How to write Bursary Application

A bursary is a special form of financial aid designed to help students who cannot pay for their tuition and fees in full. Learn to write an outstanding bursary application letter with this step-by-step guide. Includes a letter you can use as a template!

hand with pen pointing to bursary word on the paper - how to write a bursary application letter

A bursary is a special form of financial aid designed to help students who cannot pay for their tuition and fees in full. It is somewhat like a scholarship, but it typically comes with a work contract that acts as a form of repayment. If you are seeking this type of funding in the future, you need to know how to write a bursary application letter. The guide below will explain just that.

What Is a Bursary?

A bursary is an award used to cover some or all of a student’s educational expenses. In most cases, the bursary requires a recipient to work for the issuing institution for a specific length of time. Example: a bursary that provides funds for one year may require one year of work while the degree is being completed or after the student receives a degree.

Bursaries are usually issued by colleges or universities, but they may be offered by independent organizations as well. The structure of the bursary varies by issuer, and they may be tailored to fit unique situations.

How to Write a Bursary Application Letter

Include the address for the bursary issuer in the top left corner of the application letter. You may also include the date of application and your name with contact information.

Begin the letter with “Dear Sir or Madam,” “To whom it may concern,” or “Dear {Name of specific person reading the application, if known}.”

In the first paragraph, concisely explain the purpose of the application. This should only be two to three sentences in length, with a clear thesis stating “I am applying for the XX bursary program to help fund my YYY degree pursuit in {year}” (or something similar).

The next paragraph should explain your educational path, including your current degree, personal achievements and plans you have for future education, like a graduate degree. This section should also be limited to three sentences because the bursary issuers will see a number of similar applications. Cover the point and move on.

The third paragraph should explain your career plans and how they connect with your degree and education. This section can be longer than the last because it reflects your personal goals. Explain how the bursary will help you cover the cost of your degree and what you plan to use the funds for. You may add something about the circumstances that led to your financial need, such as a family hardship, but do not focus on that too much. The main emphasis should be on plans for future success, not tales of past struggles.

Conclude your bursary application letter with a short paragraph expressing your gratitude for the opportunity and appreciation for consideration. Sign the letter with “Sincerely” and your name.

Additional Tips for Writing a Bursary Application Letter

Now that you know how to write a bursary application letter, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Cover as much as you can with as few words as possible. The review committee will skim through dozens of applications, so you want to grab their attention as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid filler words like very, really and just. Replace them with specific modifiers that convey your thoughts clearly and concisely.
  • Make the application letter personal rather than generic. This is because generic letters are easy to forget. Include plans to work for a specific organization or solve a problem you have seen/experienced. Show the bursary committee that their funding will contribute to a much greater plan.
  • Use a professional tone without sounding stiff. This is a serious process, but it should also be viewed as a letter-based interview. Write it as if you were speaking to an employer or professor.
  • Think carefully about why you need the bursary and why you deserve the funds. If you believe in yourself and your intentions, you will have an easier time conveying that to the review board.

Example Bursary Application Letter

To Whom It May Concern,

I am applying for the University of Michigan bursary program to assist me in funding my political science degree in 2016. I have paid the fees for the first year but unfortunately, my family is not in a position to continue to afford the fees for my college tuition.

I am currently enrolled at your college as a sophomore, pursuing my bachelor of arts degree in political science. During high school, I was a member of the debate team from my freshman to senior year. We took home first place in the national Tournament of Champions debate during my senior year while I was serving as the captain of the team. Following the completion of my bachelor’s degree, I plan to attend law school and pursue my JD.

I am a hard working student and my education is very important to me. During my freshman year of college, I was part of the Sooner Freshman Council and currently, I am serving as Director of Student Organizations. I have been a member of the debate team since freshman year. In the future, following the completion of my law degree, I would like to work as a lawyer and one day I hope to work as a federal judge.

Being accepted to the bursary program will greatly assist me in my educational pursuit and career goals. My parents are both working-class citizens and they are not able to help me pay for my college expenses. I have been awarded a merit scholarship but it isn’t enough to fund additional expenses. I don’t want this to be a barrier to my academics and future success. With the help of this bursary, I could afford to finance my studies and living expenses without building up many loans.

If accepted to your bursary program, I will use the skills I have acquired to honor our school and continue to excel in education and leadership. I will also contribute to our school’s student body, providing another voice for our students to be heard.

Thank you very much for considering my request. I appreciate any opportunity which helps me achieve my academic and career goals.

Yours Sincerely,

John Doe

Is a Bursary a Scholarship?

Yes and no. A bursary does not have to be repaid with money, making it similar to a scholarship. However, since most bursaries require a student to fulfill a work contract, the labor hours may be considered “repayment.” In that case, the bursary is more like a loan than a scholarship. These are all technicalities though. As long as you know that bursaries are viable financial aid options, you can pursue them to help you pay for college.


Overview of Public Universities in South Africa

Here's an overview of some public universities in South Africa, including general admissions requirements and estimated application periods. Keep in mind, specific program requirements and dates can vary significantly, so it's important to check each university's official website for the most current information.

University of Pretoria

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with minimum scores in specific subjects related to the chosen program; for international students, equivalent qualifications.
  • Application Period: Usually opens in March and closes at the end of July for most programs.

University of Cape Town

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with pass levels required for degree study; subject-specific requirements depending on the program.
  • Application Period: Application opens in April and closes at the end of July.

Stellenbosch University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with required marks; some programs have additional testing.
  • Application Period: Opens in March and typically closes at the end of June.

University of the Witwatersrand

  • Admissions Requirements: Matriculation certificate with university exemption; required scores vary by faculty.
  • Application Period: Begins in March and ends on the 30th of September.

University of Johannesburg

  • Admissions Requirements: Matric exemption with a minimum APS score; specific subject requirements based on the faculty.
  • Application Period: Opens in April and generally closes by the 30th of September.

University of the Free State

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with specific marks for the program applied to; additional requirements for certain courses.
  • Application Period: Typically opens in April and closes at the end of August.

University of Venda

  • Admissions Requirements: Completion of the National Senior Certificate with an endorsement for diploma or degree studies; specific APS scores needed.
  • Application Period: Usually from May to September.

University of Fort Hare

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with university exemption; certain programs may have specific requirements.
  • Application Period: Opens around May and closes at the end of September.

University of the Western Cape

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with specific performance levels; additional requirements for certain programs.
  • Application Period: Generally from May to September.

North-West University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with university exemption; program-specific requirements may apply.
  • Application Period: Opens in March and usually closes by the end of August.

Rhodes University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate or equivalent; minimum academic performance in certain subjects.
  • Application Period: Applications open in April and close at the end of September.

Nelson Mandela University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with required scores for chosen programs; portfolio or additional tests for some faculties.
  • Application Period: Opens in April, with a deadline at the end of August for most programs.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with specific scores; additional requirements for certain courses.
  • Application Period: Opens in May and typically closes by the end of September.

University of Limpopo

  • Admissions Requirements: Senior Certificate with endorsement for diploma or degree courses; specific APS scores for different programs.
  • Application Period: From April to September.

University of Zululand

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with an endorsement for bachelor’s degree studies; specific score requirements for various programs.
  • Application Period: Usually between April and November.

Central University of Technology

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with specific scores for the chosen field of study; additional criteria for certain programs.
  • Application Period: Application period generally starts in May and ends in October.

Vaal University of Technology

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with a pass that qualifies for admission to bachelor’s degree, diploma, or higher certificate programs.
  • Application Period: Typically from May to September.

Walter Sisulu University

  • Admissions Requirements: National Senior Certificate with required scores for chosen programs; additional criteria for certain faculties.
  • Application Period: From April to September.

This list provides a starting point for understanding the admissions landscape across South Africa's diverse higher education institutions. Given the variability in programs and requirements, it's crucial to consult each university's website for the most accurate and up-to-date information.