How To Apply For A Bursary While In Grade 11, 12

The Complete 10-Step Guide to Applying for Bursaries in South Africa

For many top-performing students from disadvantaged backgrounds, bursaries are the only way to access quality higher education. However, bursaries don’t just land in your lap – you need to actively and strategically apply for them. Follow this comprehensive 10-step guide to master the art of applying for bursaries in the South African context.

How To Apply For A Bursary While In Grade 11


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Learn How to Secure a Full Bursary in South Africa – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Start Your Research Early

Don’t wait until your final matriculation exams to start thinking about bursaries! The best time to begin researching opportunities is 1-2 years before you intend on starting tertiary studies.

Useful Places to Find Bursary Information:

  • Your high school guidance counsellor – They will know of bursaries that past students have successfully accessed. Ask for their advice on where to start.
  • University websites – Most major universities have a financial aid or bursaries office. Browse through the bursaries they offer to current and prospective students.
  • Department of Higher Education website – Government bursary schemes are listed on this portal.
  • NSFAS website – For information on student loans and bursaries aimed at financially needy students.
  • Bursary directories like ZABursaries – Useful databases of bursaries across industries and study fields.
  • Companies and organizations in your field – Check their websites for bursary programs they offer, especially scarce skills areas.
  • Industry associations and regulatory bodies – These often provide bursaries within their sector.

Cast your net far and wide to get a sense of the full range of potential bursaries you could apply for. This helps you understand what’s out there.

Step 2: Define Your Bursary Goals

With hundreds of bursaries available, it helps to narrow your focus by determining what you want to gain from a bursary. Consider:

  • Do you need full funding for all tuition, accommodation and books? Or can you get partial funding to supplement a student loan?
  • Are you aiming for merit-based bursaries for top grades? Or need-based bursaries for disadvantaged students?
  • Do you want a bursary that guarantees employment after graduating? Or the freedom to choose where you work?
  • Are you interested in scarce skills bursaries for medicine/engineering? Or in community development studies?

Having clear bursary goals allows you to find programs that are the best fit for your unique situation and future aspirations.

Step 3: Research Bursary Requirements Thoroughly

Once you’ve identified a few potential bursaries, dig deeper into the specific requirements and eligibility criteria for each one. Here are key details to check:

Academic Criteria

  • Minimum entry grades and subject requirements
  • Number of distinctions required
  • Programs and institutions supported
  • Academic renewal criteria to keep the bursary each year

Financial Criteria

  • Gross family income thresholds
  • Required financial statements and documentation
  • Expected income contribution from parents

Other Factors

  • Field and level of study requirements
  • SA citizenship/residency status
  • Age bracket restrictions
  • Language of instruction
  • Full-time or part-time study limitations
  • Provincial residence requirements

Step 4: Evaluate Your Eligibility

With the requirements of your desired bursaries clarified, conduct an honest self-assessment of your eligibility.

  • Do your academic grades meet the distinctions and marks levels required?
  • Does your household income situation fall within the thresholds for need-based bursaries?
  • Do you satisfy any other stipulated criteria like age, language, citizenship etc?

If your profile doesn’t quite match the bursary specifications, reconsider your options and find more suitable programs to target instead.

Step 5: Prepare Your Application Materials

Meticulous preparation of application materials gives you an edge. Start compiling the essential documents:

1. Academic Records

  • Matric results
  • Post-matric studies results if applicable
  • Academic transcript for your entire schooling history
  • Certified copies – not originals which get lost!

2. Identity Documents

  • Certified copy of ID book/card or passport
  • Certified copy of parent’s ID
  • Birth certificate

3. Proof of Residence

  • Municipal utility bill
  • Certified copy of lease agreement
  • Letter from local chief if rural village

4. Financial Documents

  • Parents’ 3-6 months payslips
  • Parents’ tax returns
  • SASSA grant letter if recipient
  • Affidavits declaring unemployment

5. Other Relevant Documents

  • Death certificate if orphan
  • Refugee status if foreign
  • Proof of disability if required

Thorough preparation will prevent a panicked scramble later on!

Step 6: Draft a Strong Motivation Letter

A well-written motivation letter can make or break your bursary application. Points to cover include:

  • Background about yourself and your family circumstances
  • Challenges you’ve overcome and key achievements so far
  • Your chosen degree and institution, your career goals and aspirations
  • How the bursary will enable you to give back and positively impact your community/country in future
  • Skills, strengths and abilities that make you an ideal candidate
  • Why you deserve the bursary more than other applicants

Put time into crafting a compelling, thoughtful letter that brings your application to life.

Step 7: Get Great Reference Letters

Most bursaries require 1-2 letters vouching for your character and abilities. Identify teachers, mentors, community leaders or employer referees who:

  • Know you well enough to provide personalized insight into your potential
  • Can speak to your strengths both academically and beyond the classroom
  • Are credible sources that bursary adjudicators will recognize and respect
  • Have unequivocally positive things to say about you – no veiled criticism

Give referees at least 1 month to prepare quality letters that reinforce why you merit the bursary support.

Step 8: Submit Your Application Correctly

Follow all instructions meticulously! Applications are usually either:

  • Online via portal on the bursary provider’s website
  • Physical submission by post or hand delivery to offices

For online applications:

  • Scan or photograph all documents cleanly and clearly
  • Upload the application form plus supporting docs
  • Keep copies of everything for your records

For physical applications:

  • Print sufficient copies of all documents
  • Get your certified ID copies properly witnessed
  • Assemble documents neatly with a list of contents
  • Mail or submit to relevant office before deadline

Step 9: Prepare for Interviews

Being shortlisted for bursary interviews means you’ve passed the first hurdle! Interviews allow the bursary committee to assess you beyond just paper applications. To shine:

  • Dress neatly in respectable professional attire
  • Thoroughly research the company/organization and bursary before the interview
  • Practice responses to standard interview questions
  • Prepare a short personal pitch highlighting your strengths
  • Be confident but remain humble – let your achievements speak for themselves
  • Ask smart questions that show your engagement and interest

The personal touch of interviews gives you a chance to bring your passion and dedication to life.

Step 10: Follow Up Appropriately

The waiting period after submitting your application can be frustrating. Avoid harassing the bursary provider, but do follow up politely if you have not received any communication after the indicated time period. Call or email to politely:

  • Check if they received your application successfully
  • Enquire as to the status of your application
  • Ask when you can expect to be notified of the outcome

If you are awarded the bursary, be sure to thank the provider promptly and enthusiastically! Remember to uphold any obligations that come with it like maintaining academic results or committing contractually to work for the company that supported you for a defined period after graduation.


Applying for bursaries requires dedication, preparation and attention to detail. But the rewards are immense if you secure funding that unlocks access to the quality higher education needed to pursue your dream career. Follow these 10 steps closely and you will master the art of bursary applications in the South African context!


How many bursary applications should I submit per year?

Aim for 5-10 good quality applications tailored to programs you are eligible for and passionate about. Cast a wide but targeted net.

When is the best time of year to apply for bursaries?

Most open applications around April-June for the next academic year. But start preparing documents and researching much earlier.

Can I submit the same bursary application to multiple providers?

No, tailor and customize each application to respond to what every specific bursary provider is looking for.

My family income is too high for need bursaries but too low to pay full fees. What should I do?

In this case, target ‘middle-income’ partial bursaries that supplement student loans or expected family contributions.


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