Many schools offer scholarships to reward high-achieving students and offer opportunities for those who may not have been able to afford to attend the school. If you're exploring your child's scholarship options, here's what you should keep in mind throughout the process.
What does the scholarship cover and how much will it provide?
Most academic scholarships cover tuition fees, either in part or full, although some also provide assistance with extracurricular activities or other school-related expenses. Some may be awarded for the student's entire time at the school, while others specify a time period. If your child has been offered a scholarship that covers a proportion of the tuition fees, it's important to weigh up the total costs and consider whether the discounted price still falls within your budget with some independent schools charging as much as $30,000 a year, a 25 per cent discount can still mean paying more than you would for a full-fee place somewhere else. Likewise, even if the scholarship covers a large portion (or all) of the tuition fees, expenses such as uniforms, excursions, camps and technology can be very costly.
How does the application process work?
The application process for scholarships varies from school to school and may include a test, audition, interview or other selection criteria. Scholarship applications generally occur at the start of the year, between February and May, for enrolment the following year. Many independent schools rely on the ACER Scholarships Tests when awarding scholarships, which are a series of academic ability tests across written expression, humanities and mathematics. For more information about the ACER tests, see Attaining a scholarship.
Are there any conditions?
Some schools may impose certain restrictions or conditions on scholarship students, which can include anything from having to maintain certain grades or participating in extracurricular activities to not being able to move to another school (including selective government schools). If a student breaks one of these conditions, their scholarship may be taken away and, in some cases, the parents may be required to pay back the sum of the scholarship. These requirements differ vastly between schools, so it's important to do your research to understand what is required of you and your child.
How do you feel about the school in general?
It's easy to be dazzled by generous scholarship offers or the promise of academic success, but it's important to look at the bigger picture when deciding what's best for your child and family. Before you make any decisions, try to a get a sense for the school's values and environment during interviews or by attending open days. If possible, it's also worth talking to students or parents from the school to gain further insight. See Best way to choose a school for more information.