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Five simple steps to apply for a scholarship

With research to do, forms to fill out and deadlines to meet, there’s no doubt that applying for a scholarship can be tricky. If you’re in the midst of scholarship applications or need some pointers to help you get started, working your way through our five-step checklist of scholarship tips will put your mind ease.

1. Have you researched your options?

The very first step in applying for a scholarship is to research your options so that you have a full picture of the scholarships available, including who offers them, what they cover and for how long. There are three sources of scholarships: education providers, the federal government and private organisations. Many are awarded for academic merit, but others target students in specific fields of study, reward students for community involvement or aim to encourage educational participation from certain groups, such as women entering non-traditional fields, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds or those who attended schools that are under-represented in tertiary education. Pay careful attention to scholarship requirements, which may include a certain ATAR/OP; scholarship durations; and any specific conditions that may affect continued eligibility, such as needing to maintain a specific academic average. Create a list of the scholarships you are interested in (and eligible for) and relevant details. Make sure that you have explored all your options, including scholarships for lesser amounts or shorter durations — after all, it’s better to receive some sponsorship rather than none at all.

2. Do you understand the application process?

Once you have compiled a list of scholarships you are interested in, you will need to check their application methods and make sure that you understand the process. In most cases, you will be able to apply online or by post. If you are applying for a scholarship though an education provider, you should check whether your application needs to be submitted directly to the provider or through the Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC) in your state. Remember that some education provider scholarships don’t require an application — you will be considered automatically upon applying for a place. You may be required to supply additional documents, such as an academic transcript, a scholarship cover letter or financial records, and some may require you to attend an interview. You should make sure that you are supplying the correct documents and in the required format (a certified copy, for instance). If you have any questions about the scholarship application process, do not hesitate to contact the scholarship provider — it’s better to be safe than sorry!

3. Have you noted down deadlines?

Scholarships attract huge numbers of applications, so you will not be considered if you miss a closing date. It helps to write down the dates on a calendar or input the deadlines into your phone, perhaps setting yourself reminders closer to the submission date. This is especially important if you are submitting multiple applications, to different providers and by different application methods. Remember to allow time to complete each application, including the time it takes to source evidentiary documents and submit them (if by post). You should also ask providers when you can expect to hear back about the outcome of your application.

4. Have you triple-checked your application?

It’s all too easy to make mistakes when closing dates are looming, so it’s crucial that you give your applications a thorough read-over before they are submitted. Common mistakes relate to spelling and grammar issues, lack of detail, poor presentation and failure to follow instructions (a specified word count, for example). Unfortunately, a simple mistake might result in your application landing in the ‘no’ pile. If you can, ask a friend or parent to look over your application before it is submitted. A fresh pair of eyes can work wonders!

5. Do you have a back-up plan?

Scholarships are very competitive, so it helps to have a back-up plan in case your applications aren’t successful. You might consider taking on a part-time job or applying for government assistance (such as Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY) or investigating scholarships that will be available in future application periods. If you are a first-year student, keep in mind that many scholarships are offered to students continuing their studies in their second or subsequent enrolment year. Taking out a student loan from your institution or a bank may be another option, but keep in mind that there may be conditions attached (for example, institution loans are generally only offered to cover ‘essentials’ such as a new laptop or unexpected utility bill).