University scholarships: How to get one in Australia

She looks happy. Maybe she just got a scholarship. You could too.

She looks happy. Maybe that’s because she knows how to get a university scholarship.

University is expensive. There’s the fees, but then there are the living expenses, transport costs, food costs and textbooks – all of which thousands of dollars, particularly if you live out of home. If you don’t have wealthy relatives to chip in, these costs can weigh on you, even if you’re getting youth allowance. This is where scholarships can help – they provide financial support to assist students staying at university and meeting their potential.


Types of Australian university scholarship


Need-based scholarships

As the name suggests, these scholarships are awarded to applicants based on who need it the most. There are quite a few of these and often they’re awarded to a whole bunch of students, so your chances could be quite good.

Different scholarships target different types of need. Sometimes, it may mean coming from a rural or regional area. Sometimes, need means having a financial disadvantage. Often, qualifying for youth allowance is enough proof of financial need.

Need could also mean coming from a socio-economic group that is underrepresented at university. One example is example Indigenous Australians.


Merit-based scholarships

These are a carrot dangled by universities to attract the best-performed students. To get one, you need to be a high achiever.

For example, Sydney University offers scholarhips of $6000 – $10,000 to students with high ATARs. Selection is also based on a personal statement. Most universities offer merit based scholarships.

Unis also dole out scholarships to high achieving sportspeople and musicians etc. Keep an eye out.


Needs and merit-based scholarships

Many scholarships are awarded based on a combination of need and merit. For example, the ATCO Australia Undergraduate Scholarship offered through the University of Western Australia is worth $10,000. It’s awarded to a full time bachelor of commerce student that demonstrates high achievement, financial need and community service.


How to get a university scholarship

Do your legwork

Getting a scholarhip is a competitive process, but regardless of which school you come from the biggest thing you can do to improve your chances is to be aware of the many different types on offer. Most poeple don’t. If you do… you’re way ahead already. This is the main reason I didn’t get a scholarship when I was a student. I was probably eligible for numerous ones but had no idea and never applied. Life could have been very different.

Finding out about scholarships means doing a lot of legwork. There’s no way around this. A good place to start is tertiary admissions centre websites. Some are better than others at providing information on how to get a university scholarship.

It’s also very, very important to scour the websites of each university you are applying for. Find out the exact types of scholarships they offer and whether you fit the criteria. There might be one out there that’s perfect for you. Don’t be afraid to give university scholarship offices a call to have a chat, either. They’re often staffed by lovely, helpful people with good intentions.


How to write an application

It’s hard to provide blanket advice on how to write an application. Every scholarship has different criteria that will applied. It’s important to note that it won’t be sufficient to simply meet the criteria. You will have to also demonstrate that you are more worthy than other people who also meet the criteria. This means being able to put together a well written application that convinces the university. Scholarship applications must be persuasive, without laying it on too thick and making you sound like a used car salesman. It’s a fine balance.

It’s sometimes tricky to write persuasively about yourself – especially if you feel unworthy or undeserving of a scholarships, like most people. You’re almost certainly more deserving than you think you are. Find an adult mentor to help you identify and persuasively describe the attributes that make you a worthy recipient.

Be sure to pick the brains of the careers teachers at your school who might know how to get a university scholarship. They’re often a great source of information, guidance and support. And once again… be sure to contact scholarships offices at unis. They’re often very willing to have an informal discussion about your background and how they think you could present it in your application. The person you speak to could very well be the one who decides your application. Facebook is another resource. Is there anyone in your circle friends who has received a scholarship, or knows someone who has? Get their tips on how to maximise your chances.

Massaging your application to suit the criteria is a bit of an art form, so get all the advice you can. This doesn’t mean being dishonest. It’s all about understanding the criteria and knowing how to sell yourself. It’s a cliché, but you’ve got to be in it to win it. Get in there and have a go.


Pay attention!

You can get more than one scholarship, from more than one source. For example, some scholarships are offered at a university-wide level. Others are offered by faculties or divisions within the university. Receiving one doesn’t necessarily render you ineligible for others.

Not all scholarships are university-based. There are also government scholarships as well as those that are offered by charities and other organisations.

Many scholarships must be applied for before you arrive, often as part of the course application process. But there are also a bunch of scholarhips that you can get once you’re at uni. Sometimes there are different ones offered depending on which year you are in.

The Rolls Royce of scholarships is the Rhodes Scholarship. If you get one of these you get whisked off to study at Oxford University in England, arguably the most prestigious university in the world. Loads of former Prime Ministers were Rhodes Scholars. Former Aussie PM Bob Hawke famously broke the world record for drinking a yard of beer while he was at Oxford.

People who get these types of scholarships often spend years preparing. Being a high achiever is great, but you also need a solid track record in community service, among other things.

Want more information on how to get a uni scholarship?

Finding out how to get a university scholarship could seriously change your life for the better. So keep devouring info.

Firstly, check out this newspaper article I wrote about university scholarships. It profiles a scholarship recipient and also includes useful tips on how to apply.

I also wrote this article on the Rhodes Scholarship. It’s worth a look too. Pretty inspiring stuff. It includes the thoughts of our current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was once a Rhodes Scholar.


Want to ask a question?

Stick in the comments section down below. You’re guaranteed a friendly and helpful response or your money back.