Studying at a tertiary level is an expensive business, and most South African students need financial help to do so. Getting a bursary from a reputable organization is often the only way of funding your further education.
What is a bursary and who is eligble?
A bursary is a form of financial assistance for students who aren’t able to fund their studies on their own. Bursary funds are made available in South Africa by universities, colleges, tertiary education facilities, and many other organisations and companies. They can help to cover the school fees, educational expenses and sometimes other living expenses.
Bursaries usually come with a contract and entail certain conditions. Often you’ll be expected to work for the company or organisation giving you the bursary for a certain period of time after you graduate.
You’ll be expected to apply for the bursary program by completing an application form and many organisation may also as for a cover letter on why you should be selected. The motivational letter you write to the institution offering the bursary is important as it can materially affect your chances of getting the bursary award. It needs to be of high quality but you should not let the thought of writing a letter put you off sending the bursary application letter. Remember there is never a perfect candidate and simply by applying greatly improves your chances!
Tips on writing an effective motivational letter for bursary
An important point to bear in mind is that the organisation will get many letters from students applying for the bursary. You want yours to stand out and grab their attention. Keep these tips in mind:
- Your letter must have a personal, engaging and interesting tone, and you must sound sincere and genuine. At the same time, you need to sell yourself and talk about your personal achievements.
- Be completely honest about your financial situation, why you need the bursary and what your goals and aspirations are.
- The language and presentation of your letter must be meticulous. Proofread, proofread, proofread – even a single typo or spelling error is too much! Replace filler words like ‘just’, ‘really’ and ‘very’ with specific modifiers. Be precise and avoid long, meandering sentences.
- Keep your tone polite, a professional and formal tone, without sounding stilted. Avoid familiarity, undue ‘chattiness’ and slang. Look out for any spelling mistakes.
- Make sure that you include all the information requested, i.e. your academic results, personal information, contact details and documents requested.
- Write about any previous experience you might have in your motivation letter, they want to at least see the candidate know what skills are required for the challenge ahead, the same as you would for a job application.
- Assure the organisation of your commitment, career goals and that you’ll work hard to meet all the requirements and expectations they set.
How to structure a bursary motivational letter
A letter of motivation will vary considerably according to every student’s individual circumstances, but here’s a good generic format:
- Your name, contact information and the date go in the top left-hand corner of the application letter. If you are a current student at the institution, include your student number.
- Follow this by the name and address of the organisation offering the bursary
- Then a subject line stating which bursary you are applying for.
- The salutation, which can be one of the following:
- Dear Sir
- Dear Madam
- To Whom It May Concern
- Dear Mr/Mrs/Dr, followed by the name of the person who’ll be reading it if you know who it is.
- Paragraph one must briefly and clearly explain the purpose of the application, i.e. “I am applying for the — bursary you offer to help me fund my — degree/certificate/qualification in —.
- The next paragraph should give your educational information:
- Academic achievement and results
- Your current degree and what year you’re in if you’re already studying.
- Use the third paragraph to discuss your career plans, personal goals, and how the bursary will help you to fund your studies.
- Give a few details about why you need the bursary, but don’t elaborate too much.
- Finally, express your gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity and state your commitment to working hard.
- Sign the letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ and your name
Two examples of motivational letter for bursary application
Please see the below sample letters:
Example 1 – Letter for Scholarship
Ms Wilma Visagie
14 Malan Avenue
Cell number: 000 000 000
Student number: 0000110000
18 February 2022
North West University
Application for a bursary for the third-year BA in Media Studies and Communication.
I am currently enrolled in my second year at your university for a BA in Media Studies and Communication. I have found the course interesting, rewarding and both challenging and thought-provoking, and have been doing well so far. I would like to apply for your bursary for the third year (2022) of my degree as my financial circumstances have unfortunately changed recently.
My academic results at the end of my first year were as follows:
- Journalism and Media Studies: A- (3.7)
- Graphic Design with History of Art: A (4)
- Development Communication: B+ (3.3)
- Advanced Corporate Communication: A- (3.8)
I have always enjoyed language and communication and intend to find a position in the media and communication field after I graduate. I particularly have my sights set on working for a reputable newspaper, journal or magazine where my flair for design, research and communication will be put to good use.
I have on several occasions done vac work at the Townsomewhere Gazette and really enjoyed it. During the recent June/July holidays they put me in charge of arranging a media event for them. I’m delighted (and relieved!) to say that it went very well. I attach a copy of the complimentary letter Mr Dan Brooks, the editor, wrote to me after the event.
My first and second-year studies were funded by an uncle who was also my godfather since my parents died when I was 10. He sadly passed away towards the end of May this year, and my aunt will not be able to fund my final year of study. I do have a small amount of my own money saved up, but it isn’t enough for my tuition next year. Your bursary would make the difference between graduating next year or having to work for some time to save the money to complete my studies.
May I please emphasise that my education is extremely important to me? I also believe that as a writer and journalist one can make a difference to society and I’m passionate about doing so. If you would kindly grant me the bursary, I can assure you of my continued commitment and best efforts in my studies and in the future.
Thank you very much for considering my bursary application. I am grateful for this opportunity.
Kindly find attached all the relevant documentation you requested.
Wilma Visagie (Ms)
Example 2 – Bursary Letter
88 Alikreukel Ave
Cel no 0000000
Annexures 1-11 attached
21 January 2022
Dr Dennis Madison
Institute of Geology, Mineralogy and Mining Research
Dear Dr Madison
Application for your Geology and Mineralogy bursary
I am currently enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand as a 2nd-year student in Geology. I have found the course utterly absorbing so far and am totally committed to completing my BSc. However, my financial circumstances have recently changed adversely, so I will not be able to do so as things stand now. I, therefore, wish to apply for your bursary and trust that I will be considered favourably.
My academic results for my first year were as follows:
Geochemistry – B+
Sedimentology – A-
Mining Geology I – A
Applied Geology I – A
My subjects this year are Applied Geology II, Mining Geology II, Metamorphic Petrology and Hydrogeology. I hope to continue with Applied Geology III and Mining Geology III next year, as well as a sub-major in Structural Geology.
I have always been inquisitive and passionate about rocks, mineralogy and the natural geological world. I love to travel, do geology-related research and working outdoors. My Estwick rock pick is my inseparable friend! I wish to work in mineralogy and rock strata research one day.
I did some work shadowing in July last year at your field office in Graskop in Mpumalanga, and wish to give Dr Grace Radebe as a referent in this regard. (See Annexure 4). I found Dr Radebe’s fieldwork fascinating, insightful and challenging, and would wish to intern at your Institute in the very future.
Up to this point, my studies have been funded by a grant from a local Anothertown business, Deegan & Sons. However, they had some financial setbacks, and were recently put into receivership. I was informed at the end of March that they would not be able to continue my study grant next year. (See Annexure 2(b).) Without finding a way of funding my 3rd year, I shall not be able to graduate in 2022 as planned.
If you consider my bursary application favourably, I wish to assure you that I will work even harder to meet all my study and any other commitments you may set me. My education is incredibly important to me and I love my field of study. I will not let you down.
I am grateful for the opportunity to apply for your bursary.