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How to apply for a scholarship – and get it!

The word ‘ scholarship ’ has particular connotations to it. It speaks of exclusivity and an invitation into a world of privilege. This misconception can often halt families in their tracks before they even consider the process.

Scholarships, bursaries and selective entry criteria are part and parcel of how many Brisbane high schools operate. If you’re considering a school experience for your child, you would do well to consider if a scholarship could be a potential course of action for your family.

Let’s break down some of those preconceived ideas and unpack what a scholarship is and how you would go about securing one for your child.

What is the difference between a scholarship, a bursary and selective entry?

Many private schools offer both scholarships and bursaries for families, but it can be difficult to identify the difference.

A scholarship is

…a competitive process (meaning that the number of students vying for a place is higher than the number of available positions) wherein students must demonstrate some kind of merit. Your child may excel in a particular field, like academics or sport, or may do very well on an entrance exam.

A bursary is

…a non-competitive process that is usually based on financial need but sometimes can come into play when distance is taken into account. Bursaries mean that the school is able to provide education for a wider student body and award equal opportunities to community members.

You’ll find that many schools offer both assistance packages. Clayfield College, for example, has a Scholarship Program that provides ample opportunity for students to participate in College life. They offer Excellence Scholarships (Academic, STEM, Sport and Leadership) as well as an Isolated Children’s Parents Association (ICPA) Bursary that reflects the needs of families who would not otherwise be able to afford tuition. You can find out more about scholarships at Clayfield College at their website.

Selective entry refers to

…the process at certain schools (sometimes known as an Excellence Program) where students from outside the catchment may be granted enrolment if they fulfil certain criteria.

Scholarships, bursaries and selective entries are great for the school and the student. Not only does it mean that children have access to a wider range of education options, but it also promotes diversity within the student population and culture. It’s a great example of social justice in action and increases the breadth of the school community.

How to apply for a scholarship – and get it!

What types of scholarship assistance is available?

Your school of choice may offer full or partial scholarships depending on a number of factors.

Many schools offer academic scholarships. Your child will have to participate in an entrance exam (more on that a little later) and demonstrate academic capabilities across a range of subjects.

Your child may be interested in a sporting scholarship. Typically speaking, to qualify one would expect that your child has participated in their sport at a high representative level. There would be a similar expectation that your child would continue to participate in the sport throughout their tenure at the school.

Similarly, a music scholarship may be an option. A certain level of competency and commitment in the study of the instrument would have to be demonstrated. There would also be an expectation that your child would continue to study their instrument of choice. Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie), for example, offers both music scholarships as well as academic ones. Academic scholarships are available for Year 6 through to Year 12. Churchie also offers Choral Scholarships for boys in the primary years as well as Music Excellence Scholarships. The inclusion of such specialised scholarships guarantees the growth of a rich, varied and disciplined educational environment that acknowledges individual skill and talent. You can find more information at their website.

Lastly, you may well find that your school of choice offers an ‘all-rounder’ scholarship (or something similar). If your child is a consistent performer across a range of areas but is not considered a particularly high achiever in a single one they still may well be in the running.

How to apply for a scholarship – and get it!

What is the process involved in getting a scholarship, bursary or being granted selective entry?

The vast majority of schools involve students sitting for either an ACER test or an Edutest. Both tests are digital and are based on agility and achievement. These tests can be prepared for but for the most part are ‘general knowledge’. The best way to prepare your child is to have them read widely, think critically and review their common core curriculum concepts prior to testing.

Ormiston College takes great value in its scholarship program and offers a wide range of options for students with different specialities. Ormiston College scholarship recipients are carefully decided upon and thoroughly enhance the academic and cultural life of the College. Year 7 students will sit an ACER examination to be eligible for either academic scholarship or general excellence. Students in year 8 to 12 may apply at any point of the academic year for an academic or general excellence scholarship.

You can find a detailed overview of the Ormiston College scholarship process, and what it might mean for your child, on their website.

Some schools will have their own testing process which may involve a short answer exam and a timed written response component. If this is applicable to your school of choice you will receive information on it beforehand so that your child may have time to prepare.

Moreton Bay College and Moreton Bay Boys’ College, for example, are schools with unique approaches to scholarships that mirror the individualised approach to education that their community employs. There is no exam or application fee – candidates are short-listed and then sit an interview with key members of administration. To find out more about this process, and about Moreton Bay College and Moreton Bay Boys College.

All schools will involve an interview after application as part of their process as well as the opportunity for your child to provide evidence of their achievements and merit. Ideally, the interview will be an informal conversation where the school attempts to ‘get to know’ your child. This works best if your child is relaxed and feeling confident – try to help their nerves instead of increasing them.

Decisions about scholarship recipients will be made with great consideration. You will not receive an immediate answer, but the school will contact you to let you know either way once they have made their decision.

WHEN should we start applying for scholarships?

Brisbane school catchment area - Ipswich private school scholarship

Scholarships are usually open to a number of year levels. As a result, the process begins sooner than you may think.

Testing and interviews will typically take place in the first two terms for the following year. Awarding scholarships and bursaries are not a decision the school takes lightly – it needs to be a considered process to ensure that the funds are going to the right family.

Your best bet would be to get in contact with your school of choice early and to work with them towards the timeline that they have set.

What schools in Brisbane offer Scholarships?

You can find a list of schools in Brisbane that offer scholarships by clicking here.

How do you ensure you get a scholarship?

There’s no secret formula to success. If your child can demonstrate that they are:

  • Exceptional in their specific area of speciality
  • A significant ‘all-rounder’ with the potential to value add to their cohort
  • From a family whose financial situation is precluding them from a private school education

Then you are in with a chance. There’s nothing to lose – give it a go! Get in contact with the school of your dreams today.

Looking for more tips when applying for a new school? Check out our article.

This article was featured in Issue 49 of our printed magazine, published December 2021.

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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