Bursaries vs scholarships - What's the difference?

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If you’re applying for financial aid so that you can study further, deciding which opportunity to apply for can be a bit confusing. The most common types you can apply for are bursaries or scholarships- but what’s the difference between the two anyway?

What’s a bursary?

A bursary (also known as a grant) is a form of monetary support which assists students who meet specific financial eligibility criteria. Bursaries can be provided by the educational institution you’d like to study at, or by a company or government institution. Although bursaries are non-repayable, some may require that you work at a specific company for a designated period of time once you’ve completed your education.

What’s a scholarship?

A scholarship is also a form of non-repayable support. It’s usually (although not always) financial, however it differs from a bursary in the sense that it’s given based on the “individual assessment of predetermined criteria”. This means that scholarships recognise and reward your achievements, as opposed to bursaries, which focus more on your financial situation. These achievements can be academic, extracurricular or sport related. Often, scholarships are available for students wishing to study beyond undergraduate level, such as those working on their postgraduate research for example.

How do I know which one to choose?

In short, bursaries look closely at your financial circumstances, while scholarships are more focussed on awarding your outstanding achievements. However, some opportunities may have criteria which is a combination of the two- that’s why you often hear the two terms used interchangeably. Deciding which opportunity you’re eligible to receive will depend on your individual circumstances, so reading all of the eligibility specifications before applying is always a must.

Also, remember that before accepting any form of financial assistance, you should make sure you’ve read all of the conditions, regardless of whether the opportunity is a bursary or a scholarship. Ask for clarification if you aren’t sure about the opportunity before signing for or accepting any form of assistance. You can either contact the institution or company directly, or you can visit Student Services at your prospective or current university.

Applying for assistance to further your studies can be difficult and confusing at first, however the more places you apply to, the better. Don’t be hesitant of putting yourself out there and being proactive in finding the best opportunity for you. You can browse available bursaries, scholarships and grants as well as internships and learnerships on our Opportunities page. Good luck!

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