By Jake Huffcutt —

It’s common knowledge that college is far more expensive than it once was, and students are struggling to keep up with inflating costs. Students who have to take out student loans are being hit especially hard.

A June 2014 edition of The Economist reported that nearly 40 million people in the United States currently have college debt, equaling $1.2 trillion in owed loans. Seventy-one percent of students who graduated in 2012 currently have loan debt, and the average student graduating in 2015 will have to pay back over $35,000.

Female students are being hit even harder. It’s more difficult for women to pay back their loans, since statistically they only receive 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts receive in the workforce according to a September 2014 edition of The Huffington Post.

Even though college costs are going up, student aids and grants are not going up at the same rate, making scholarships ever more important.

One notable scholarship that female students can take advantage of is the 1000 Dreams Scholarship. Established in 2014, the fund aims to provide one-time educational assistance for women with needs for conferences and training, college or graduate school exam fees, tutoring services or technology and books needed for school.  Since its launch, the fund has awarded 20 students with up to $1000 in funding to support these needs.

In October the organization announced its first ever 1000 Dreams Challenge, a four-week long social media photo captioning campaign. Those interested in participating simply need to submit a photo that shows how they are living their career or professional dream on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Along with the photo, entrants are encouraged to include a caption that best describes what they are doing with their professional life. The 1000 Dreams fund’s social community and social media followers will then vote on the most inspiring photo submission.

From there the top five photos will become finalists from which the 1000 Dreams team will choose one $1000 grand prize winner and two runner ups who will receive $500 each.  These winners will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

The 1000 Dreams fund is run through the online magazine U-Chic, which was established by professional entrepreneur and retailer Christie Garton in 2008. Garton clarified on her website that, “I am forever awed by the potential and promise of young women I meet… That’s why I believe so strongly in our mission. We’re funding those early-stage goals and dreams that can change lives. I don’t want anyone to have any barriers to their success. That is why I have created U-Chic.”

Garton has had her work appear in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post and US News and World Report.

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