In the case of Toni Morgan, it helped her pay well over her tuition at Harvard University.
Morgan, like many others, couldn't afford the hefty $71,000 price tag of an Ivy League education. But she faces unique barriers to her education.
At age 14, she left her home in Toronto and battled with homelessness for four years.
She bounced from shelter to shelter, and eventually was kicked out of high school after an inconsistent attendance record and poor grades, which is not a unique situation to students who do not have stable homes.
In fact, homeless students are nine times more likely to repeat a class, and four times more likely to drop out of school, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
But Morgan focused on beating the odds.
Through telemarketing work, she eventually saved enough money to attend Ryerson University in Canada, where she earned her degree and upon her graduation, founded the nonprofit organization The Beat Academy, which seeks to advance young producers from around the world.
But Morgan, 32, saw her life change when she got an acceptance letter to Harvard.
Being an international student from Canada, paired with her background, made it difficult to obtain scholarships and financial aid, she told Aol.
She turned to GoFundMe, a popular crowdfunding site where she posted her story and a video for the public to see.
She set her goal to roughly $41,000 ($50,000 CAD), even though the full cost of the program amounts to $71,000.
I will graciously and humbly accept support that allows me to cover 100% of the funds I need to get to Harvard. If you're thinking about offering that level of support, I will be eternally grateful.
Thanks to some local publicity and the generosity of strangers, Morgan raised a total of $93,952 CAD, or $78,035.45, which exceeds her goal and covers GoFundMe's fees.
Morgan's plan at Harvard is to get a Masters in Education, focusing on non-traditional and alternative education to reflect her past, and hopes to make an impact.
In her latest update on her campaign, she writes:
What started as mission impossible has turned into a dream fulfilled. I'm having trouble uploading my video. So, the official update will come tomorrow. Until then, I hope you're relishing in the fact that you are now part of an international narrative about the possibilities that emerge when people come together. I am now living proof of that, and it's something that will shape and inform my work moving forward.