20 July 2008

Scholarships: Who knows about them?

In my previous post, I talked about what sorts of scholarships and higher-education funding is available to Bermudian students. The question is, why do some Bermudians think there isn't very much funding available? I can assure you, my parents knew. One day I came home from high school and was presented with the Bank of Butterfield Scholarship Directory (I believe this has been replaced by scholarships.bm). The message was clear: get your butt in gear and apply for some of these scholarships.

I believe the answer has (at least!) two parts: educational and social.

  1. Educational. Many of the private-sector scholarships are performance-based. You have to be smart and accomplished to win a scholarship, and you are in competition with the top students from across the Island, in both public and private schools. By definition, that means most of these scholarships will not be awarded to students in, say, the lower 2/3 of academic performance across the Island. And because of the education system's current poor performance, most students in public education will not be able to win many of these private scholarships in a head-to-head competition against the private schools' top students (which is not to say there are no great students in public education).

  2. Social. If you are a student, how will you find out about any of these scholarships? If your parents didn't attend university, and if they don't move in circles where many people attended university, how will they know about the big book of scholarships? Who will tell them? Who will tell you? Who will explain to you how to write a compelling scholarship application, so that you can compete with students whose well-educated parents and teachers are helping them?

What can we do? I believe the situation is improving. Recent Government activity has publicised their scholarships, and the scholarships.bm web site is a good way to promote private scholarships. But, students need to be prodded into applying for appropriate scholarships, and taught how to write a good application. To me, this is the job of school guidance counselors. Also, mentoring organizations such as YouthNet, Big Brother/Sister, etc., and the churches can use their organizations to help students identify and apply for scholarships. Finally, if you are a professional, if you have a university degree, if you know anything about how the scholarship/university application process works, you have an opportunity to reach out and help the youth of Bermuda navigate what may be a new world.


Anonymous said...


You are absolutely correct. The issue however also extends to general apathy from students in even applying for scholarships when they exist, with too many students ready to let their parents work three jobs to pay for their education. More needs to be done by the schools to inform parents who in turn "encourage" their children to apply.

Classes need to be introduced in the final two years of school so that students are also "encouraged" to fill out applications for both universities and scholarships. There are plenty of young people who deserve assistance but unless they are made to drink the water when led to it they will simply not do what is required.

Denis Pitcher said...

There are a couple other factors which could be undertaken to improve the availability of scholarships.

Standardization is the big one. Submission deadlines as well as the applications process could be standardized so that it is easier to apply for a bulk of scholarships at once. The reason being is that often times the deadlines are counterproductive to the timing of exams and busy periods in school and the cost of applying (acquiring multiple copies of official documents and posting them from abroad if you're away at the time of the deadline) can get very costly.

The other means of standardization are scholarship requirements. It may be different now, but years ago when I relied on the BNTB list there were often requirements that were not listed so if applied for a scholarship you were not actually eligible for, you were doing little more than wasting your time and money without knowing.

Anonymous said...

I think that if someone wants or needs the money to go to school, and are driven enough to seriously want it, they will seek out the scholarship opportunities. The schools have all of the resources for students willing to ask.

As a student that has gone after, and been awarded several scholarships, I believe that students should not be coddled. You can ask for help if necessary, but at the end of the day, you should be selling yourself not having a guidance teacher telling you a cookie-cutter way of filling out a form. Again, if a student is talented enough and driven enough to deserve a scholarship, they will chase up the documentation, fill the forms and try to represent themselves to the best of their ability.