Scholarships Vs. Bursaries: Making The Right Choice

Manavi Agarwal

Last Updated: October 13, 2023
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In the pursuit of higher education, securing financial assistance can be a game-changer, and two common terms you’ll encounter on this journey are “scholarships” and “bursaries.” While both offer the invaluable support needed to ease the financial burden of education, they aren’t quite the same. Scholarships and bursaries represent distinct avenues of financial aid, each with its unique set of qualifications, purposes, and application processes. Understanding the key differences between these two forms of assistance is not just a matter of semantics; it can profoundly impact your educational journey and financial well-being. So, get ready to explore the intricacies of scholarships and bursaries, unlocking the path that aligns best with your academic aspirations.


Scholarships Vs. Bursaries

The Basics

Let’s start with the basics, shall we? Scholarships and bursaries are both forms of financial assistance, but they have some key differences. Think of them as two cousins who share a family resemblance but have their unique personalities.

  • Scholarships: The Golden Tickets – Scholarships are like golden tickets to the education wonderland. They are usually awarded based on merit, which could be academic excellence, athletic prowess, or outstanding achievements in extracurricular activities. These are essentially rewards for your hard work and dedication.
  • Bursaries: The Helping Hand – On the other hand, bursaries are more like a helping hand when you need it the most. They are typically need-based and are designed to provide financial support to students who might not have the means to pursue higher education otherwise. Bursaries aim to level the playing field.

The Criteria

Now that we’ve established the basics, let’s dive deeper and explore the criteria that set these two apart.

  • Scholarships: Scholarships are like trophies for your accomplishments. To earn one, you usually need to demonstrate exceptional academic performance, artistic talent, or athletic skills. Scholarships are often highly competitive, and you’ll need to put your best foot forward to stand out in a crowd of eager applicants.
  • Bursaries: Bursaries, on the other hand, focus on your financial situation. To be eligible for a bursary, you’ll need to demonstrate a genuine financial need. This could include factors like low family income, unexpected medical expenses, or other financial hardships that make it challenging to afford your education.

Who Offers Them?


So, where can you find these elusive scholarships and bursaries?

  • Scholarships: Academic Institutions – Scholarships are frequently offered directly by academic institutions themselves. Universities, colleges, and even high schools may have scholarship programs to attract talented students. Additionally, many private organisations and companies offer scholarships to support students pursuing specific fields of study or career paths.
  • Bursaries: Government and Private Organisations – Bursaries are often provided by both government agencies and private organisations with philanthropic goals. Government bursaries aim to make education accessible to a broader range of students, while private organisations might have specific criteria for their bursaries, such as supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds.

What Do They Cover?

Let’s talk about the golden question: what do scholarships and bursaries actually cover?

  • Scholarships: Tuition, and Beyond – Scholarships often cover a portion or even the entire cost of tuition fees. Some might go above and beyond, offering additional perks like stipends for living expenses, funding for study abroad programs, or even research opportunities. It’s like hitting the educational jackpot!
  • Bursaries: Basic Necessities – Bursaries, on the other hand, are more focused on providing students with the essential financial support they need to pursue their education. They can help cover tuition, textbooks, and sometimes even accommodation costs. Bursaries aim to ease the financial burden that might otherwise deter students from attending school.

The Application Process

  • Scholarships: Showcase Your Skills – Applying for scholarships often involves showcasing your skills and achievements. This might include submitting transcripts, recommendation letters, a personal statement, and possibly an interview or audition, depending on the scholarship’s requirements. It’s your chance to shine and prove why you deserve that scholarship.
  • Bursaries: Demonstrate Your Need – Bursary applications focus on your financial situation. You’ll typically need to provide detailed information about your family’s income, assets, and any financial challenges you’re facing. Some bursary applications may also require you to write a personal statement explaining your need for financial assistance.

Availability And Competition

Let’s address the elephant in the room: competition.

  • Scholarships: Fierce Competition – Scholarships are often highly competitive. Many students across the country (and sometimes internationally) apply for the same scholarships. This means you need to go above and beyond to stand out from the crowd and prove why you’re the ideal candidate.
  • Bursaries: A Different Kind of Competition – While bursaries may have fewer applicants than scholarships, the competition can still be fierce. Each applicant’s financial situation is unique, and bursary committees have the challenging task of determining who needs assistance the most. Make sure to provide a clear and compelling case for why you require a bursary.

The Verdict

So, which is better, scholarships or bursaries? Well, it depends on your unique circumstances and goals.

  • Scholarships: For the Achievers – If you have a stellar academic or extracurricular track record and want to be rewarded for your hard work, scholarships are an excellent choice. They can offer not only financial support but also recognition and networking opportunities.
  • Bursaries: For the Needy – On the other hand, if you’re facing financial challenges that make pursuing higher education seem like an impossible dream, bursaries can be a lifeline. They prioritise your financial needs and ensure you can access education without worrying about the cost.

Choose The Right Financial Support For Your Educational Journey


When it comes to financing your education, both scholarships and bursaries play crucial roles. Scholarships recognise your hard work and dedication, while bursaries provide vital financial support to those facing economic challenges. Depending on your situation, you may even be eligible for both.

At Mentoria, we understand that navigating the world of scholarships, bursaries, and other financial aid options can be overwhelming. Our team of experienced educational counsellors can provide you with personalised guidance to help you secure the financial support you need for your educational journey.

From identifying relevant scholarships and bursaries to assisting with application processes, Mentoria is your partner in accessing financial aid effectively. We can also help you explore additional funding options and create a financial plan tailored to your educational goals.