Scholarships, grants, bursaries are financial awards that are designed to help to support students financially through their studies. They can be awarded for many different reasons and this is often dependent on the type of organisation that is awarding the scholarships. Different organisations will have different motives for offering scholarships.

The terms scholarship, grant and bursary often seem to be used quite interchangeably and it can be quite confusing, but the basic principle of each is the same. This is money that is awarded to you which you do not have to pay back.

As a general rule, you could say

  • Scholarships: money usually given for something you have achieved whether this is academic or extra curricular.
  • Grants: a grant can be given for achievement, personal circumstance or financial need
  • Bursaries: these are usually given for financial need.

However there is no hard and fast rule, and you will see these terms used to apply to many different funding opportunities.

There is a misconception that scholarships are only for the very academically gifted, and grants and bursaries are for those in financial need and anyone in between will not be eligible, but this is not true. There are a whole lot of other funding opportunities designed to widen access to universities.

Here are some examples of scholarships available:

  1. Academic Excellence Scholarships: many universities offer scholarships to students who achieve specified grades in their A’levels to encourage the higher achieving students to choose their university. They are not all asking for A*AA, some are offering money for ABB or less.
  2. Musical Scholarships: if you have musical talent and would be happy to perform during your stay at the university there are scholarships offering for a wide range of choral and instrumental students.
  3. Personal Circumstances: Scholarships that are based on things that are specific to your personal circumstances, such as where you live, where you go to school, what your parents do, if you have been in care or even if you are a vegetarian!
  4. Financial Need: These are the more traditional type of scholarships, which award money to individuals who are in financial need and might not be able to go to university without the money. You will need to prove your financial need.
  5. Sporting achievement. It does not matter what you want to study, if you have made outstanding achievements in sport, many universities will offer scholarships to attract the best talent. You will of course have to represent the university at sporting events while you study.
  6. Industry scholarships: Companies or professional associations offer scholarships to attract talent in to their industry or to recruit graduates and some include work experience as part of the offer. Often scholars are offered employment on graduation.
  7. Marketing led scholarships: these scholarships have been designed to achieve specific marketing objectives, usually offered by companies which are keen to get their brands in front of students. They are open to all students regardless of where or what they are going to study and can be worth around £5,000.
  8. Charitable purposes: these are more often called grants or bursaries and are offered by charities and trusts, of which there are thousands in the UK. The amount awarded will usually be smaller and it will have a very specific purpose, in line with their charitable objectives.

What are my chances of getting a scholarship?
Amazingly, many organisations offering scholarships often struggle to get enough applicants and you could find the odds are stacked in your favour.
Whilst we wouldn’t suggest that everyone who applies will win a scholarship, there are certainly scholarships out there for which everyone is eligible and if you don’t apply, your chances will be much lower of winning one!

When should I apply?
The application deadlines for scholarships vary and you should check each one to find out when to apply. However, do be aware that some require you to apply before you know your A-level results and others are once you have your place confirmed at University. There are also scholarships for which you should be in your second or third year at Uni, so keep an eye out while you are studying too. A cash boost every now and then will always be welcome to a student.

How to start your search
The Scholarships on our database are organised in such a way that you can filter out different options.

Basis for Selection: the options here are based on the reasons for the award being given. If you are looking for scholarships that are based on where you come from, or for example if your parents were in the Army, select “The Basis for Selection” as Personal Circumstances.
Institution : If you know which universities you are interested in you can select those specific ones, but you should also run a search on “No specific university” as this is where you will find those scholarships that are open to all students regardless of the university they go to.
Course: You can select the specific subject you are interested in from the list, or the higher level subject category. For example if you are looking for scholarships for Maths & Physics, you can selection Physical Sciences and this will cover both. You should also run a search on “No specific subject” to see what comes up that is open to all students regardless of their subject choice.

You can learn more about how to get the most out of your search by watching our video.

It is also worth taking the time to research some of the smaller charities which give grants for educational support. The Guide to Educational Grants is a book which lists all of these and can be found in larger libraries. Alternatively you can access a database of 3,500 charities & trusts which offer educational grants with our Members Benefits.

To get a full copy of our "Step by step guide to finding scholarships" plus additional tools and resources, find out about Premium Membership Benefits.