Scholarships: The Ultimate Guide!

By Jamon Windeyer in Tertiary Education
23rd of May 2016

University scholarships are, for many, a mysterious entity. Lurking off in the distance beyond the reach of the everyman. They are supposedly obtained only by “that brainiac” or “that sports superstar” or what have you. Essentially, most people think that they aren’t eligible for any sort of university scholarship. I know that is what I thought.

Turns out, that is totally untrue. There are a variety of scholarships, suiting a variety of different circumstances, degrees and students. Many of them are not as exclusive or specific as you may think they are.

I applied for a whole bunch of scholarships in my final year of schooling, and I was awarded 3. I was offered an Academic Excellence Scholarship at Western Sydney University, which I politely declined. Instead, I ended up attending the University of New South Wales, and received both an Academic Achievement Scholarship and a Coop Scholarship.

Did I ever picture myself eligible for these things? Nope. No way. But lo and behold, I looked and I tried my luck. I am very, very thankful that I did. Point being, don’t immediately rule out applying for a scholarship for the course of your choice. This guide will go through some of the info you need to know, focusing on the scholarships available for the “big” universities in NSW.

What Kinds of Scholarships Are Available?

In general, the scholarships offered by tertiary institutions can be separated into 3 categories:

  • – Academic Scholarships: These are awarded based on the academic achievements of the candidate. These are what most people think of when they think of a scholarship, but in fact they are just the tip of the iceberg.
  • – Co-Curricular Scholarships: These are awarded based on achievements, involvement, and personal qualities beyond just your marks. Leadership experience, work experience, sports achievements, personal qualities, etc. These scholarships are varied in what they ask of their candidates.
  • – Equity Scholarships: These are awarded based on disadvantage in various forms. Typically, these are handled by UAC. However, there may be scholarships targeting specific demographics in various degree types. For example, there are many ‘Women in Engineering Scholarships.’

The main benefit of most of these scholarships is financial aid, which trust me, is a massive help at university. University work loads can be hectic (yes, probably even more so than HSC workloads). It leaves one less thing to worry about.

However, scholarships will often have additional benefits too. Coop/industry scholarships, for example, will give you experience in your industry through work placements. Some scholarships come attached with additional learning experiences or programs. For example, chances to conduct research. You’d be surprised just how many benefits come attached to one of these scholarships.

Okay, so where do I find information?

Most of the larger tertiary institutions have websites and information packages dedicated specifically to the scholarships they offer. Here are links to a few of the most popular undergraduate scholarship sites. Some have search engines to find something that suits you for your course, others have downloadable guides, have an explore!

Western Sydney University

University of New South Wales

University of Sydney

Macquarie University

University of Technology

For those who think they may be eligible for an equity scholarship, I’ll also link you to the UAC website to check out the requirements. Those scholarships are handled by UAC as a whole. They will apply to any appropriate institution you choose to attend.

There are literally hundreds of scholarships on offer. Attached to each will be things like eligibility criteria, the benefits of the scholarship, and closing dates for applications. This closing date normally lines up nicely with the UAC deadline.

How many scholarships should I apply for?

Absolutely every single one that you are eligible for. Especially if the application process is quick. Why would you not? Being awarded a scholarship is not a binding contract for you to attend that institution. You should think of all the institutions you want to go to, find scholarships offered by that institution for your course, and apply for every single one. Don’t limit your options!

Tips for Scholarship Applications

Application processes vary in complexity. Some are a quick form. Others are full blown application and interview processes. Some may even be automatic based on ATAR results or marks in subjects. It totally depends. The more detailed applications can be tricky things and may chew up a bit of time. They are definitely no walk in the park. You may have to write responses to describe your achievements or why you think you are eligible for the scholarship. They may also require past reports, references, even ATAR estimates from your school.

For this reason, my first big tip is to start applications early. The last thing you want is to be rushing to get documents organised in September while you are cramming for your HSC. Get it done early, get it done right.

Some more tips:

  • – Be honest about everything you put in the forms. They will call your referees; they will check data if it doesn’t quite match up. Don’t claim you’ve done things that you haven’t done.
  • – Achieve a balance between confidence and humility. No one wants to read an application from an over-confident candidate who thinks they are entitled to free money. Equally, your application won’t stand out if you aren’t confident enough to voice your strengths. Remember, these scholarships exist so that the university gets access to the best high school graduates. Convince them you are that graduate, but don’t be a jerk about it. They’ll bin you faster than your English texts after the HSC.
  • – Be selective about the information you include. Many applications require a list of co-curricular involvement. Students often make the mistake of including irrelevant stuff, like that merit award you got for helping the PE teacher. Select your best achievements and most relevant involvements. For example, for a scholarship awarded on leadership qualities, experiences on Representative Councils will be more important than involvement in school musicals. Get in the head of the institution, what qualities would they want in a student?
  • – Get a job. This one is probably a little more relevant to Year 11 students getting a head start. If you are applying for anything other than a pure academic scholarship, having a job is a big bonus. Leadership skills, teamwork, dedication, work ethic; all amazing qualities that having a job demonstrates for you. There are other ways to show these skills, absolutely, but having a job is, in my opinion, the best way.

Tips for Interviews

Some scholarships will even require an interview to finally be accepted. These interviews are like a worse version of a job interview. The questions can be quite difficult to answer. I could write a whole article on doing well in one of these interviews, but here are a few big tips to remember:

  • – Dress up. To get to an interview for a scholarship is a big deal. Wear business attire, even a suit if it seems appropriate (I wore one). Make yourself look professional.
  • – Be confident. It doesn’t matter how terrified you are; you need to look like this is just another day for you. Act like you’ve interviewed for 3 scholarships already that day. Confidence goes a long way towards first impressions
  • – Be honest with your answers. They will know if you are lying. Just don’t go there.
  • – Do some research. It is impressive when a candidate sits down for an interview, and knows a lot about the university, the scholarship, or any other applicable area. For example, I knew I was going to be interviewed by representatives from sponsor companies for my UNSW Coop Scholarship. I did some research on those companies so I could engage with them and ask appropriate questions. This sort of preparation can really set you apart.
  • – Most of these sort of interviews will require some sort of personal response. Why are you applying for the scholarship? What do you think you can offer the university? What do you think is the quality you have improved on the most throughout your HSC, and what quality do you still need to work on? How can this scholarship help with that? Be ready for these sorts of personal questions.
  • – Be ready for hard questions. On anything and everything, but especially what is in your application. They asked about my academic results. They asked how long I had wanted to be an electrical engineer. I was asked about my part-time job. They asked about volunteering. They pressed me on quite a few things. Be ready for it.
  • – Practice. Mock interviews (borrow a friend) are a great way to get yourself in the right mindset.

Don’t rule yourself out of being eligible for a scholarship. You might surprise yourself!