What is a scholarship?

What is a scholarship?

Okay – let’s start off with the easy stuff.



A grant or payment made to support a student’s education, awarded on the basis of academic or other achievement.

Basically, scholarships are financial help given to students while studying. Sometimes a scholarship is a one-off payment. Sometimes it can be an ongoing payment given to students each semester or year.

Everyone loves extra cash, right? And that’s what a scholarship is. Money for you to put towards your studies.

In some cases, the scholarship will set out exactly what you can spend the money on (for example: accommodation, textbooks or work placements). But other times, the scholarship funds can be used however you like.

The main thing to know: your scholarship money isn’t a loan – so it doesn’t need to be repaid.


Where Do Scholarships Come From?

Scholarships come from a variety of different sources, including clubs, organizations, charities, foundations, businesses, colleges and universities, the government and individuals. Colleges and universities offer financial assistance in the form of merit aid as well, so don’t forget to contact the schools you are considering to see if you qualify for any merit aid.


What Are the Main Sources of Scholarships and Grants? 

There are four major types of free money available to college applicants. Here are the four main sources of scholarships and grants, and the percentage of total grants and/or scholarships that comes from each source:

  1. Federal grants: 47%
  2. State grants and scholarships: 8%
  3. Scholarships and grants from schools: 35%
  4. Private scholarships: 10%

When searching for money, it’s important to know where to look for help and what grants and/or scholarships you might qualify for. Here is a breakdown of what each type of assistance offers:

What are scholarships awarded for?
Piggy bankMost often, schools award scholarships to students who demonstrate outstanding ability or excellence in a particular area, such as sport, music, creative and performing arts or peer leadership. But they are not just restricted to those with excellent abilities. Others are reserved for relatives of past pupils, those in financial need, those from rural or isolated areas, or those who need to board but cannot afford the costs involved. They often cover the basics, like tuition fees, but can also cover materials such as textbooks, musical instruments, uniforms and school excursions.

The number of scholarships awarded at each school varies. Scholarship duration may also vary. Some may last the full six years of secondary school while others will only be offered over a period of one year or to Year 11 and 12 students only. These senior scholarships might be used to encourage students to stay on at the school or to continue studies in specific areas such as agriculture, languages, sports or information technology.

Many, if not all, boarding schools offer scholarship and bursary funds to both high-achieving students and to those who could not afford to attend the school without financial assistance. See Boarding Schools for more information.

Where Can I Find Scholarships?
The financial aid office at your school is likely equipped with tools and resources to help you or your child apply to scholarships. It may have libraries of books, catalogs, or postings of scholarships, and computers you can use to search or prepare application materials.

Person searching for scholarships online and in booksThere are also many websites devoted solely to searching for and finding scholarships, with a vast range of features and databases. It is useful to conduct a few broad searches on large government-sponsored databases to get an idea of the types of scholarships available, but remember that the goal is to find scholarships that are looking for applicants like you. Additionally, we offer a Scholarship Search tool that you can utilize to find quality scholarships that apply to you.

If a website or search engine offers advanced search functions, do limit your search terms, but be creative as well: think of synonyms for terms you search and try multiple combinations of words and phrases depending on your output results (if, for example, you are looking for scholarships that give money to young equestrians, you might also try “horseback riding,” “rodeo,” and “jockey”). It can’t hurt to consult a thesaurus for synonyms just to be thorough. You might even reveal niche scholarships you’re eligible for that you hadn’t thought of in the first place.

An often overlooked method of finding scholarships is to actually take the initiative and ask around. Member of a club or association? See if they offer any scholarships. For example, your school’s alumni association may be inclined to help those from their alma mater. How about your employer? Ask HR to see if there is a tuition assistance program in place or if the company would be inclined to sponsor your education if it benefits the company. Lastly, anyone who is familiar with your personal strengths such as an advisor, teacher, or family friend is a great source as well.

Finally, be wary of scams that you may come across in your scholarship search. Some red flags are websites that “guarantee” you’ll receive a scholarship with their aid, have scholarships with no qualification requirements, or charge you any type of fee for their services. A true scholarship-giving organization will not expect you to pay money to receive an award.

Is it worth applying?

Yes – provided it is a school that you actually want your child to attend and you are realistic about the possibility of not being offered a scholarship. That is, you should have a back up plan so that your child has surety about their next year/s of schooling. Remember, it will usually cost you a fee to apply ($50 to $200) and if this is a barrier then consider whether that school is right for you; if the scholarship application fee is an impost it is likely the other ongoing costs may be a burden and place unnecessary stress on your family.

You should also consider the scholarship criteria – be realistic about your child and their strengths and weaknesses. Excelling at one thing is usually a good start but many schools now require more than just strong academics or great sport skills. A good example of the type of scholarship criteria that a progressive organisation will demand comes from the Tuckwell Scholarship offered at the Australian National University:

Receiving a Tuckwell Scholarship is not just about your intellect. It is about your desire and determination to use your natural abilities to realise your full potential so that you can make a difference in the world. Scholarships are awarded based on four criteria:

academic potential and achievements to date;
other significant achievements to date, of any type;
demonstration of the Attributes of a Tuckwell Scholar; and
a desire to eventually give back to Australia.
All criteria will be assessed in the context of your school and family life.

Finally, how committed will you and your child be to ensuring that you meet any Scholarship obligations? For example, some scholarships will require that your child gives first priority to the school sports team or music program over any outside organisation or selection in State or Nationals type events or performances.

The scholarship process can be a positive one for parent and child. Sitting the test or attending an interview can be good experience for future interview scenarios and if you are open to more than one school option, you may uncover a school for your child that is a great match even without a scholarship.

There have been many successful business owners like: Steel Detailing or Online reputation Management Australia that have received scholarships and turned that into  SUCCESSFUL business.

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