Sheffield supporters provide more life-changing scholarships than ever before

This year we were blown away by the response to our undergraduate and postgraduate scholarship appeals - and as a result you've enabled more students than ever before to start at Sheffield this week and fulfill their potential here. We are proud to have awarded over 210 scholarships to students starting their Sheffield journey this year on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

We caught up with Catherine Mckeown, Head of Financial Support in the Student Support and Guidance team, to find out more about the difference your gifts will make this year and how the team tackle the huge job of deciding which students will receive a scholarship.

Why do students need scholarships?

There just isn’t enough money available for students to make the most of their time at university. Around a third of our students need extra help for priority costs - such as rent, food and study materials. For others their personal circumstances mean they have higher costs such as care leavers and estranged students who need support all year around as they do not have a family to help them.

For all students their sole aim is to achieve the best they possibly can whilst at university. The majority of our students have to take part time paid work to ensure they can afford to live. Time taken by part time work means students have less independent study time. We know this is a concern and evidence has shown that less independent study time equates to lower grades. That’s why we feel it’s crucial to provide scholarships to as many students as we can.

How did the scholarship appeal go this year?

Incredibly well! We were overwhelmed that our alumni and friends were so keen to support future students. We always have several hundred applications for scholarships from bright, articulate and deserving candidates, but we have a limited number of scholarships and there are always those who just miss out. So to have such a great response from our campaign meant we could support even more students this year.

Your donation is deeply valued and will always make a difference both on a very practical level and giving someone a chance they never thought they would ever have. Thank you.

Catherine Mckeown, Head of Financial Support

How do you choose which students receive a scholarship?

The Financial Support Team read every application and depending on the number of criteria they meet, applications are shortlisted. Additionally applications that note exceptional circumstances are shortlisted regardless of their criteria score.

A selection panel of senior academic and professional services staff are tasked with scoring the shortlisted applications, based on responses to the questions in the application. Scores are then collated and the panel meets to agree the top scorers and discuss any applicants who are borderline for a scholarship. We also agree a reserve list.

It is a huge responsibility that we do not take lightly. We know our donors trust we will award fairly and to those students who will really benefit from the scholarship. This is a life-changing decision and we debate cases with care and consideration.

What is the hardest part of your job?

It's a very tough time to be a student, recent changes such as cutting maintenance grants in favour of loans mean that the poorest students are often burdened with the most debt. This has meant that competition for scholarships is always increasing. Last year we had 1600 applications for the 210 scholarships available so sadly many do miss out and it means we have to make very difficult decisions.

What does a scholarship mean for students?

The scholarship is a key to something wonderful, a new experience, removing the worry of affording their studies, and it is a strong message that someone believes in them. They feel proud, grateful and more motivated than ever. It is an absolute joy to meet our scholars and hear how much the scholarship means to them. One thing is certain, our students will always remember their scholarship.

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Michael Berry Scholarship Student

Michael Berry, final year student and scholarship recipient

Your gifts will make such a difference to students like Michael

Michael is about to enter his final year at Sheffield and was keen to tell donors about his fantastic experience as a scholarship student so far. Before receiving his scholarship, Michael was worried about how he would be able to finance the day-to-day costs of being a student and never thought he would have the chance to get fully involved in university life outside of the lecture theatre.

When I found out that I had received the scholarship, I felt incredibly happy and privileged that I was chosen to receive this support, and also excited at the prospect of the things it would enable me to undertake. I also felt an added sense of relief knowing that this scholarship would help me financially throughout my studies in achieving everything I wanted.

The scholarship has meant I can afford to live and buy crucial things like books for my course, as well as giving me extra help to really make the most of my time at university and develop skills for my future career. Thanks to my scholarship I was able to travel across the country to attend interviews to help me get a year-long placement, which I managed to achieve with the Civil Service. I also used it to support me in attending the Aarhus University summer school in Denmark, which was a fantastic experience and one which I never dreamed would be possible.

The scholarship has also enabled me to get involved with various extracurricular activities and relieved my worries about how I would afford them alongside my studies. These activities have helped me to develop so much and I am very excited to be the President of the UNICEF fundraising society this year. I have also been a mentor for first year students, and am a now an ambassador for the Politics Department on open days, I’m so grateful that my scholarship has enabled me to give something back to the University.

I would like to say thank you for your incredible generosity in being able to open up a huge number of doors for disadvantaged students. It is hard enough for students like me to ‘survive’ on government loans and part-time jobs but you have meant that we can truly thrive and take advantage of the vast array of opportunities available to us here in Sheffield. Thank you.