Attaining a scholarship

How can my child attain a scholarship?

While most scholarships are open to all students, the most likely recipients are generally students who demonstrate outstanding academic merit or financial need.

In addition to these two basic requirements, depending on the scholarship, applicants may also have to meet a variety of other criteria. They may need to sit an examination, attend an interview, be currently enrolled, be practising a particular religious faith, be involved in a particular community, provide a portfolio, play an instrument or be from an isolated area. Some schools specify that the applicant must be the child or grandchild of a former student, of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, or live in the immediate area. A school's scholarship program will often demonstrate where its values lie.

Academic testing

Academic scholarships the largest and richest single category are usually awarded on the basis of a test of academic potential and may require an interview or evidence of special attributes such as leadership qualities. The tests are used to determine whether your child is a suitable candidate for a scholarship and aim to assess their level of general understanding of a particular field. They do not require the child to have studied a particular curriculum. It is advisable to consider getting a few hours of coaching from someone who is familiar with these tests or to practise using mock exams.

A number of independent schools use tests set by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). ACER Scholarships Tests are used by independent schools to determine a student's academic ability in order to select students for the award of a scholarship. At secondary level, these tests are broken into written expression, humanities (comprehension and interpretation) and mathematics components. There are two types of test available: Cooperative Program Tests and Alternate Date Tests.

  • Cooperative Program Tests are completed by students who are attending or looking to attend schools that have chosen to take part in the Cooperative Program. The same test is sat on the same date (usually on a chosen Saturday early in the year) by all students looking to gain a scholarship at a cooperative school. Each student's results are sent to the schools that they nominate as preferences. The advantage of this test is that students weighing up between two or more cooperative independent schools are able to complete the one test, rather than individual tests for each school. The only catch is that some schools will only consider students who nominated the school as their first preference. These test results are only valid for schools participating in the Cooperative Program and not for any other scholarship program.
  • Alternate Date Tests are similar tests completed by students looking to gain a scholarship to independent schools that have been nominated to hold their own individual test on an alternative date. Each school uses a different test and scores are not shared among schools, so candidates who register for multiple schools will need to sit multiple tests.

If you would like to find out more about the ACER scholarships tests, you can contact them directly:

Australian Council for Educational Research
Ph: (03) 9277 5555
Fax: (03) 9277 5500

The website contains a list of schools participating in each of these scholarship testing programs, as well as practice tests, usage of which requires a small fee.

Testing is not always required for internal scholarships. For example, some schools that offer primary through to Year 12 or schools in a mini-system with feeder primary schools grant scholarships based on teachers' recommendations. In these cases, a student's record is the decider. Since conditions such as eligibility, amount offered per year, length of support, and the number of scholarships offered per year vary significantly between schools, you will need to ask each school for the exact details about their scholarships program.

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