Why Do Many Learners Struggle to Find Bursary Opportunities?

  • Editology
  • Nov 02, 2023

Understanding the Challenges: Why Some Learners Struggle to Apply for Bursaries. 


The pursuit of education and the pursuit of financial support to access education often go hand in hand. Scholarships, grants, and bursaries are essential resources that help learners overcome financial barriers to achieve their academic goals. However, despite the availability of bursaries and financial aid programs, many learners face challenges in applying for and accessing these opportunities. In this article, we will explore the reasons why learners may struggle to apply for bursaries, shedding light on the barriers that hinder their educational aspirations.

Lack of Awareness

One of the most significant barriers to bursary application is a lack of awareness. Many learners, particularly those from underserved communities, may not be aware of the existence of bursary programs or the opportunities they offer. This lack of awareness can occur for several reasons:

  • Limited Access to Information: Learners from disadvantaged backgrounds often lack the resources and infrastructure to access information about available bursaries. They may not have reliable internet access or computers, limiting their ability to research and apply for these opportunities. This digital divide can further isolate them from critical information that could pave the way for higher education.

    Inadequate School Guidance: While schools are vital sources of information, some educational institutions may lack the necessary resources or dedicated personnel to guide students effectively through the bursary application process. School counselors and teachers, often overburdened, might not have the time to offer comprehensive support, leaving students navigating the complex world of bursaries on their own.

    Stigma and Stereotypes: Learners from marginalized communities may confront societal stigma and stereotypes that undermine their belief in pursuing higher education. These stereotypes can create self-doubt and the impression that scholarships and bursaries are out of reach for students facing socio-economic challenges. This discouragement can significantly limit their willingness to apply for these opportunities, even when they are eligible.

Complex Application Processes

Bursary application processes can be complex and time-consuming, creating a barrier for many learners. These complexities can deter applicants for several reasons:

  • Paperwork and Documentation: Bursary applications often require extensive paperwork and documentation, including proof of financial need, academic records, reference letters, and personal statements. Assembling these documents can be challenging for learners who lack access to resources or support.
  • Digital Divide: Some bursary programs have moved their application processes online. However, not all learners have access to the internet or digital devices, making it difficult for them to navigate online application forms and upload required documents.
  • Language Barriers: Bursary applications may be in a language that some learners are not proficient in, causing confusion and frustration during the process.

Financial Literacy and Numeracy

An essential requirement for many bursaries is demonstrating financial need. This can be challenging for learners who have limited financial literacy or numeracy skills. Some reasons for this struggle include:

  • Lack of Financial Education: Financial education is often missing from school curricula. As a result, learners may not have a good understanding of budgeting, managing finances, and calculating their financial needs.
  • Family Dynamics: Learners from low-income households may not have personal experience managing finances, as their families may also struggle with financial literacy. This lack of knowledge can hinder their ability to provide accurate financial information in bursary applications.
  • Fear of Disclosure: Learners may fear disclosing their financial circumstances due to concerns about stigma or privacy. This fear can result in either not applying for bursaries at all or providing inaccurate financial information.

Application Fees and Costs

While bursaries are meant to alleviate financial burdens, the application process itself can sometimes incur costs, which is a significant barrier for some learners:

  • Application Fees: Some bursary programs charge application fees. While these fees might be relatively small, they can be a deterrent for learners who are already struggling financially.
  • Cost of Documentation: Gathering the necessary documentation for bursary applications, such as transcripts and reference letters, can also incur costs. Learners may need to pay for copies of these documents or transportation to obtain them.

 Self-Perception and Confidence

Some learners struggle to apply for bursaries due to self-perception and confidence issues:

  • Imposter Syndrome: Learners who struggle with imposter syndrome may believe that they are not deserving of financial aid or that they are not qualified to receive a bursary. This self-doubt can prevent them from even attempting to apply.
  • Lack of Belief in Success: Some learners may lack confidence in their ability to secure a bursary or succeed academically. They might view the application process as futile and not worth the effort.

Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection can be a powerful deterrent for learners considering bursary applications:

  • Fear of Disqualification: Learners may believe they do not meet the eligibility criteria or that their application will be disqualified. This fear can prevent them from applying, even if they are eligible.
  • Emotional Impact of Rejection: The emotional impact of a rejected application can be daunting. Learners may be discouraged by the prospect of putting in effort only to face rejection.

Lack of Role Models and Support Systems

The absence of role models and support systems can make it difficult for learners to apply for bursaries:

  • Lack of Guidance: Learners who do not have mentors, counselors, or family members who can offer guidance or support in the application process may feel lost and discouraged.
  • Peer Influence: Learners’ decisions to apply for bursaries can be influenced by their peers. If their immediate social circles are not pursuing bursaries, they may be less likely to do so themselves.

Time Constraints and Other Responsibilities

Balancing educational aspirations with work, family responsibilities, or other time-consuming commitments can make it challenging for some learners to engage in the bursary application process:

  • Work Obligations: Learners who work to support themselves or their families may not have the time to dedicate to the extensive application process.
  • Family Responsibilities: Some learners are caregivers or responsible for family obligations, which can limit their availability to focus on bursary applications.

Geographic and Cultural Isolation

Rural and Remote Learners: Overcoming Geographic Barriers

Learners residing in rural or remote areas often face unique challenges when it comes to applying for bursaries. The geographic isolation, limited access to resources, and lack of educational infrastructure in these regions can pose significant barriers.

In rural and remote areas, access to the internet may be limited or unreliable, preventing learners from researching and applying for bursaries online. This lack of connectivity can be a major hindrance, as many bursary applications and information about financial aid programs are primarily available through digital platforms. Furthermore, the absence of educational institutions or career guidance centers nearby means that learners may not have access to professionals who can assist them in the application process.

The limited educational opportunities available in rural and remote areas can create a discouraging environment for learners. The absence of support structures, such as peer groups or mentors who have experience with bursary applications, can be isolating. Learners may be unaware of the options available to them or may lack the guidance needed to navigate the complex application procedures.

Addressing these geographic barriers requires innovative solutions, such as mobile outreach programs, community-based workshops, and improved internet infrastructure in remote regions. By bringing information and support directly to learners in these areas, we can help mitigate the challenges associated with geographic isolation and enhance their access to bursaries and higher education opportunities.

Cultural Sensitivity: Navigating Cultural Norms and Values

Cultural norms and values play a crucial role in shaping an individual’s approach to education and, consequently, bursary applications. For some learners, their cultural backgrounds may discourage or limit the pursuit of bursaries and scholarships. This can create significant challenges in breaking away from these established norms.

In some cultures, there may be an expectation that education is primarily funded by the family, and seeking external financial support, such as bursaries, could be viewed as a sign of financial incapability. Learners may feel a sense of pride or responsibility in ensuring their education is self-funded or family-funded. In such cases, applying for bursaries can be emotionally challenging, as it may be seen as going against family or cultural expectations.

Additionally, cultural values may prioritize certain fields of study or career paths over others. Learners aspiring to pursue disciplines that are not aligned with their cultural norms or are considered less traditional may find it particularly challenging to seek bursaries. The fear of being seen as deviating from cultural expectations can act as a significant deterrent.

 Bureaucratic Challenges

Complex Application Portals: Navigating Bureaucratic Challenges

One of the significant hurdles that learners may encounter when applying for bursaries is dealing with the complex application portals employed by government bodies or large organizations. While these institutions have the resources to offer substantial financial aid, their bureaucratic processes and online systems can often prove challenging for applicants, resulting in barriers to accessing financial support.

Complexity in the application process can take various forms, such as:

  1. Extensive Documentation Requirements: Large organizations may require a plethora of supporting documents and information to process bursary applications. This could include proof of income, academic transcripts, recommendation letters, and essays. Navigating through these requirements can be daunting, especially for first-time applicants or those with limited resources to compile all the necessary documents.
  2. Technical Challenges: Online application portals can be intricate, making it difficult for applicants to submit their information and documents correctly. Technical issues, such as website glitches, slow response times, or difficulties in uploading documents, can be a frustrating barrier.
  3. Complex Eligibility Criteria: Bursary programs often have specific eligibility criteria based on academic performance, financial need, or other factors. Understanding and meeting these criteria can be a challenging task. Learners may find it perplexing to determine if they qualify for a particular bursary, leading to uncertainty and discouragement.
  4. Language Barriers: Some bursary programs might operate in official languages that are not the first language of the applicants. This can result in misinterpretation of instructions or difficulties in completing applications accurately.

In addition to the above challenges, the sheer volume of applicants for government-administered or large organizational bursaries can sometimes overwhelm the processing system, leading to delays in application review and responses.

Long Processing Times: The Frustration of Waiting

Bureaucratic processes in government or large organizational bursary programs can often lead to long processing times. This delay in application review and award notification can be particularly discouraging for learners who are eager to access financial support promptly.

The reasons for long processing times are multifaceted:

  1. High Application Volume: Large institutions may receive a high volume of applications, especially for well-known bursary programs. The time needed to review each application thoroughly and fairly can extend the processing period.
  2. Stringent Evaluation: Bursary programs often employ a rigorous evaluation process to ensure that awards are allocated fairly and transparently. This involves verifying documentation, assessing eligibility, and determining the recipients based on predefined criteria.
  3. Bureaucratic Procedures: Bureaucratic procedures, such as multiple levels of approvals, can slow down the decision-making process. The need for various departments or committees to review and approve applications can extend the processing times.
  4. Seasonal Peaks: Application deadlines and peak seasons can lead to a backlog of applications. This is especially common for bursaries with specific application windows.


The struggle to apply for bursaries is a multifaceted challenge that arises from various barriers, including a lack of awareness, complex application processes, financial literacy issues, application costs, self-perception and confidence concerns, fear of rejection, lack of role models and support systems, time constraints, geographic and cultural isolation, and bureaucratic challenges. Understanding these barriers is essential for educators, policymakers, and organizations seeking to improve access to bursaries for all learners. By addressing these challenges and providing tailored support, we can ensure that financial assistance programs truly reach those who need them, enabling learners to access quality education and fulfill their academic aspirations.

Related Post :