Conferences & festivals are expensive. They are expensive to organize and thusly, expensive to attend.
If, however, you choose wisely on where to spend that money, the results are beyond worth it. Conferences and festivals provide opportunities to showcase your work, interact with industry professionals, and meet your peers from across the globe. You can learn A LOT about your craft and field, and (ideally) have a hell of a good time doing so!
While we here at TERMINUS do everything we can to keep costs down for you, we know it would make things a lot easier if you can get some help covering costs. It's important to know that your school is in no way obliged to help - but that the odds are in your favor. They want to support their students and it's at conferences that you can bring accolades and recognition to your school. More importantly, conferences provide valuable educational and professional benefits that you can in turn share with others when you return to campus. The value of a student's single experience can compound exponentially.
So now, without further ado - a handy guide to helping you find and secure school funding.
Step 1 - Find the money
The likely candidates are Student Government (SGA's), academic departments, school media relations teams, and student organizations (like student run clubs and Greek Life). You'll want to approach as many of those as possible, since it may take more than one to cover all of your costs.
Every school, department, and organization has a different process. Usually involving good amount of paperwork and in some cases, presentations. We recommend searching your school's website for keywords like "conference funding," "conference grant," "professional development support," and "conference support," to start. You can also go directly to the source by contacting the department head for your major or one of your professors. Ask if they provide any financial support to students attending conferences. On a peer level, you can reach out to the president of your student organization, or a member of SGA to ask the same. All of those people should be able to tell you all about the process, provide application documents, and hopefully give you some advice.
Step 2 - Get The Blueprints
Now that you've got the details on the process for requesting money, you can start acquiring all of the information and documentation you'll need. It's this information you'll need to demonstrate why you specifically should be given the money, how the money will be spent, what you'll get out of attending, and the value you can bring back to campus.
You'll want to tally up the costs to attend. Make sure you itemize them so the school can see exactly where their money is going. These costs usually include:
- Badges / Tickets
- Other Travel costs (Lyft/Uber)
- Mileage if you're driving
You'll then need to detail all of the benefits you hope to get out of the conference and concretely explain how you'll be sharing those benefits with your school. For example: You'll be attending workshops on narrative game design taught by professionals from Ubisoft and plan on presenting what you've learned at your game developers club meeting, complete with pictures and videos. Or, your CMF film is competing at TERMINUS which means you'll be screening your work, participating in Q&A's, and find out if you win awards and prizes, and you plan on contacting school and local press about this honor to bring visibility to your school and your program.
You'll want to build a complete picture of what you're getting out of your attendance. In the case of TERMINUS, tell them you'll have access to over 180 hours of educational and professional programming, including hands-on workshops and panels with working industry professionals. Our event provides a focus on topics and skills you may not learn in school, in an environment that places students like you at the center of attention. Of the many conferences out there, TERMINUS was created and produced with young creators in mind. Because of that, we offer access and opportunities that other events don't. You'll be a big fish in an appropriately sized pond. Plus, there are tons of opportunities to showcase your work, network with peers from across the country, make connections with industry professionals and maybe even take home an award or two!
Take a look at this sample Justification Letter to get a sense of what you'll be asked to submit.
Step 3 - Execute
Now it's time to submit! Be sure to get a fresh pair of eyes to review your application for grammar and typos and double check that you've followed all of the proper protocols. Keep in mind this process can take some time, so it's best start all of the above as soon as possible.
Lastly, a handful of helpful tips...
Show your face. Meaning you should meet with and have in person conversations with the decision makers. Some schools will require a presentation. Imagine walking into a room where you know one or two of the people beforehand. All because you reached out ahead of time, asking questions and getting advice. Never underestimate the value of face-to-face interaction.
Focus on the value. Yes, you'll have a great time. That's definitely a benefit. The true value of a conference is how it helps further your educational and professional career - and that's what your school will care about most. So always ask yourself, "how does this help me and how does it help my school?"
Diversify your outreach. As we mentioned earlier, some departments only pay for a portion of your trip. So it's best to approach all the avenues available to you. Get some money from SGA, some from your department, and some from the organizations you're a part of, and that can add up quickly. If that still isn't enough, try reaching out to your community. You'd be surprised how many will respond to positivity, and want make an impact in a young person's life by providing them with a unique opportunity.
Buy in Bulk. Most conferences offer group discounts. TERMINUS gives discounts on badges and hotel rooms for groups of 4 or more. If you can show your school that they can get a good deal, AND simultaneously provide opportunities to more students, that's what they call a win win.
Promote yourself. Reach out to your school newspaper and the local interest sections/departments of your local news. Tell them about what you're trying to achieve and why. Human interest stories go a long way, and schools always appreciate positive publicity!
We hope that helps! If you have any questions, or tips of your own we can share with students to secure school funding, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.