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Everything you need to know about private school scholarships

There is nothing more frustrating than spending hours digging your way through websites that offer limited details on scholarships, phoning around schools only to leave unanswered messages, or realising you’ve just missed the small window of opportunity after application periods have closed.

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Trying to navigate the scholarship options for your child can very quickly become a full time job. Parents can often miss important deadlines, eligibility information and scholarship criteria.

It’s easy to see why most parents may not even realise the variety of scholarships that are available. Parents seem to think that in order to qualify for a scholarship, their child needs to be a highly academic student. This is not always the case. There are many different types of scholarships available to suit students with talents in a variety of areas, and they all include different levels of tuition remission. Scholarship programs will vary depending upon the school, and the benefits range from cash bursaries to equipment or tuition subsidies for a given period.

Scholarship types on offer

It is important that you first understand the different types of scholarships available so you can identify which ones your child’s strengths would be best suited to.

Academic scholarships are based on your child achieving consistently good grades in the lead up to applying for the scholarship plus maintaining this level of academic performance during their time at the new school. The application process involves a combination of tests and interviews, plus an application that includes listing their achievements and potentially providing references.

A sports scholarship is awarded based upon a student’s long-term athletic achievement. Sometimes schools do not advertise these, and instead rely on coaches and physical education teachers to identify potential recipients.

Music scholarships are awarded to students who are able to perform to a minimum standard of AMEB (Australian Music Examinations Board) Grade on one or more instruments. The scholarship testing process includes an audition plus most schools will also request to see copies of the student’s academic results as part of their application.

General excellence scholarships are perfect for children who are ‘all-rounders’, those students who excel across a wide range of areas, including sport, academia, the arts or extra-curricular activities. These aspects need to have been developed over time and an application for a General Excellence scholarship should include the potential for the student to positively contribute to school activities, leadership roles and the wider community.

What do scholarships cover?

Some scholarships provide a percentage (up to 100%) off the school’s tuition fees, which can result in thousands of dollars of savings over the course of your child’s education. For specialist scholarships, subsidies can be made in the form of uniform or sporting equipment, or even free music lessons.

Bursary fees are slightly different than scholarships, in that they are offered at the discretion of the school through consultation, rather than testing. They are designed to assist families of children with potential, who many not be able to access or afford private education. This could include low income or rural families. These fees usually cover specific parts of your child’s education, such as tuition fees or equipment. Bursaries are means tested and can be offered for the duration of your child’s education, or you may need to reapply for them annually.

What don’t scholarships cover?

While scholarships can be enormously beneficial in providing financial support towards your child’s education, they do not cover every associated cost. In most cases, you will still need to cover uniform and equipment costs, such as books, stationery and computers. Scholarships also usually do not include the costs of excursions or camps. Please also be mindful of the costs of your child socialising outside of school with their peers, or their involvement in extra-curricular activities.

Are scholarships a free ride?

Scholarships are certainly not a free ride. In return for the scholarship, the school expects that the student uphold their high performance in the area for which they have been awarded the scholarship. Schools benefit by attracting high performing students to their school, boosting the schools overall results. If a student with a scholarship is no longer performing to the high level the school expects, the scholarship can be removed or not renewed. Most schools also expect the student to remain at the school until completion of their secondary education. Some will expect the student’s family to repay the value of the scholarship discount given, should the student leave the school prior to finishing Year 12.

It is important that you research what scholarships include, along with their different application processes and deadlines. Find a scholarship!

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