How do I get a full bursary in South Africa?
Strategies for Securing Full Undergraduate Bursaries in South Africa

Pursuing an undergraduate degree is a major investment in your future, but the costs can be daunting. While fully covering your undergraduate studies through a bursary may seem like a dream, with the right strategy and dedication, it can become a reality.

This comprehensive guide explores how to maximize your chances of securing full or significant partial bursaries to fund your undergraduate studies in South Africa.

How do I get a full bursary in South Africa?

Why Seek Bursary Funding?

Tertiary education opens doors to rewarding careers and brighter futures, but often carries a high price tag.

For 2023, average annual fees at South African public universities range from R30,000 – R50,000 ($1,700 – $2,800), with costs at private institutions even higher. Many households struggle to pay these amounts upfront.

This is where bursaries become invaluable – they provide financial awards to cover your tuition fees, accommodation, books, and other undergraduate expenses. Unlike a student loan, they do not need to be repaid, making them an attractive funding mechanism.

With youth unemployment at over 60% in South Africa, a bursary can make tertiary education accessible when it would otherwise be unattainable. By removing financial barriers, they empower recipients to pursue academic and career aspirations on their merit and potential alone.

Preparing Your Bursary Application Strategy

With so much at stake, you need an informed strategy when applying for undergraduate bursaries. Follow these key steps:

Choose a Strategic Field of Study

  • Research bursary availability and industry demand within different undergraduate degrees – STEM fields like engineering and health sciences often have more sponsorships.
  • Look for fields where South Africa faces skills shortages. Teachers, healthcare professionals, engineers and accountants are all in high demand – increasing your chances of full funding support.
  • Ensure your interests align with high-priority disciplines. You’ll perform better in subjects you’re passionate about.

Excel Academically

  • Achieving outstanding grades provides evidence you deserve bursary investment. Aim for top of your class in key subjects.
  • Supplement your academics with awards, prizes for top performance, or participation in academic enrichment programs.
  • Maintain your high standard across the full school year – don’t lose focus towards the end.

Demonstrate Financial Need

  • Provide recent payslips, bank statements and tax returns to prove household income and need.
  • Research what documentation each bursary provider requires and submit complete, accurate information.
  • Be transparent about your family’s financial situation and how you require full funding support to pursue your studies.

Develop Leadership Experience

  • Undertake community service and get involved with causes important to you. Giving back looks great on a CV.
  • Take up leadership positions within extracurricular activities – these showcase responsibility.
  • Obtain part-time work and secure strong employer references emphasizing your work ethic.

Research Bursary Opportunities Extensively

  • Bursary providers range from government, companies, foundations and universities. Compile a list of major providers in your field.
  • Thoroughly investigate each bursary’s eligibility criteria, documents needed, deadlines and application process.
  • Start your search 12-18 months before studies commence – some bursaries close applications early.

Craft Persuasive Applications

  • Show passion and convince the provider you deserve the bursary and will maximize the opportunity.
  • For motivational essays, reflect deeply on how the bursary will enable your goals and growth.
  • Tailor each aspect of the application to the provider – understand what they value in candidates.

Secure Strong References

  • Choose referees familiar with your abilities and character – long-standing teachers or employers carry weight.
  • Provide referees background on the bursary and your application to assist them in crafting impactful references.
  • Follow up to ensure references make the deadline – a missing reference can undermine an otherwise strong application.

Apply Broadly and Persist Through Setbacks

  • Apply for several bursaries – don’t bank on just one. Spread risk and maximize chances.
  • If unsuccessful with your first applications, analyze feedback and improve for the next round.
  • Follow up on outstanding applications and demonstrate ongoing enthusiasm and commitment.

Key Bursary Providers and Opportunities

While the full range of bursary options is extensive, some major providers and opportunities to target include:

Government Bursaries

  • National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) – Provides full bursaries for financially needy students. Must apply via your chosen university.
  • Funza Lushaka Bursary – Full cost coverage for teaching students who commit to teach at public schools for each funded year.
  • Health Professions Bursary – Bursaries for medical degrees, requiring commitment to public healthcare post-graduation.
  • Department of Public Service Administration (DPSA) – Bursaries for degrees like engineering and accounting, requiring working for government afterwards.

University Bursaries

  • University of Cape Town (UCT) – Needs-based and merit UCT bursaries covering various fields.
  • University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) – Diverse bursaries by faculty and background. Significant funding for health sciences.
  • University of Johannesburg (UJ) – Over 1,500 UJ bursaries awarded annually, including sports and arts bursaries.

Corporate Bursaries

  • Investec – Actively funds commerce, engineering, maths and finance students requiring financial assistance.
  • Total Energies – Bursaries for engineering and geoscience students showing strong academic aptitude.
  • Old Mutual – Offers both undergraduate and postgraduate future leaders scholarship funding.

Foundations and Trusts

  • The Donald Gordon Foundation – Merit and means bursaries for needy students.
  • The Motsepe Foundation – Covers private school and university fees through its education pillar.
  • The Norval Foundation – Fully funds needy visual arts students.

Submitting Outstanding Applications and Maximizing Success

With preparation and dedication, you can craft bursary applications that help you stand out from the crowd:

  • Keep academics front and center – reinforce your achievements and commitment to excellence within your field.
  • Convey your passion – share the origins of your career interests and emphasize alignment with the provider’s vision.
  • Showcase perseverance – overcoming adversity and thriving despite financial or other hardships indicates resilience.
  • Build rapport with providers – make use of consultations and information sessions to connect personally with selection committees.
  • Express gratitude – providers want to know their investment will be valued and maximized. Convey humility and appreciation.
  • Follow precisely and promptly – meticulously adhere to instructions and deadlines to prevent disqualification.
  • Have someone review your application – an objective eye can pick up mistakes and opportunities for improvement.
  • Keep trying – reapply and improve each time; success often takes multiple attempts.

Alternative Funding and Support Options

While applying for bursaries, also consider:

  • Part-time employment – work experience adds to your CV, supplements income.
  • Student loans – often more readily accessible than bursaries. Use judiciously and only if needed.
  • Scholarships – awarded based on merit rather than financial need.
  • Family contributions – discuss any small, manageable amounts parents can contribute.
  • On-campus work – apply to be a tutor, assistant or coder to earn extra income during studies.

See Bursaries for 2024 Undergraduate South Africa 


Undergraduate bursaries provide a life-changing opportunity if secured. But remember – the application process takes significant time, effort and perseverance. Start early, be strategic in aligning your studies, maintain academic excellence, emphasize financial need, and craft professional, personalized applications. While competitive, with dedication and savvy preparation, you can drastically improve your chances of beginning your tertiary studies with the full support of an undergraduate bursary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of a bursary over a student loan?

Bursaries provide grant funding that does not need to be repaid. This reduces debt burden after graduating. Loans accumulate interest and require repayment even if you are not yet employed.

When should I start applying for bursaries?

Begin researching bursaries 12-18 months before your studies commence. Many providers have early annual deadlines. Prepare documents and apply for opportunities from mid-Grade 11 onwards.

Can I hold multiple bursaries concurrently?

Yes, you can hold several partial bursaries together to cover your full costs. Be transparent with each provider about any other funding secured.

What happens if I switch programs or universities?

Bursary funding is usually conditional on studying the degree originally applied for at the specified institution. Any changes require consultation with the provider and may lead to the bursary being withdrawn.

Can my bursary be taken away?

Underperforming academically, changing programs without permission, misconduct or failing to comply with the bursary terms can result in the bursary being cancelled and funds reclaimed. Maintain standards.

If my family finances improve, can I lose my need-based bursary?

If your financial situation changes substantially, need-based bursary providers may reconsider your eligibility and require supporting documents reflecting your revised household income.


NSFAS Application 2024 Is Now Open: Apply Now!

How To Apply For High School In Gauteng


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *