Adam Goldwater knows all about scholarships. A careers evening at school opened his eyes to the number of scholarships out there for the taking. An aspiring horticulture student, he discovered a cluster of horticulture scholarships available on Massey University’s website. He applied, and was successful in securing the Zespri and Horticulture New Zealand scholarships in his first year at university. The following year he won three more scholarships, each helping to relieve some of the financial burden of university study.

“I didn’t have a part-time job during my degree, only during the summer,” said Goldwater. “I figured that if I spent the time trying to get good marks to get scholarships, what was the point in working?

“When going to uni, you have to pay quite high fees, but it means you can come out pretty much debt-free if you work hard and keep getting scholarships.”

A bonus of the Horticulture New Zealand scholarship was that Goldwater was able to attend the annual horticulture conference, which proved invaluable for making contacts and laying the seeds for future employment.

How to get a scholarship

To get a scholarship, you generally need to meet certain criteria. According to Careers New Zealand this is typically based on things like your area of study, your chosen industry or trade, academic merit, community service or involvement, ethnicity, financial hardship, leadership, the region you grew up in, or where you plan to study.

Seldom are two scholarships the same – they can vary hugely in what they cover. Some scholarships may cover tuition fees only, while others cover all course costs and some of your living expenses.

Many universities, polytechnics and other education providers offer their own scholarships, grants and awards, and usually list these on their websites, along with eligibility criteria and application forms. Most providers have a scholarships officer or career adviser on hand who can answer questions about eligibility and help with the process.

Government agencies offer and administer a large number of scholarships, grants and awards as well, and the New Zealand Government website covers all government departments and agencies.

For students interested in training in a specific industry area, the relevant industry training organisation (ITO) is worth checking. Some also offer scholarships, or have information about where you can get scholarships related to that area of work.

There are a large number of scholarships available to Maori and Pasifika students. Scholarship recipient Hautahi Kingi urges people to “give it a go”.

“A surprising number of the scholarships available don’t have any applicants, because a lot of people think they haven’t got a chance,” he says.

Kingi recommends the givME database as a first port of call for scholarship seekers.

givME is a free searchable database provided by Generosity New Zealand with information on more than 4,000 funding schemes covering study, professional development, research, travel, arts, sport, and community projects.

Completing scholarship applications can be time-consuming. Tertiary student, Ani Ross-Hoskins says it took her at least five hours to complete an application, but the hard work paid off as she landed a Lincoln University Scholarship for Excellence, which paid for her yearly academic fees as well as a living allowance of $4000 a year. For Ani to continue to receive her scholarship she needed to maintain a B-plus average.

Most scholarships will ask for references. Referees’ statements are usually required by the closing date of the scholarship application.

Victoria University of Wellington’s scholarships office advises applicants to ensure that referees are the appropriate people to provide the kind of information about you that the selection panel will need to know.

“Always make sure that your referees know of every scholarship you have applied for in which they are listed as a referee. If they are aware of the particular requirements of each scholarship, they will be more able to provide the appropriate information to each scholarship selection panel.”


How to apply for scholarships

Step 1: Know what’s on offer

Most libraries provide free access to the givME database. Get to know the full range of scholarships available to you so you don’t miss out on anything.

Step 2: Make sure you qualify

Read through the scholarship information carefully to make sure you meet the criteria. Make a list of the scholarships you are qualified to apply for.

Step 3: Gather your information

To apply for a scholarship, you will most likely need to fill out forms and supply documents to support your application. You need to collect, make copies of, and certify all the necessary documents to support your application. You may also be asked to attend an interview with the selection panel.

Step 4: Make a good impression

A sloppy, late or incomplete application might cause the selection panel to think that the scholarship is not important to you or that you are not really interested. Allow yourself plenty of time to put care and effort into your application. Try to do everything you can to show that you are deserving of the award. Be tidy, be thorough and be timely.

Step 5: Do a final check

Check, check, and recheck. Use this checklist to make sure you are ready to submit your application:

  • Fill in the application forms carefully.
  • Check for spelling mistakes.
  • Provide all the necessary supporting documents.
  • Get copies of documents certified.
  • Meet the closing date.
  • Make copies of every application sent.
  • Provide current contact details.
  • Get someone to check over your application – they might pick up something you’ve missed.

Adapted from Careers New Zealand

Case studies and information published with the permission of Careers New Zealand (


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