By Lehlohonolo Mofokeng
When I was in high school I seldom thought about the significance of my grade 11 results for life after school. Many students think grade 12 is the most important but nothing could be further from the truth. These days you stand little chance of landing a good job or starting a sustainable business if you don’t have a tertiary education. So the message I drive home is that you need to make sure your grade 11 results stand above that of your peers if you want to get funding.
When applying for a bursary from a company or government agency, factor in that many bursary applications and university programmes close early, way before your mid-year grade 12 reports are issued by your school.
Your grade 11 results determine whether you will get into medical school or any other degree programme that runs selection tests. This is because these programmes close mainly in May every year.
How do you stand out from the crowd when applying for a bursary?
Think of the following:
1. Work towards obtaining 65% and above for all your subjects
At this point in time numbers predominantly serve as reliable indicators of your effort. It is for this reason that when a panel of judges decides on who deserves to get the bursary, they are first going to look at your overall grade 11 academic marks. An average of at least 65% should see you through.
2. Be socially conscious
Companies these days look to support socially responsible youngsters. Our communities face a number of challenges and you need you to step up and address them. So many companies will look at your marks and what you have been involved in at your school and/ or community.
3. Develop soft skills
Other than being book-smart, can you express your ideas to the panel if called for an interview? Are you in a position to propose solutions to them on how to solve the unemployment rate or the falling state of our basic education, for instance? These are some of the skills that will definitely differentiate you from your peers.
4. Know what makes you alive
Before you apply ask yourself the following: a) What do I love doing? b) Can I earn a living out of this passion? c) Who can fund my studies to pursue this? Having answers to some of these questions will simplify the process of choosing a degree programme.
5. Be able to express yourself on paper
You will have seen that space on many bursary application forms where you’re asked to write a motivation letter. This is where your ability to write in a coherently persuasive way will come in handy. This means you need to pay particular attention to the essays which your language teacher asks you to submit. Like any skill, being a good writer takes time but with practice, you’ll get there.
6. Place your eggs in different baskets
Because competition for bursaries has stiffened you might want to send your application to as many companies as possible so that your chances and options are wide.
7. Clean your social media profile
Your social media profile should always be clean, whether you intend to apply for a scholarship or not. I don’t mean you shouldn’t speak your mind but that should be done with care and respect for you and others. Would you buy the products of a company whose website contains sexist, ageist and racist content? That status update you made on how drunk you were might be the reason why you didn’t get the bursary, job or business deal. Companies are brands, as a result they’re selective with who they associate themselves with.
Lehlohonolo is an aspiring world-class township school commerce teacher. He currently reads for a master of education at Wits university as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar.