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Choosing A School presents some handy tips and expert advice for helping your child to put their best foot forward when applying for a scholarship.

For many people, the fees charged by some independent schools places them well out of reach. Aware of this fact, many private schools offer scholarships that cover part or all of the school fees. This lessens the financial burden on parents and makes it easier for them to decide on the direction of their child’s education.

Most scholarships are awarded for academic ability. However, some schools offer scholarships for students who are highly skilled in particular areas. Music is the most common talent rewarded in this way, but scholarships in sports and the performing arts also exist.

Students who wish to apply for a scholarship will be asked to sit for tests to determine their academic potential. Schools can either set their own exams for scholarship students or take part in co-operative testing schemes developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). This scholarship examination is not a test of the student’s IQ, but rather his or her scholastic potential or ability in the areas of mathematics, written expression and humanities.

Results of the test are marked by ACER and then returned to the schools. These tests are usually held in May the year before the scholarship is offered. The ACER exam can be taken in many locations throughout NSW and Australia, and there are even some overseas examination centres. The schools that you are interested in applying to for a scholarship will be able to advise if they are part of the ACER co-operative testing scheme.

There is intense competition for scholarships. It’s important that prospective scholarship students do their best, but it’s also vital that students are encouraged and supported if their application is unsuccessful. Setting appropriate goals and avoiding undue pressure is extremely important.

The selection process

Belinda Jenkins is responsible for selecting students for scholarships at Queenswood School for Girls and has the following advice to share.

“While many hundreds of students apply for scholarships each year, there is only a small percentage that can be awarded a scholarship at the end of the process. How can parents ensure that the scholarship application experience is a worthwhile one, even if their child’s participation does not result in the gaining of a scholarship?

Firstly the experience itself should be seen as a positive one. The word stress is used nowadays to explain away any fears we may have about our current status. The stress that a student feels when approaching a scholarship application is a positive sign that the student is taking the experience seriously. It is an important event and the student is learning strategies of preparation for the big day. Secondly, the exam experience gained from sitting the ACER test builds exam techniques for the future. To be successful in any exam a student needs to know how to focus and manage time. Even if a student is not awarded a scholarship, they have gone some of the way to gaining essential exam strategies.

There is also a good deal of positive family time that can emerge from the scholarship application. The student can discuss with her parents the school she wishes to nominate. Most schools will prefer to award a scholarship to a student who has named them as the first preference. Finally parents can demonstrate their support, which will be called on for many years to come. While everyone in the family may be a little nervous on the day of the scholarship exam, it is the parents who should present a calm, confident manner to their child as he or she disappears into the exam room.”

Advice to scholarship applicants is to approach the exam calmly, prepare well and practice basic questions related to your chosen subject matter leading up to the exam process.