So you’ve decided you want to keep studying after school. What are your options and how do you make sure you don’t run into problems with the finance office?
By Ross Edwards
In a perfect life, you’re a rich kid with no financial worries, right? You simply choose the university course you want, apply and money’s not even a consideration. You just do it because you can. Unfortunately that’s the reality for a very, very small number of South Africans wanting to study after school. For most of us, the options are simple: get a bursary, a scholarship or a study loan.
You probably know this already but a bursary provides money for your studies, granted on the basis of your financial need. By contrast, scholarships are merit-based and are awarded for academic achievement. Bursaries are financial-need based awards that don’t have to be repaid. The main objective of most undergraduate bursary programmers is to supplement, not replace, a student’s primary sources of funding such as government student financial assistance from another province or loan funding from a financial institution.
Basically, if you fall into one of the three following categories, you probably need funding:
- You’re still at school and figuring out how to fund further studies
- You’re currently studying and need funds to continue or further your studies
- You’re a young adult wanting to study further but you need financial assistance.
Many universities, organisations and companies offer both bursaries and scholarships. You need to make contact with the university you’re thinking of studying at and ask them what options are available to you as a potential undergraduate student. Sometimes the hardest challenge is finding enough money to fund your first year of study, then working as hard as possible and using your first year results to apply for funding for your second year forward and possible postgraduate study like honours or a higher diploma.
One typical example of funding sources is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme of South Africa (NSFAS) who administer four bursary funds.
1. Teaching. The Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme is a multi-year programme that promotes teaching in public schools. Full-cost bursaries are available for qualifying students to complete a full teaching qualification in an area of national priority. Bursary recipients are required to teach at a public school for the same number of years they receive the bursary. Visit www.funzalushaka.doe.gov.za for more information.
2. Social Work. Bursaries for studies in Social Work are provided by the Department of Social Development. Students apply for these bursaries at provincial department offices. Note that these bursaries have a work-back condition, where a student must work for the Department of Social Development for the same number of years for which the bursary was received.
3. National Skills Fund. Bursaries from the National Skills Fund are made available to students who focus on a scarce skills area, as defined by the fund. University selection committees will determine which students qualify for these funds. A mandate of the Skills Development Act of 1998 provides bursary funding to undergraduate students in these 17 specific scarce skills areas:
Accounting, Actuarial Studies, Agriculture, Auditing, Bio-Technology, Business Management, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, Financial Accounting, Financial Management, Geology, Information Systems, Mathematical Sciences, Physics, and Statistics.
4. FET (Further Education and Training) College Bursaries. Bursaries for the National Certificate Vocational (NCV) and for certain National Technical Education (Nated) courses at FET Colleges are available for qualifying students. If you’re interested, you must apply for funding through the Student Support Services office of the specific FET College you want to study at. There is no employment condition attached to these bursaries.
Thinking outside the Box
An avenue not often considered by South African students is overseas studies. Some international universities specifically offer academic scholarships to hard-working students from other countries. With many young people taking a gap-year between finishing high school and starting university, why not consider applying for funding at an overseas university? Remember too that in North America, the UK and Europe, the academic year starts in September each year, which gives you a bit more time to make your plans accordingly. And if you’re a top academic student looking for postgrad funding, don’t forget that opportunities like the Rhodes scholarship offer amazing study experiences at Oxford University in the UK.
Bursary, Scholarship or Study Loan? What’s the difference?
A bursary is funding granted on the basis of pure financial need. You will need to show in your application that you are deserving of funding and cannot study without it.
A Scholarship is merit-based and awarded for consistent academic achievement, usually reviewed annually after your end-year exam results. If your marks fall below the required standard, you will lose your scholarship. So work hard!
A Study Loan is money you borrow from an organisation or institution to cover the costs of your tertiary studies. The most important thing to remember is that a study loan will need to be repaid, usually after you qualify and start work. Some companies offer study loans and a guaranteed job with the company afterwards. This is a great way of getting a qualification, work experience and the money to pay back your loan.
Content courtesy of Career Planet - www.careerplanet.co.za