Top 9 things to look out for when choosing your scholarship or bursary

Planning for your child’s study can be daunting, especially when it comes to shopping around for scholarships and bursaries. Getting your child onto the right path will be one of the most important ways you can set them up for life and while it can be tempting to look for the scholarship opportunity with the highest dollar value or at the closest school, there are other factors you’ll need to consider as part of the scholarship or bursary research process.


To help, we’ve compiled nine things to consider when choosing a scholarship for your child:

1. Every school has different criteria
There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for scholarships – or their requirements. While there’s plenty in common across private high schools, such as their commitment to academic excellence, high quality co-curricular programs and strong values, every school will offer something slightly different. The requirements for their scholarships or bursary programmes will vary too. To give your child the best chance of being awarded a scholarship, make sure you’ve found a school and a scholarship that’s going to be the right fit. Look closely at the requirements to make sure that your child satisfies as many of the requirements as possible, before shortlisting applications and use your time wisely.


2. Every scholarship has different terms
Building on the last point, it’s important to remember that the terms and conditions for each scholarship will vary. Some schools offer full scholarships, while others may offer a single-year or discounted fees. Some cover tuition costs alone. Parents need to look out for the scholarship or bursary that will best suit them and their children, so before you apply, make sure you understand what each scholarship offers. The differences can be subtle but important!


3. Factor in entry fees
For some schools, the scholarship application process can be costly – as high as $300, which can add up if you’re making multiple applications across a range of schools. When the fees for some of State’s top private high schools can exceed $35,000 per year, a $300 application may be worthwhile if your child gets a full or even part scholarship. Make sure you’ve prepared for this and have done your research into each application to ensure that it’s worthwhile.


4. Scholarship or bursary?
Sometimes the words ‘scholarship’ and ‘bursary’ get used interchangeably, which can cause confusion. Scholarships are awards of financial aid, unique to each school and often judged on merits including academic performance, student character and values. Scholarships generally offer the remission of all or part of your tuition fees for a period and don’t have to be paid back. A bursary is a kind of scholarship, but ‘means-tested’. Bursaries are there to help families who may have financial difficulties meeting the cost of tuition fees from their preferred school; a confidential questionnaire may be required to demonstrate financial need on application. Because the terms for each school vary, either or both options may be available to you, so keep your eyes open for opportunities.


5. Forward thinking
Did you know that most independent schools advertise their scholarships a full two years in advance? While it can seem like a long time to be looking ahead, the 2021 school year is closer than you think and ensuring you have the best chance for 2021 scholarships is a matter of forward planning. Start by investigating what opportunities are available nearby; understanding each scholarship’s requirements will help you prepare an effective application for your preferred school.


6. Planning your route
Consider how far away the schools are and plan potential travel routes. Calculate the respective leaving, drop-off and pick-up times and ask yourself if these are reasonable and practical. A longer commute can negatively impact time allowed for homework to be completed and for family time. If public transport is an option, that can lift some of the burden – though it will still likely mean early starts, especially if you’re travelling from a distance.


7. Which school has the best facilities?
Making sure there are opportunities to excel and grow during these formative years can set up a student on the right path for life. Ideally your new school will offer a diverse range of well-supported facilities to cater to a range of students’ abilities and interests. If your child has shown excellence in swimming, for example, it makes sense to focus on schools with swimming facilities and the right staff, or at least a well catered-to swimming programme that indicates strong support (e.g. access to pools and swimming competitions). Equally, however, you’ll want to keep an eye on other sports and cultural programmes that suggest the school fosters diversity and excellence across students’ lives.


8. Looking at the bigger picture
While private schools undoubtedly foster academic excellence and strong values and provide great student support, they’re also the testing ground for the kind of person your child will become.
That’s why it’s important to look beyond a dollar value on what each school’s scholarships offer and to see how else the school will nurture personal development. Look for whether there are social student clubs to engage with. How active is the school in the community? How does each school reward and value its students? How do they acknowledge and celebrate individual achievements? These can be big questions to try and answer, but you can get a sense of the spirit of a school by visiting the campus. From there, you can decide whether it will provide the challenge and support necessary for your child to grow and develop.


9. Explore other scholarship types and apply for as many as you can!
Scholarships are there to be taken. Sometimes they’re generously endowed by supportive members of the community; other times they may be a welcome and encouraging hand offered by the school itself. In any case, the door is open to the right students. Make sure you’re considering any and all scholarships and bursary opportunities you can to increase your chances of being successful.

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