Juliet Gobran can thank her school’s career adviser for his persistence when it came to tips on tackling a university degree.
“He pushed us all as much as he could to apply for scholarships but I was still a bit reluctant at first because it seemed a lengthy process,’’ she recalls.
In the end, the University of Wollongong creative arts and computer science student secured two scholarships – one from Westpac Scholars Trust and one from UOW which, when combined, give her financial and professional support until she graduates in 2022.
Juliet, now 19 and in her second year, says the scholarships have made a world of difference to her overall university experience.
“I started working part-time jobs quite young and thought it would be enough to support myself through university but, like a lot of other people, I didn’t realise how hard it can be for students to manage financially and still have what most of us consider a balanced, normal life,” she says.
Juliet receives $5,000 per year from the Westpac Young Technologists Scholarship and another $10,000 from the UOW Research and Innovation Work Integrated Learning Scholarship.
“I still have part-time jobs but the scholarships ease most of the financial burden and leave me plenty of time to focus on my studies.”
Juliet understands many students are not so fortunate.
“It can get pretty tough without some sort of support, especially if you live a long way away from the university and you’re relying on maintaining hours at a part-time or full-time job. I’ve seen friends in this situation go into hibernation during exam time so they can cram,” she says.
“And for all of us, there is the HECS debt mounting up at the back of our mind.”
Westpac’s recent University Students and Personal Finance Report, based on a survey of 1,000 respondents, found that one in five students juggles full-time work and full-time study.
More than half of all students manage part-time or casual employment while about 30 per cent survive on an income of between $200 and $400 a week.
Since it was established in 2015, UOW’s Living Learning Trust has committed $250,000 for scholarships that support students in need as well as the academically gifted. They provide not only financial help but also the convenience of living in UOW student accommodation, which, as UOW data has shown, gives an academic advantage.
The Living+Learning Partners Residential Equity Scholarship has proved a godsend for Matthew Gadenne. The Bachelor of Bio-nanotechnology (honours) student has overcome many personal obstacles to achieve academic success, including severe anxiety and depression in 2018 due to external pressures.
In 2019, Matthew received $15,000 to assist with the first year of his campus accommodation, enabling him to live independently to recover, and providing him with the security of comfortable student housing.
In a letter of appreciation to the Trust, Matthew wrote:
“I came to apply (for the scholarship) at a very dark time and your philanthropy has proved important – leaps and bounds beyond what I expected.
“I have been able to stay living in Wollongong and continue flourishing in my studies – maintaining excellent grades of which I am proud. I have also been able to keep working and maintaining a healthy social life and positive wellbeing. I can confidently say this is solely thanks to you.”
Matthew went on to say that, without the support provided through the scholarship, he would have had to terminate his studies, which would have de-railed his professional ambitions.
“I will truly never forget the direct positive impact you have had on my life during my tertiary education, and as I come closer to embarking on the next chapter of my career.”
The Living Learning Trust has renewed its pledge to help other students like Matthew over the next five years.
Matthew and Juliet align with the 61 per cent of students, identified in Westpac’s student affordability report, who believe their scholarships have improved their finances.
“Knowing somebody is believing and investing in you inspires you to achieve the best results, and for me that has been just as important as the financial help,” says Juliet.
“The Westpac Scholars Trust networking events are amazing because I’m constantly meeting other recipients who are motivated and engaged. With every event I attend my confidence to talk about what I’m doing at university grows and grows.”
Juliet’s goal is to eventually combine her two streams of study in a career that makes a difference.
“Technology is the future so wherever I land, I want to be doing something that brings about positive change,” she says.