Scholarships are an amazing way to get yourself a leg-up at university. Pretty much all uni’s offer them in some shape or form, awarding them to students who deserve it for whatever reason that may be. Maybe they’re uber talented in their field, or have some amazing ideas to share with the world, or they’ve been through a tough time and could use a little support.

If you’re looking to go to university, then it’s a really good idea to sus out what kinds of scholarships they have on offer and whether you’re eligible. The application process doesn’t take much time so it’s worthwhile applying, as it can help immensely when it comes to reducing the stress of university. Usually the money you’re granted from a scholarship needs to be spent on your studies, but that just means you can spend more of your hard-earned cash on yourself instead.

Here’s why you should be taking the time to apply for any scholarships you can get your hands on.

1. They’re available to everyone

There’s a common misconception that you need to be super academic or from a wealthy background to access uni scholarships, but this is so far from the truth. There’s a tonne of different scholarships that celebrate a bunch of different types of skills and support people from all kinds of backgrounds, even awarding people for their point of difference.

Most universities offer some kind of financial support scholarship as well, for those who may be experiencing hardship. There are also plenty of scholarships that look for talent beyond academia—think sport, art, leadership, technology, entrepreneurship and creative thinking. Got an idea you think could change the world? There’s a scholarship for that, too. 

2. There are often other perks

While some scholarships will offer a cash injection, there’s plenty out there that come with a range of other perks. Common ones include work experience or job placements, opportunities to network and rub shoulders with industry leaders, mentorships and academic support. You shouldn’t disregard these opportunities; they’ll have more impact than you realise once you’ve finished your degree.

There are also scholarships out there that will continue to support you financially over the years you’re studying, not just as a once-off. And some will keep providing you with perks like mentorship and networking events long after you’ve finished your degree.

3. They can help with your HECS

One of the more obvious benefits of a scholarship is that it can be a real lifesaver when it comes to HECS debt. While you mightn’t be worried about your HECS debt now, it’s something that can really ankle tap you in your first couple years out of uni when you’re only just starting to earn over the HECS threshold and trying to pay for your rent, bills, nights out and your HECS debt all at once. And, depending on what kind of degree you’ve studied, it can take years before you’ve paid the whole thing off.

If you can get your hands on a scholarship, then this is one of the best ways to avoid stacking up heaps of debt on your HECS.

If you’re keen to suss out some scholarship options, start by checking out one of the scholarships offered by Westpac Bicentennial Foundation, the Westpac Young Technologists Scholarship. There are 35 scholarships given out every year and they provide $5,000 for every year you’re studying up to a total of $25,000. You’ll also get access to an extensive network of young social entrepreneurs and other Westpac Scholars, who are a mix of undergrad and post-grad students from across Australia. Plus, they’ll also provide internship opportunities, so you can gain real work experience while you’re studying.

If you’re planning on studying a technology-related degree, like IT, engineering, computer science, design and tech or creative industries (even game design and business), then you could be eligible for these scholarships, depending on what uni you plan to go to–jump over here to sus out all the details. Get in quick though, applications for 2019 close soon.