How to apply for scholarships

When it comes to applying for scholarships, there isn't one set way of going about it. Every scholarship fund has its own processes and requirements, but in general you will need to provide information about yourself, present yourself in a way that makes a good impression, and show why you are deserving of the scholarship. Follow these steps to make sure you cover all the bases.

Step 1: Know what’s on offer

Students work at a library computer

Most libraries provide free access to the givME database

Get to know the full range of scholarships available to you so you don’t miss out on anything.

givME (formerly BreakOut) offers access to more than 4,000 scholarships and grants for individuals.

You can use givME for free at:

  • over 240 secondary schools
  • most universities and many polytechnics
  • public libraries
  • Citizens Advice Bureaux
  • some community centres.

Sometimes competition for scholarships is very strong. You can increase your chances of receiving one by applying for as many as you qualify for.

Step 2: Make sure you qualify

Many scholarships are designed especially for people who:

  • are a specific gender, age, or ethnicity
  • belong to a particular indigenous or other special group
  • have achieved academic or sporting excellence
  • intend to study in a certain field or at a certain level.

Read through the scholarship information carefully to make sure you meet the criteria.

Make a list of the scholarships you are qualified to apply for.

Step 3: Gather your information

To apply for a scholarship, you will most likely need to fill out forms and supply documents to support your application. You may also have to attend an interview with the selection panel. Some things you may need to provide with your application are:

  • evidence of community involvement, financial hardship or ethnic background
  • a letter of approval from your school
  • a list of referees
  • your record of learning
  • proof of citizenship or residency status (eg birth certificate, passport).

You need to collect, make copies of, and certify all the necessary documents. To certify your documents, take the original and a photocopy to an authorised person. They will check both documents and sign the copy to show it is a true reproduction of the original.

An authorised person could be a teacher, kaumātua, minister of religion, police officer, registered medical professional, solicitor or Justice of the Peace. This may depend on the individual scholarship, so it is best to check.

Keep your scholarship information organised

All of this can take time, but your scholarship will be worth the effort! To help you keep track of things, put together a simple list of: 

  • all the scholarships you want to apply for
  • when each one is due
  • the supporting documents you need to provide for each one
  • how and when you will get these documents.

"Go and look up all the scholarships you can apply for. There are heaps of scholarships out there. Once you find one, put in the hard work for the application – it took me at least five hours."

Ani Ross-Hoskins

Ani Ross-Hoskins

Tertiary Student

Step 4: Make a good impression

Remember that you are trying to prove you are worthy of financial support. So you need to make a good first impression with the presentation of your application.

  • Be tidy – type or write neatly. Check your spelling. Attach documents in the order they are requested. 
  • Be thorough – make sure you have provided everything that is asked for. If you can, find out about the organisation that is awarding the scholarship and try to tailor your application according to their vision and goals. 
  • Be timely  – submit your application well before or by the closing date. 

Step 5: Do a final check

Check, check, and recheck. Use this checklist to make sure you are ready to submit your application:

  • Fill in the application forms carefully.
  • Check for spelling mistakes.
  • Provide all the necessary supporting documents.
  • Get copies of documents certified.
  • Meet the closing date.
  • Make copies of every application sent.
  • Provide current contact details.
  • Get someone to check over your application as they might notice something you’ve missed.

"If you receive a scholarship, try to be different by contacting and updating the provider and advising them about your progress without being prompted. Show them your appreciation and how their support has helped you."

Casey Haumaha

Casey Haumaha

Tertiary Student

Updated 9 Jan 2017