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Helping You Become Debt Free

With tuition fees rising to £9,000 per year in 2012, the average graduate now leaves university with a staggering (and rather scary) debt of more than £50,000. But there is an array of financial aids out there that can help you cut the costs of gaining a degree. Let’s walk you through them…

The difference between Grants, Bursaries and Scholarships

Grants – A grant can be thought of as a gift that you don’t need to repay. Grants are provided by universities and charitable organisations, and will typically contribute to some form of project or cause. They can also provide funding based on social or religious background, disability, or be provided to those suffering hardship.

Bursaries are typically awarded to students depending on their personal situation, or based on the fact they have a low-income household. For the most part, they are designed to help break down barriers that often stand in the way of accessing full-time education.

University scholarships are generally given to students who have shown significant academic prowess. Typically, you’ll need to apply for a scholarship, though not always. Because of this, there can be fierce competition for scholarships.

University scholarships can take one of two forms – first, there are entrance scholarships, which are awarded upon your application and acceptance to university; the second type is progression scholarships, which are given once you’ve successfully passed year one and entered year two of your studies.

While some awards are provided automatically (for example, if you achieve set results), others require an application. In the latter instance, you’ll probably need to have been offered a place before you’re able to apply.

Non-financial awards – Some awards don’t hand you cash. Instead, they may provide course fee waivers – where the cost of your course is wiped out.

How to find universities that offer scholarships or bursaries

  1. When reading about any particular scholarship or bursary you may need to read between the lines. Many universities highlight the top awards that they offer – but how many students do they offer this to? You’ll need to be realistic when it comes to what you can reasonably expect.
  2. If you already have a university in mind, you should start your research with their website. Most will have a dedicated area that explains which scholarships or bursaries are available. You can also check out this guide from UCAS: Can you get financial help from grants, scholarships and bursaries?
  3. For a full breakdown of university bursaries and scholarships covering each of the regions in the UK, check out these tables from The Complete University Guide:
  1. If you’re still at college or sixth form, speak with your career guidance representative, who should be up-to-date with the very latest scholarships and bursaries that are available.
  2. Look out for bursaries and scholarships that are advertised around campus when you attend university open days or your interview. There are often monetary awards that aren’t advertised online.
  3. If you’re waiting until Clearing to secure your university spot, you may find that there’s a spike in Scholarships and bursaries around this time, as universities attempt to fill up remaining spaces. In this instance, just be sure to weigh up the allure of the Scholarship and bursary with what the university actually has to offer.
  4. When considering the value of a bursary or scholarship always make sure you understand how much the university charges for facilities (such as accommodation). You may also want to factor in average rent in the area. While you may be offered a £5,000 bursary in the South, and a £4,000 bursary up North, the difference in living costs will mean that the Northern bursary will cover far more of your costs.
  5. If you don’t qualify for a scholarship or bursary from the university, it’s well-worth researching what’s available outside of the academic sphere.

Businesses, charities and public bodies offer a wide array of monetary help covering an incredibly diverse number of criteria. There are awards for certain school regions, your parents’ professions, and even for being vegetarian (!).

The final word on grants, bursaries and scholarships

If you’re offered a grant, bursary or scholarship, you shouldn’t just jump straight in and sign the paperwork. Always read and understand the terms and conditions. If you need clarification on anything, email the university or organisation.