Scholarships and the Gender Gap

October 4, 2016

I have been fortunate to be a part of scholarship application review committees over many years and having just completed reading many hundreds of applications, I’d like to make a few comments that may be of use to you and your teen.

Far fewer boys than girls apply for undergraduate school leaver scholarships.

I suspect that most scholarship information sessions at secondary schools are during the lunch hour and many boys have to make the hard decision between eating lunch and playing sport/music/hanging out with mates or going to a meeting to find out scholarship information. One student I asked about this blamed his mother, saying “Mum didn’t fill out that form”.

Nikora, (front right) did get a scholarship so must have taken time out from playing rugby to get the necessary information.


This is an example of a heading in a scholarship application form- Sporting Contribution:

Details please!

Often when boys do apply, they don’t include enough detail to assess the level at which they are doing an activity. They put soccer as an activity that they participate in but don’t say whether it’s the third grade social team or that they are representing New Zealand. I’m not exaggerating here, one male applicant did put “soccer” and it was only by reading his references that I realised he played for a provincial team and was in a NZ squad.

Another example is the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. Girls will tell you they have completed Bronze and Silver and are currently completing Gold and that they are taking a group of students into the bush for a camp, what they packed, what’s for lunch… etc. Boys tend to put the abbreviation D of E. Full stop. Many boys need to expand their extremely succinct answers. Conversely, we are usually not looking for anything over the recommended word count so for your girls, forget the essay.

To get the picture, see below my son’s recent series of texts to me. These are not edited.

Alg! (Translation, all good)


Good thanks!

Think so!

Omw (Translation, on my way)

As you can see they are all responses to questions I’ve asked. I have to make them up just to make sure he is still alive.

He is clearly fond of the exclamation mark and doesn't like to go above the two word count. My friend’s daughter, on the other hand, uses texts, calls, Snapchat, Facebook and Skype and that’s before morning tea. I’m not even allowed on my son’s Facebook. I do not have room here to provide an example… she received numerous scholarships by the way.

Some further tips when making an application

It is really important to include detail so that the reviewer can see that you have been, for example, coaching for a sustained period of time or that you have been in the orchestra for five years and so on. It is also useful to state clearly that you are, for example Head Student of a school with a year 13 cohort size of 500. It can put a different perspective on a leadership position depending on the size of the school.

Sincerity is key too. To copy and paste chunks of sycophantic brochure and advertising material reeks of insincerity. Something short and honest works much better.

You can be proud of achievements without sounding arrogant or brash.

Closing Dates

Nearly all school-leaver scholarships close in the year prior to university enrolment. Typically, at AUT, most close on September 1. An application requires a considerable amount of work and when referees are required, even more so. I cannot think of a university that will accept late or incomplete applications. When the applicant uses the wrong university name it is also a hint that they were in a rush and applying to several universities!

Frequently an ID number is required so the student needs to make an application to the university as well. These things need to be completed in plenty of time.

Scholarships Typically Based on Year 12

Nearly all of the school-leaver scholarships are based on Year 12 results so that the student may receive the award in the school prize-giving ceremony in Year 13, so remind your teen how important it is to do well in year 12 and not just make a late run in Year 13. Some prize-giving ceremonies will be taking place as early as the first week back in Term 4, (that is the week after next).

Handy Resources

AUT has an excellent database so getting to know what is available early and being prepared is a useful piece of advice to pass on to your teen. However, it is up to them to do the research and ensure they know when the closing dates are. Another very useful general website is Careers NZ.

Having said all that, I have been stunned, amazed, and am utterly admiring of the student achievements I’ve read over the last few weeks. Many, many students not only maintain a very high academic record but also work voluntarily in the community or at school, hold leadership positions and take part in cultural and sporting activities to a very high level. In addition, many also have a keen sense of social justice and an interest in caring for the environment.

They have so much energy and talent I sometimes wonder when they have time to sleep.  Trouble is, it makes the decision-making for awarding the scholarships so very difficult. A good problem to have I guess.

Last year's Scholars Welcome- it won't be long before we are welcoming the new school leavers. 79 days until Christmas....


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