Getting a Bursary: Tips from Bursary Students

For many aspiring graduates, concerns about how to pay for their studies can be a major cause of stress – for them and their parents. Securing a bursary is a sought-after way to alleviate financial stress and  allows students to focus on the important things – their studies.

Having a bursary can also give students access to opportunities such as vacation work, additional pyscho-social or professional support and even graduate programme placements once they complete their degrees.

The application process for a bursary can be rather daunting. We spoke to three bursary students to get their advice on how to ace your bursary application, including tips on how to succeed in the interview.

  1. Put effort and thought into your application

“It’s not easy to get funding, so you really have to deliver in your application. If you have to do more than just fill in a form, like write a motivation letter, make sure you put a lot of effort into it,” says Tumisho Madisha, who is currently completing her postgraduate in Accounting at the University of Cape Town on a bursary from Capitec.

A good motivation letter should explain why you want to study the degree you’ve chosen, why you need financial support, and why you’re interested in a bursary with the company you’re applying to. Tumisho also advises that you apply for more than one bursary, rather than putting all your eggs into one basket.

  • Do Research on the Company

“One of the requirements for my interview was that I should do some research on the company,” says Kyle Dyers, another Capitec bursary student who is in his third year of an IT degree at Pearson Institute for Higher Learning. “For example, I found out that Capitec had won top bank in the world for a few years, and I didn’t know they also operated outside of South Africa before I did the research.”

Knowing a little about the organisation that is funding you will go a long way to securing your bursary.

  • Be your authentic self

Safiyah Mather has a bursary from ABSA to study Actuarial Science at Wits. In her first year, she remembers her bursary interview clearly. “It was scary,” she laughs. “My advice is to always be yourself. Try to put your best forward, be honest, and tell them why you want to do the degree. You should show that you’re doing the degree to make a difference in the world and because you enjoy it rather than for the money or anything like that.”

Being honest with employers and letting them get to know you a little in the interview, is important for making sure your goals and values are aligned.

  • Know Something about your Career Possibilities

“In Accounting, you can become a CA either through Training Inside Public Practice (TIPP) or Training Outside Public Practice (TOPP),” says Tumisho. “I don’t think I would have been very happy in Auditing, which is TIPP, so I chose to take the bursary with Capitec because that was for the TOPP route and I could do management accounting instead.”

Kyle agrees. He advises matrics who are keen to study IT to learn as many programming languages as possible before they even enter university. “Learn Java especially, you’re going to be using it a lot,” he says.

All three bursary students agree that getting a bursary has been a huge factor contributing to their success at university so far.

“It relieves so much stress because you know that the financial side of things is sorted, and Capitec also offers additional support if I need it,” says Tumisho. “I can speak to a professional if I need to, or a counsellor if I’m ever feeling stressed or pressured. They check in with me regularly and I can reach out any time if I need help.”

Safiyah says, “If I ever have a problem with regards to funding – maybe for books and other resources that you need to study – I can always reach out to ABSA and they are always very helpful.”

Kyle, who has been on a bursary for two years, says “It’s a lot less weight on my parents’ shoulders. And I was fortunate to be able to stay in res last year, with Capitec’s help, which really added to my experience.”

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