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How to give your child the best chance at a scholarship.

Most private schools offer generous scholarships to assist with educational expenses.

Some are devised to support students from isolated areas, or to help families in financial need.

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The majority are awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence or outstanding ability in a specialist field, like music or sports. Attaining a scholarship is competitive, but well worth the effort if it means your child can access the best possible educational opportunity.

How and why to try for a scholarship.

Most scholarship application periods are between February and March or April and May each year for enrolment intake the following year.

Scholarship programs and eligibility vary from school to school. The financial benefits may include cash bursaries, equipment subsidies, or 50-100% of tuition fees covered for a given period – in some cases, for the duration of the child’s education.

Applying for a scholarship usually involves a combination of testing, interviews and a portfolio or audition where relevant. The best starting point is to read up on the scholarship opportunities available in your area. Once you understand the requirements of your local scholarship programs, you can give your child the best chance of success by helping them work towards eligibility goals.

Preparing your child for a scholarship application.

There are several ways you can help your child secure a scholarship, depending on the type that you’re applying for. Each school will have its own specifications, but there are a few general guidelines that may be helpful to consider.

Academic merit scholarships.

To secure an academic scholarship, your child should be aiming for consistently good grades in the years leading up to application. You may consider a tutor to help your child make the most of their natural ability or there are plenty of private tuition services that help prepare students for scholarship testing. Just search ‘Scholarship preparation’ online to find a list of companies to choose from.

Upon application, your child will need to sit a series of standardised tests. The most common in Australia are the ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research) and EduTest models; you can view sample questions and practice tests for these online. It’s not really possible to ‘cram’ for these. Instead, your child should focus on good critical thinking and written expression, along with keeping a cool head under pressure.

Specialist scholarships.

Academic scholarships are not the be-all and end-all of financial support for your child’s schooling: scholarships for general excellence, arts and sports also exist, though the path to obtaining them is obviously a bit different.

While an academic scholarship will be awarded based in large part on a single exam, a sporting scholarship will be based on a student’s athletic achievement over a long period of time. In fact, some schools will not advertise sporting scholarships at all, relying instead on coaches and physical education teachers to approach students they have identified as possessing enough skill to secure a sporting scholarship.

The same may be true of other specialist areas, such as music, with tutors and mentors encouraging their students to apply. In both cases, musicians and athletes will be applying for scholarships on the strength of skills honed over long periods of time. An applicant’s chances are improved by obvious demonstrations of these skills; budding athletes and musicians will quite clearly benefit from participating in competitions at the highest level their capabilities will allow.

General excellence scholarships.

A student who excels across a number of sporting, cultural, or extra- and co-curricular pursuits in addition to their academic achievement would be a good match for a general excellence scholarship.

Again, this scholarship will take into consideration aspects of a student’s school life that have been developed over time. This may include some specialist area like music (as mentioned above), but a student’s leadership qualities, co-curricular and extracurricular interests will also play an important role.

These qualities are considered with respect to how the student’s potential for contributing to school activities and their community more generally. Therefore, applicants should also be able to demonstrate a commitment to community service or other volunteer activities.

Attaining a scholarship is an excellent reward for your child’s hard work and a huge relief to any family budget. The scholarship system is competitive, but with a little advance research and preparation, you can give your child the best possible chance to reap the rewards of their endeavours and secure a spot at an excellent school that might otherwise be out of your budget.

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