Education can be expensive, especially at private schools and universities. Sometimes, we need a little bit of financial support to help pay for it all. While this extra support can bring great peace of mind, it can also be a bit confusing. With so many different terms, you may find that you’re not even sure what to look for. It can be hard to tell what the differences are in the support measures, if there are any differences at all. Terms such as bursary, scholarship and grant are often used interchangeably, even though they’re not exactly the same things.
In short, the differences between bursaries, scholarships and grants are quite subtle and at times the terms seem to be interchangeable. Despite this, the best way to think of them is that a bursary is based solely off of financial need. A scholarship is based on very specific criteria, such as reaching a threshold achievement level in academics or sports, for example. A grant is a mixture between the two, being based on both financial status and certain criteria. However, please note that the lines of these terms are often blurred.
Continue reading to learn more about what bursaries, scholarships and grants are and how they differ from each other. This is a great article to read if you have any questions about applying for extra financial aid such as these.
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What is a bursary?
Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with the term “bursary”, you need to make sure that you’re aware that this is in relation to finance and support for students.
A bursary is a type of scholarship that students may be able to receive in order to pay for their education costs. While they aren’t usually competitive, bursaries aren’t just given out to everyone. In fact, bursaries are typically given to students who are in need of that extra financial support. Due to this, you may have heard them being referred to as “need-based” scholarships. Alternatively, you may have heard them being called “awards”.
Please note that in an academic finance sense, these terms are essentially interchangeable. For more information about what a bursary means, check out this guide by UCAS. Alternatively, you can look at this guide from Grant Me to get a more detailed answer.
How does a bursary work?
Knowing how a bursary works is an essential part of being able to get the funding you need to excel in your studies. As the whole process can feel rather complicated, it is an absolute must that you understand it before even applying.
Before a student can be given a bursary, they will need to apply for it. During this application process, the financial situations of their parents or guardians are assessed. This indicated whether a student is actually eligible to receive the bursary or not.
The application process will depend on the exact funding body that you are applying for the bursary from. This will be either your university or a charity. Each of these bodies has their own vision of what it means for an applicant to be eligible for their bursary.
At many universities, the application process is automatic so Student Finance will simply share the students’ income status with the university. They will then offer bursaries as they see fit. You may also be required to write an application letter. This is especially true if your bursary is from a separate funding body, such as a charity.
To learn more about what a bursary is and how the applications process works, check out this article by University Compare.
What can you get a bursary for as a student?
Unlike scholarships or grants, bursaries can be offered to students at state schools rather than just to students attending private schools or universities. Bursaries at state schools or more specifically at sixth forms or colleges, are government funded.
This bursary is called the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund in England, and the Education Maintenance Allowances in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information about these two bursaries respectively, check out the governmental guides here and here.
You can also get a bursary for attending a private school. The idea of bursaries at private schools is that if you show academic ability but don’t have the funds, they can help you out. This academic potential can be shown either through your entrance exams or GCSE results. To learn more about bursaries at private schools and how to get one, check out this Think Student article.
You can also get bursaries for university. The idea of these is to help pay for some of your living costs, supplies and other things you need for your course. They may be offered directly by the university themselves. If not, you may need to apply through Student Finance to receive one. For more information about this, check out these two UCAS guides here and here.
What is a scholarship?
If you’re anything like me, you may have first come across the term “scholarship” from American films. While scholarships still exist in the UK, here they are much less widely available and generous than in other parts of the world. Scholarships in the USA may even have a more varied criteria, giving students more of an opportunity to get one.
That said, there are many more students competing for university places in the USA. That, along with the higher cost of studying at a US university, makes gaining a scholarship much more necessary. To learn more about US vs UK scholarships, check out this article from The Scholarship Hub.
A scholarship is a form of financial aid that requires some form of criteria to be given to an applicant. In the UK, universities and independent schools can offer their own scholarships. Independent or third-party organisations can also offer scholarships.
Each individual organisation can create their own terms and criteria for applicants to be eligible for the scholarship. This will vary depending on each organisation and the scholarships available.
Despite each scholarship having different criteria which will suit different people, there are still lots of people applying. This can make scholarships very competitive. For more information about scholarships, check out this guide written by UCAS.
How does a scholarship work?
There are so many different scholarships that you may be eligible for if you study in the UK. They are especially useful at university but also for private schools. University scholarships are either offered by the university themselves or an independent provider. To find your perfect scholarship, you will need to do all this research in advance to make sure you can meet the criteria.
After you’ve found a scholarship for you, there will still be an application process. You usually need to apply on the external provider’s website. However, you might be able to contact your university who may then guide you through the process. For more on applying for a university scholarship, check out this Think Student article.
As a scholarship is based on certain criteria, you will also need to meet this before being able to receive one. You may need to submit something to the scholarship provider to prove that you meet these requirements.
For example, you can get up to £3,500 per year if you go to the University of Exeter and join the Exeter Cathedral Choir. For more information about some rather specific scholarships and their requirements, check out this article from Save The Student.
What can you get a scholarship for as a student?
Scholarships can be offered for both private school education and universities but not state schools. For private schools, the scholarship will often only be about 10% of the tuition fees and even that is now considered generous.
Other scholarships at newer private schools may be more focused on vouchers for supplies or special privileges instead of a monetary sum. For more information about this, check out this guide by Good Schools Guide.
At university, scholarships can be incredibly varied. They can have many different kinds of criteria, such as academics or extracurricular activities. This is the main difference between a scholarship and a bursary.
For example, you may be able to get a grant for your academic achievement, musical excellence, sporting achievement or even what your parents do. For more information about this, check out this article by The Scholarship Hub.
What is a grant?
Just like bursaries and scholarships, grants are a form of financial aid that you don’t typically need to repay. In the same way as the other two terms previously mentioned in this article, to be eligible to receive a grant, you will need to meet certain criteria.
The idea of a grant is to aid someone in achieving a specific goal. In the case of students, this is to allow them to study. For more information about grants, check out this definition from Investopedia. You can also check out this guide by Save The Student to learn about how grants relate to students.
How does a grant work?
When it comes to students, grants can be much more varied than scholarships and bursaries. How the grant works can also vary based on what kind of grant you are referring to.
For example, the Maintenance Grant that is available in Wales and Northern Ireland is essentially used to beef up your Maintenance Loan based on your household’s income. In Wales, every student is granted £1000 as maintenance grant, regardless of their household income. However, you can then top this up using a maintenance loan, depending on how much your parents earn per year.
However, other grants can work in a similar way to scholarships. You will have to find and apply for them yourself through independent funding bodies, such as charities. For more on grants, check out this guide by Save The Student. You can also check out this guide by University Compare.
What can you get a grant for as a student?
Grants are mainly available at universities rather than private schools. Similarly to scholarships, grants are available for a vast range of criteria. In fact, the main difference between a scholarship and a grant is that a grant is often based both on financial situation and special criteria. According to this University Compare guide, one criterion is often high grades.
Due to the large number of opportunities, it is important that you know where to look for them. The best places to look for grants (as well as scholarships or bursaries) are on your university or higher education provider’s website. For more information about this, check out this guide by UCAS.