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Everything You Need to Know About Scholarships

by Candice Grobler

When applying for tertiary studies, most people get very excited about trying to win a scholarship. But, what is a scholarship and how can it help YOU to get ahead in your studies? We’ve done some research to help clue you up…

Scholarships, what are they?

Scholarships are payments awarded to students based on outstanding academic achievements, or because they have met all requirements set out by the scholarship sponsor. There are 2 main types of scholarships that you can apply for:

Full scholarship: A payment that covers all of your tuition and textbook fees.  It potentially even provides a monthly stipend to cover your living expenses.

Partial scholarship: This could be a smaller payment that must go towards your studies. The total scholarship amount is often stipulated along with the application requirements.

Scholarships vs. other funding

How does a scholarship compare to other funding options?

 Awarded based on:Payment towards:Repayment?Competitive
ScholarshipsOutstanding academic achievement or other sponsor requirements

·       Tuition

·       Textbooks

·       Living expenses

Student LoansFinancial suretyYou choose how to spend itYesNo
BursariesMeeting sponsor requirements

·       Tuition

·       Textbooks

·       Living expenses

Sometimes a form of repayment is required. Such as working back the same number of years the company paid for tuition.No
Financial AidFinancial need

·       Tuition

·       Textbooks

·       Living expenses


Strict subject-related requirements

(often only at postgraduate level)

·       Tuition

·       Specific research opportunities

·       Conventions/conferences


What’s the catch?

Awarded scholarships are often only awarded for the year of study that you applied for. However, there is often a process which you can follow to re-apply for your scholarship each year. This helps your sponsor determine that you still deserve the scholarship because you still meet their requirements.

Some sponsors may take away your scholarship if you fail to continue to qualify for its requirements.

If you are awarded multiple scholarships and bursaries, there will often be a limit on the total amount of funding that you can accept. This is done so that other students can also be given an opportunity to receive funding.

How can you qualify for a scholarship?

Most scholarships are awarded based entirely on achieving outstanding academic results, but sponsors are able to add in other requirements that you may also have to meet. Some scholarships are awarded based on some of the following:

  • Gender
  • Religious affiliation
  • Socio-economic background
  • Voluntary work and social engagement
  • Sporting background
  • Financial need
  • Career path
  • Specific subjects/degrees

So, if you don’t specifically have outstanding academic results, don’t give up on applying or looking for scholarships, because there may be others that you can qualify for based on your background and extra-mural activities!

Hunting for scholarships

One thing, that you need to keep in mind, is that there are hundreds of scholarships out there! This means that you will have to spend hours researching to find one or two that you qualify for. Don’t let this discourage you, because putting in the time can be the difference between free education and having to get a student loan.

  • Where to look

The best place to find a scholarship that applies to you is to look at your university’s funding page. This will direct you to any scholarships that apply to most students at your university.

You can also do a general Google search for scholarships that apply to you. For instance, you could Google “Scholarships, SA citizen, BA degree”. This is where you could find scholarships that even your university is unaware of – which could really help you in the long run.

  • How to screen for the right scholarship

Make sure that you read the scholarship’s main information page. This should have an Eligibility or Requirements section which will tell you immediately if you qualify or not. This helps to speed up your search because you can focus on those scholarships which actually apply to you.Application Tips

  • If you don’t get awarded the scholarship in the first year that you apply – DON’T give up! Keep applying every year!
  • Looking for scholarships can get overwhelming and stressful, but don’t get discouraged if you find more scholarships that you don’t qualify for than those that you do. Just keep going!
  • If you have to write an application essay, be sure to get it proofread by someone who can do a good job
  • Use Microsoft Excel, or Google Sheets, to keep a list of all the scholarships that you’re interested in. These can help keep note of where you can find more information on the scholarships, deadlines as well as what you still need to do for the application process.

A place to start

To help you get started, here is a list of some of the biggest scholarship-providing sites in South Africa that can help you find funding:

EduConnect 2Cents

Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done

Louis D Brandeis.

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