Scholarships at UK Independent Schools

Everything you need to know about scholarships to UK schools, and a closer look at just how schools are rewarding students’ academic, sporting, musical and artistic achievements.
Scholarships at UK Independent Schools
By Carli Allan
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How do I apply?

UAE Scholarships 2020-21

This is not straightforward as every school has a different admissions process and application deadlines, so the onus is on parents and students to research their options, look at each school’s website, and then apply.

The admissions process for scholarships is tough, so think twice before signing your child up for several schools. It’s a good idea to ask your child’s teacher what their current attainment levels are and what they are think they are capable of.

If your child is currently at an independent Prep or Senior school, they may be assisted with their application. Prep schools tend to prepare their Year 6 or Year 8 students for entry and scholarships assessments; generally, state schools will not provide preparation for the 11+ or 13+.

The entrance exams will depend on the year of entry, and the type of scholarship you are applying for. Be aware that the standards can be very high, and the scholarship assessment can be tough. Typically, you’ll need to complete a scholarship application form, sit entrance exams, and attend an interview (sometimes as a family). Be prepared to pay around £100 in application fees. And finally, check (and double check) the deadlines for registration and application, as well as entrance exam dates.

Research sample exam papers: you’ll find most schools post past papers on their website. Many schools will use the ISEB Common Entrance Exam for entry into Year 9 (the 13+); this standardised test is marked by the individual school, who can decide on their own pass mark, and past papers can be found online. Most Standard Entrance Assessments include papers in English, Maths and computer-based Non-Verbal Reasoning.

The UK’s most elite schools set their own papers. The Challenge – the 13+ entry scholarship examination for Westminster School – is as intimidating as it sounds. Described by the London-based school as “deliberately difficult”, this exam is designed to wheedle out the top eight students from a bunch of more than 100 applicants to receive the Queen’s Scholarship – which is one of the UK’s most generous, covering 50% of the school’s full boarding fee (that’s a saving £20,800!).

At Eton College, 13-year-olds taking the “intentionally very demanding” exam for a King’s Scholarship (which includes papers in English, maths, science, French, Greek, Latin, geography, history, and divinity) will need to answer questions such as:

  • The story of Cain and Abel teaches that anger is the greatest sin.’ Do you agree?
  • To what extent is the quaternary industry the most important sector of a country’s economic activity?
  • It is wrong to believe anything unless there is sufficient evidence’. Discuss.

(Eton College King’s Scholarship Exams, 2019)

We’ll just leave those there…

Moving on from academia, students applying for a specialist scholarship in the arts or sport will need to showcase their talent, by submitting a portfolio, attending a practical or trial, or performing an audition. To get a sports scholarship at a leading school such as Ardingly or Millfield, you’d should be playing at club or county-level. And a Year 7 music scholarship at Alleyn's, Habs’ Girls, or The Perse School, students should have Grade 5/6 in different instruments.

Next: Academic, sport and arts scholarships

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