Intel goes inside student minds

A new scholarship program has students creating, customizing and collaborating on scholarship ideas through Wikipedia, for a shot at school funding and Dell notebooks.

Dell and Intel are engaging a broader cross-section of their back-to-school target market this term by having students define and design the scholarships they would like to apply for. By asking them to create, modify and collaborate with each other on a wiki, through the new Wiki Scholarship Project, the brands are giving students the chance to customize their scholarships – much like their notebooks – using the very online tools they’re using anyway, for a chance to win $2,000 and a Dell notebook.

‘The big idea is that, for the first time, you could create your own scholarship, and you could work with your peers to define what the parameters would be for winning that scholarship,’ Doug Cooper, country manager, Intel Canada tells MiC. ‘Instead of voting on who would get [the prize], like many other similar contests,’ says Cooper, ‘they’re all collaborating in a true open-source way at defining what the right scholarship parameters would look like.’

From scholarships like ‘I need to get away from my mom’ to ‘The Well Rounded,’ ‘Ultimate Techie’ and ‘The Freshman 15,’ over 550 scholarships have been created since the site went live on June 1 – 400 in the first month alone. Cooper says that’s impressive, given that those numbers were achieved without a broad-reaching media campaign. Instead, Dell is reaching students through UTours. ‘They [UTours] already had a footprint within the Canadian colleges and universities, and had a lot of the best-known methods already nailed down in terms of engaging students in a way that would generate a lot of trust and was relevant to what they needed to do,’ explains Cooper.

‘The Wiki Scholarship Project is a scholarship students can relate to,’ UTours founder David Diamond tells MiC. ‘We have a ton of experience working with students, and had noticed a trend with them of wanting customized experiences,’ adds Cooper. ‘We combined something students need – money and computers for school – with the tools to let students collaborate to create a truly student-based scholarship program. The end result was the Wiki Scholarship Project.

‘The objective was to engage with students in this critical buying period, in a way that would be more natural for them,’ adds Cooper. ‘We know that technology is incredibly important to them; not only is it really important to the classroom, but it’s really a big part of how this age demo interacts with their peers and with the world around them.’

Aside from the interactive nature of the wiki, and plugs to the wiki scholarship site during UTours’ campus tours and booth meetings with prospective students, the project was also promoted virally through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter community page setups, as well as some targeted Facebook advertising. UTours developed the program’s creative, as well as its promotions and digital media buys. The co also has relationships with high school guidance counselors across the country for its work helping students to decide which schools to attend. Flyers promoting the Wiki Scholarship Project were sent to these counselors to distribute to their students in schools across Canada.

Students have until the end of this month to create and modify the scholarships, when a panel of judges – made up of Diamond, Globe and Mail‘s Globe Campus editor Simon Beck, Intel Canada marketing manager Nancy Demerling, Dell Canada consumer partnership marketing manager Greg Shelly and BC’s West Point Grey Academy career counselor Nancy Cromarty – will select the three winning scholarships based on innovation, intention and goals, as well as on how broadly applicable they are, and award their authors each with Dell notebooks (powered by Intel, of course).

Once the three scholarships are selected, students can return and apply for them on Aug. 8 for their chance to win one of three $2,000 cash prizes for school and a Dell notebook, awarded in early September.

‘The Wiki Scholarship Project is a great example of a community coming together to help each other through technology,’ says Cooper. ‘With the wiki, we have given them a reason to stay involved, to create and modify and visit the site more than once. I think the fit [with Dell/Intel brand positions] is actually quite good because the beauty of the use of the wiki is that it allows for a large amount of customization, and that’s really what the Dell brand stands for – the ability to ‘tailor your own, create your own notebook.’