. What if you get to college and don't have a support structure in place?
Author Dave Eggers wanted to tackle these problems head on: In 2010, he founded ScholarMatch, a program that helps low-income and first-generation students apply to college and also creates a support system to increase the odds they graduate. ScholarMatch started small, helping 39 students by crowdfunding scholarships. In 2016, they assisted 698 students—97% of whom are on track to graduate.
These scholarships are donation-based and are awarded to eligible ScholarMatch students who have participated in their college access programming. Donors are matched with an individual student and receive update letters twice a year so that they can learn more about who their money helps.
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Send New Stripe Charges into Airtable as New Rows
Powering their crowdfunded scholarships is a Zap—a bridge between two apps—connecting the online payment processor Stripe and Airtable, the spreadsheet and database organizer. When new charges come through Stripe, app automation tool Zapier adds the charges to a specific Airtable database.
Zaps play a vital function at ScholarMatch. They help automate a ton of tasks between our various Airtable bases and Gmail.
Courtney Lee, Evaluation, Operations, and Research Associate
This Zap sets off another: Once donations in Stripe are added to rows in Airtable, an email is automatically sent from Gmail to the donor, thanking them for their contribution. This combination enables ScholarMatch to track donations and email donors no matter the time of day or the frequency of contributions.
Track Feedback with Gravity Forms
Expanding their services, ScholarMatch analyzed 1,400 colleges and universities across the United States to launch ScholarMatcher. ScholarMatcher's aim is related to ScholarMatch's but dives a bit deeper; focusing on students from households making less than $50,000 a year, ScholarMatch rates approximately 300 colleges for "most supportive environments for students."
To improve this tool, ScholarMatch collects feedback from the students using it with Gravity Forms, a WordPress-based form. When a student submits their feedback, detailing what they liked, features to add, etc., ScholarMatch pushes that information into a different board on Airtable.
"[Our] Zaps relay information from surveys of the students we serve to our program team, helping our team be on top of student concerns," Courtney Lee, Evaluation, Operations, and Research Associate at ScholarMatch, explains.
With each college application submitted, each dollar raised, and each student supported through graduation, ScholarMatch works to efficiently end the cycle of poverty through higher education.
All images courtesy of ScholarMatch.