Where to search?
There are many types of scholarships — some help pay for your textbooks, some offer unique placement opportunities, and others help pay your tuition costs.
Your university’s website should be your first point of call, they usually offer scholarships and grants.
Search databases, including:
- My Health Career is a helpful list or scholarships and grants.
- Aurora Education Foundation has opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (also helpful for rural and remote students).
- NSW Rural Doctors Network has a search filter that will show you scholarships and grants for which you may be eligible.
Search specific scholarships, including:
- Rural Health West conference scholarships
- Australian Defence Force Scholarships
- AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship
- Australian Medical Students Association
- The Bonded Medical Program – This is an Australian government initiative.
- Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine – Additional funding and support to help medical students become a rural GP.
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners – Medical Student Bursary award (for students interested in rural general practice).
- Other organisations offer scholarships, such as the MIGA scholarship
Tips for successful scholarship and grant applications
Here are some tips to give you the best chance of success with your scholarship and grant applications.
Know what scholarships are available
A good place to start looking for scholarships is your university website. Each university will have a different range of scholarship opportunities, and many are only available to students within particular year levels of the medical program.
Usually, only a handful of people will apply for these scholarships each year.
This means that applications for university-specific scholarships have a high chance of success and are a good place to get experience in preparing applications.
Scholarships are often available through the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and are promoted on these organisations’ websites.
As the scholarships offered may change each year, search for opportunities on an annual basis. Subscribe to the mailing list of each organisation to keep up-to-date.
Make sure you are eligible
Some scholarships are only for people from certain backgrounds or circumstances, for example, those with financial hardship, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australian citizens and those in rural regions.
If you don’t fall into one of the eligibility categories, you should keep looking for other scholarship opportunities.
Address the selection criteria
Each scholarship will have a list of selection criteria, which may include a personal statement addressing specific documentation (for example, confirming your current financial situation or academic results).
Addressing each criterion in the same order as they are listed on the scholarship overview will ensure you don’t miss anything and demonstrates to the assessors that you have systematically addressed each requirement.
Observe any word or character limits strictly
When writing an application, do not simply list your experience, achievements or awards. Give examples to illustrate and explain how each of your life experiences and achievements have shaped you as a person.
Explain how you have made a difference to others around you and the factors that were considered for any awards that you have received.
Clearly illustrate what change you envisage the scholarship will make to you personally in terms of skill development, financial stability, or personal growth.
After writing your personal statement, re-read the application and ensure that each paragraph clearly and directly addresses the relevant question.
Ensure that your writing style is formal and that there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
Know about the scholarship and who is assessing it
Research why the scholarship was created: the goals, objectives and services or programs offered by the organisation administering the scholarship.
Research the characteristics of past recipients, including any post-scholarship reflections or reports.
Knowing these factors allows you to tailor your application to highlight experiences, personality traits and achievements that would likely be viewed favourably by the assessing panel.
You should exclude any irrelevant achievements or experiences, as these may not substantially add value to your application (in the assessors’ eyes) while using up space in your word limit.
Keep track of the due dates
Scholarship applications will only be accepted if they are received by the due date.
Take specific notice if the application has any special submission requirements (for example, mailing certified copies of documents) and ensure that you allow time to meet those requirements before the due date.
Always post hard copy mail at least one week before the due date to ensure it arrives in time.
Keep a record of your scholarship applications
Keep a copy of all of your drafts and final submissions for all of your scholarship applications.
Most scholarship selection criteria are similar and significant proportions of your previous applications to unrelated scholarships can often be reused to form the basis for a new application.
This can save a significant amount of time, however, you always need to tailor the content to the new scholarship and administering organisation.
Continue applying, even if you are not successful
A scholarship application is a very worthwhile use of your time.
If successful, an application that took two to ten hours to research and write may earn you $500 to $5,000 (or even more in some cases). This is equivalent to working a job paying over $50 per hour.
Scholarships are often poorly contested, so the odds of receiving one are reasonably high if you apply often enough.
Remember, you will never receive a scholarship if you never apply.
By Matthew Riggs
Matthew was the GPSN James Cook University Chair. During medical student his interests included rural health, illness prevention, internal medicine, paediatrics and mental health. He enjoyed the diversity of general practice and the opportunities for continuity of care and to develop strong therapeutic relationships with patients, especially in rural settings. Over a five year period, he successfully applied for eight scholarships, which provided him with cash payments, attendance at conferences and overseas placement opportunities.