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How to create a bursary application form that attracts quality students

A happy student sitting on stairs with his laptop applying for a bursary using an application form built by DevMan.

Do you and your team find it difficult to find suitable candidates who meet the criteria? Is it difficult to communicate the process and results within the company and with the selected candidates?

Designing an application form requires careful consideration to ensure you capture all the necessary information from applicants and provide a positive user experience.

The communication process is important to keep everyone informed.

What basic steps can you consider when designing a scholarship or bursary application form? How do you ensure that both staff and applicants receive timely updates and notifications?

1. Determine the purpose of the scholarship/bursary

When considering offering scholarships or bursaries, companies should first think about its overall goals and values. Here are some steps a company could take to determine its purpose:

  1. Define the company’s mission and values: The first step is to define the company’s mission and values. Consider what the company stands for and how it wants to make a positive impact on the world. You will be able to confidently and clearly find those applicants that align with your goals too.

  2. Identify areas of need: Consider the areas where the company can make the most impact through scholarship or bursary distribution. This could be supporting students in a particular field or demographic group, such as women or minorities.

  3. Determine the desired outcomes: Determine the desired outcomes of the program. For example, the company may want to support the development of a skilled workforce in a particular industry or promote social and economic mobility by supporting students from low-income backgrounds. Either way, your outcome will determine how you structure the process from the beginning.

  4. Consider the company’s brand and reputation: How will offering these scholarships or bursaries enhance the company’s brand and reputation? These endeavors can be a powerful tool for building goodwill and strengthening relationships with customers, employees, and the broader community.

  5. Identify available resources: Determine the company’s available resources for offering scholarships and bursaries, such as budget, staff time, and partnerships with educational institutions. In what areas are you lacking? Can you source what is needed to launch this project?

  6. Develop a clear and compelling message: A statement or message that resonates with your audience, both applicants and stakeholders, should express the company’s purpose for offering scholarships and bursaries. 

2. Identify the required fields

As a team, it is always wise to determine what types of fields will be essential for creating the application form. Below are some basic examples of fields and criteria:

  1. Scholarship/bursary criteria: Review the criteria and determine the information required to assess the eligibility of applicants. This may include academic achievements, financial need, personal characteristics, or other factors that your organisation may consider important.

  2. Contact information: Collecting contact information is essential to ensure that applicants can be contacted regarding their application status. This may include name, address, email address, and phone number.

  3. Education history: Applicants should be required to provide information about their educational background, including high school or tertiary, including the opportunity to upload or state their results.

  4. Essay or personal statement: Should the organisation want to gain insight into the applicant’s goals, experiences, and motivation for applying, an essay or personal statement field can give this applicant an opportunity to do so.

  5. Letters of recommendation: Some scholarship or bursary applications require letters of recommendation from teachers, mentors, or other individuals who can attest to the applicant’s qualifications.

  6. Financial information: Organisations may require the applicants to disclose information about their financial situation, such as household income, assets, or other sources of financial support.

  7. Citizenship or residency status: Depending on the criteria, applicants may be required to provide information about their citizenship or residency status.

  8. Other requirements: Proof of enrollment in a particular college or university, or documentation of community service or extracurricular activities may be a necessary for the applicant to proceed with the submission. 

By considering these factors, a company can identify the essential fields required for creating a scholarship application form that collects the necessary information to evaluate applicants and award scholarships and bursaries to deserving recipients.


DevMan has the capability to pull age, date of birth, gender and citizenship from an ID number, storing it on the applicant’s profile.

3. Provide instructions

Prepare your applicants a head of time with clear instructions. These instructions can be stated from the beginning to give the student an opportunity to gather the needed documents and data. They will be able to proceed with the applications without having to but it on hold.

Here are some tips for providing clear instructions:

  1. Use simple and straightforward language: Avoid using technical jargon or complex sentences that may confuse applicants. Use simple and straightforward language to explain each section of the application form. Stick to a list format, if possible, and keep sentence short. 

  2. Break down the application form into sections: Break down the application form into sections. By providing clear instructions per section, you help the applicant to understand its purpose and the information required.

  3. Clarify any ambiguous instructions: Try avoiding ambiguous instructions, make sure that your wording is clear and to the point. If this is not possible, provide examples or further explanations in a tooltip of FAQ section. It would be beneficial for the applicant if contact details were provided on the form should they have further questions.

4. Consider essay questions

An excellent way to investigate whether an applicant qualifies and/or shares the same goals as your organisation is by digging deeper with some well worded essay questions. 

This allows the applicant to provide more information about who they are as an individual, personal experiences and demonstrate their qualifications for the bursary or scholarship.

Below are a few questions that you could potentially ask the applicant:

  1. Why do you believe you deserve this scholarship? What personal qualities and experiences make you a strong candidate?

  2. Describe a challenge or obstacle you have faced and how you overcame it. How did this experience impact your personal growth and development?

  3. What are your long-term goals and how will this scholarship help you achieve them? How do you plan to use your education to make a positive impact in your community or field of study?

  4. Describe a project or initiative you have undertaken that demonstrates your leadership skills. What did you learn from this experience and how will you apply this knowledge in the future?

  5. How has your cultural background or identity influenced your academic and personal experiences? What unique perspectives or skills do you bring to the table?

  6. Describe a book, movie, or other work of art that has had a significant impact on your life. How has this work shaped your worldview or inspired you to pursue your goals?

  7. Describe a time when you collaborated with others to achieve a common goal. What role did you play in the group and what did you learn from this experience?

  8. What motivates you to succeed academically and professionally? How do you stay focused and motivated when faced with challenges or setbacks?

Questions can express a applicant’s academic and personal achievements, leadership potential, and motivation to succeed. They can also provide insight into the applicant’s personality and unique perspectives, helping the company select recipients who align with its values and goals.

5. Design for usability

Consider the needs of your users. Do they have a visual disability? Or a physical one? Do they have access to a computer or are your applicants most likely to use their phones? What is the applicant’s preference?

Make sure the form is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and accessible. 

Here are some tips for designing a scholarship or bursary application form with usability in mind:

  1. Keep the form simple and easy to navigate: Do not overwhelm the applicant with too many instructions or complex questions. The form can be broken down into clear sections with instructions.

  2. Use a clear and legible font: Make sure the font is a decent size and easy to read. Stay away from over-use of bold or stylized text that tire the eyes when read.

  3. Ensure the form is accessible: Consider those with disabilities by making the form accessible to everyone. This could involve having large print text, or making sure that the form is compatible with screen readers and other technology that applicants may use to assist them.

  4. Use appropriate colors and graphics: Graphics and colours make the form appealing to read and fill in. Make sure that colours do not clash and make it difficult for your applicant to read, ie: dark text on a dark background. Use your brand colours to assure your applicants that they are in the right place.

  5. Make the form mobile-friendly: Many applicants may access the form from their phones or tablets. Make sure that the application form is responsive to all device screens. 

  6. Provide clear error messages: Should the application be faulty due to unforeseen circumstances, it is vital to inform the applicant immediately. A clear error message should explain what went wrong, and what steps the applicant can do to overcome the issue.

6. Test and refine

All application forms should be tested by external users who are not familiar with the program and refined by those building and managing the form. THis is to ensure that the form is user-friendly and effective. 

Here are some steps that a company can take to test and refine their application form:

  1. Conduct user testing: Have a small group of potential applicants test the form and provide feedback on their experience. Observe how they navigate the form, where they get stuck, and what questions or instructions are unclear.

  2. Analyze feedback: Review the feedback from user testing and look for common themes or issues. Identify areas of the form that need improvement or clarification.

  3. Make revisions: Based on the feedback and analysis, make revisions to the form to address the identified issues. This may involve simplifying instructions, reordering questions, or revising the layout.

  4. Test again: Test the revised form with a new group of users to see if the changes have improved the usability and effectiveness of the form.

  5. Refine further: Continue to test and refine the form until it meets the company’s goals and provides a positive user experience for applicants.

  6. Gather analytics: Monitor the analytics of the application process and use data to identify any pain points. Use this information to make data-driven decisions on how to improve the form.

  7. Seek feedback from applicants: Once the application process is complete, seek feedback from applicants on their experience with the form. This can provide valuable insights on how to improve the form for future applicants.


DevMan offers a full design, develop and testing package with our services. This takes the daunting task away from you so that you can focus on more important things.

Creating a bursary application form that attracts quality students requires careful consideration of various factors. The form should be designed with usability in mind, ensuring that it is easy to navigate and understand. Clear instructions and a concise checklist of application requirements can help applicants complete the form accurately and efficiently. Including relevant and thought-provoking essay questions can help the company identify the best candidates. A clear and concise purpose of the scholarship or bursary should be communicated in the application form, and the eligibility criteria should be clearly stated. Testing and refining the form can help ensure that it provides a positive user experience and meets the company’s goals. 

By implementing these strategies, a company can create an application form that attracts quality students and helps them achieve their academic goals.

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