How will you pay for your studies?

It’s frustrating and unfair that you can be a hard worker at school, applying yourself to your education and achieving excellent marks all the way up to matric, qualifying as the perfect candidate for whatever tertiary-education path you choose – and still have your academic dreams dashed because you can’t afford the costs of studying further. It’s a sad reality that many of our brightest minds don’t have the money to pay for university or college education. 

That doesn’t mean you should just give up on your study and career goals, however. Luckily, there are other avenues of support, like scholarships, bursaries and grants, which can help you achieve your tertiary education goals. Do some research relating to the course you wish to study and related industries. Companies and state institutions that need the skills you plan to study for will often provide funding for those courses. Many tertiary institutions offer financial aid, too.


What’s the difference between a bursary and a scholarship?

The main difference between a bursary and a scholarship is the conditions you must meet to qualify. 

A scholarship is usually industry-based and awarded for outstanding academic performance. You may need to meet additional conditions according to the exact scholarship you apply for, and you might be expected to work at the company that granted the scholarship while you study or after you qualify.

A bursary is usually awarded according to financial need, providing financial aid to less fortunate students who qualify to study at tertiary level, but can’t afford to. You must prove your financial situation to qualify, and a certain level of academic performance will be required too, although the exact requirements will differ from bursary to bursary.

Make sure that you read the fine print. If you fail a subject or your financial situation changes, some bursaries require you to pay a portion or all of it back.


How do I find bursaries?

There are many bursaries out there, but you need to find those related to what you’re going to study. If you want to do a degree in education, for example, you can apply for a Funza Lushaka Bursary.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) offers financial aid to students from low- or no-income families. This scheme works as both a loan and a bursary – the better you perform academically, the more money you can get, and you won’t have to pay back all of it.


Although this isn’t a very big trend in South Africa, crowdfunding is a potential option


For other fields of study, there are different options. You can find them on the Department of Higher Education and Training and Bursaries South Africa websites. You can also visit the financial aid office at the tertiary institution you’d like to study at for guidance on the bursaries or grants available in your field. Financial aid officers can tell you what you need to qualify and help you with the application process.

How do I find scholarships?

Finding appropriate scholarships might be a little more complicated. They’re most often offered by businesses, foundations and institutions, so you need to identify the major players in your chosen field. You’ll need to do a bit of research and digging – find these organisations online to learn which of them offer scholarships, what you need to qualify, and how to apply. The financial aid office at your preferred tertiary institution may also be able to give you a list of appropriate scholarships you can apply for.

Some large companies – Sasol is one example – offer both bursaries and scholarships, including learnerships and graduate programmes. 

What about crowdfunding?

Although this isn’t a very big trend in South Africa, crowdfunding is a potential option. Several non-profit organisations help raise funds for education, including the Anike FoundationFeenixBackaBuddy and more. If you decide to go the crowdfunding route, make sure that you start early and have the means to promote your appeal. Research the crowdfunding options available and choose the one that works best for you.


Can I get a student loan?

student loan offers you a unique interest rate with flexible repayment options. While you’re studying full-time or still doing an internship or articles after graduating, your guarantor will pay only the monthly interest on the loan. Once you have completed your studies, your monthly payments will increase to include capital and interest payments, until you have paid off the loan amount. If you’re a part-time student, your repayments will include monthly capital and interest payments from the start. 

Even if you’re awarded a bursary or scholarship, it may not cover all your expenses. In addition, bursaries and scholarships are often paid directly to the institution to cover fees, accommodation, etc – leaving you no spending money for other expenses. If you have a student loan, you can make up any shortfalls in your existing funding. Of course, you need to meet certain conditions to qualify for a student loan.

So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the money to pay for your tertiary studies. There are several ways to get the financial support you need. What you need to focus on is delivering the best academic performance you can, so that you qualify for the right financial aid to build your future.