Independent schools have many advantages including freedom to tailor curriculum according to student needs, lower pupil-to-teacher ratios and high academic standards among others. However, because these schools wholly rely on tuition and charitable donations for funding (no outside intervention), the cost of education is considerably higher compared with state-funded or other private or parochial schools. If you’re looking to take your child to an independent school but cannot fully afford it, the following are steps to take to apply for a scholarship/bursary that could reduce or lift your financial burden.
Step 1: Who should apply?
Any child can apply for a bursary or scholarship, although specific scholarships come with specific qualifying criteria. Schools typically receive a large amount of bursary applications, so there aren’t any guarantees. However, begin by visiting the school’s admission office or website to find out what programs your child can take advantage of.
Find out any qualifying criteria such as age (preparatory schools offer bursaries from a younger age since they end at age 13, but the minimum age is higher for schools that go beyond preparatory level). You can get an application form and the scholarship/bursary policy to ensure you fulfil all requirements to maximize chances of approval.
Step 2: Know what you want
Scholarships and bursaries are inherently different. Scholarships are specific awards that offer partial/full financial relief based on outstanding achievements in the area of interest, e.g. sports, music or academia. Bursaries are offered based on parents’ means, though this may be subject to additional criteria. Unlike bursaries, scholarships aren’t means-tested, i.e. you don’t have to prove inability to pay.
Admission-level scholarships are applicable throughout the child’s schooling, while bursaries are awarded on a yearly basis. However, a child can get a scholarship and bursary, so feel free to apply for both if your circumstances meet the criteria.
Step 3: Prepare for entrance exams
This isn’t important if the child is already at the school. If you’re looking for financial assistance at the point of admission, you child must fulfil admission criteria, including stellar performance in entrance exams. Visit the child’s current school and collect transcripts to know their current performance. Also find any extra-curricular activities the child excels at, as these could win him/her specialized scholarships. Depending on your child’s performance and the time left until admission exams, you may have to hire a tutor to help prepare the child.
Step 4: Make the application
Academic scholarships will be awarded based on entrance exam performance. Co-curricular scholarships will assess the child’s previous performance as well as host auditions (there may be several auditions). Chances of securing the latter increase when accompanied by stellar performance in entrance exams.
The school bursar can assess your income and tell you whether or not you qualify to get a bursary. Be prepared to give very detailed information about your finances and documentation as proof thereof – incomes, assets, obligations, savings, pensions, benefits etc. State whether you need help with additional costs apart from tuition, e.g. uniforms. You can ask the bursar for the maximum income cap for bursary consideration, if any. Remember, honesty is the best way to ensure fair judgement during assessment.