Finding Funding - Part 1

the NSFAS process

Posted by Chelsi Sylvester on April 25, 2017

So you’ve been accepted to the university of your dreams (Congratulations! It’s no easy feat) but now you’re sitting with a tiny problem…funding. Let’s be honest, not many of us have +- R50 000 just lying around. Luckily NSFAS can help us out.

I have been dealing with NSFAS since I started my undergrad career and I wish someone had explained the long and daunting process that awaits when you click that “Apply” tab. I hope that the following information helps whoever is reading this in their battle for funding.

UCT had their private funding scheme however, when the #FeesMustFall movement began, they merged with NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme). UCT does still offer merit-based faculty funding, but I'll be writing another article on this later on!

What is NSFAS?

NSFAS logo

NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) is a government run organisation that caters to university students around the country.

NSFAS has two types of funding – GAP and Complete Funding (CF). When applying for aid, you may be granted either GAP or CF depending on your economic status.

NB! Each student applying for funding should be aware that there is an EFC to be paid IF your application is successful. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is what the family pays as a contribution towards the cost of your studies.

What is the difference between GAP and CF and how do I qualify for either?

GAP Funding is when NSFAS pays a portion of your fees and the balance is then converted to a loan which you have to pay before registration the following year. The portion NSFAS pays, depends on your family’s financial status – it can either be the majority of your fees (unlikely but possible) or it can be the minimum.

Complete Funding is when NSFAS pays your fees in its entirety with 0% payback from you. It is essentially a bursary. In order to qualify for this, your family’s financials have to reflect either borderline poverty or a single parent household or unemployment.

How do I go about applying for Financial Aid?

As I mentioned, applying for funding can be a laborious task but at the end of the day, we need it, so we suck it up and do it.

Step 1: Apply for funding at

Step 2: The application will require you to upload TWO documents. Make sure you choose these documents very carefully. In my experience, it’s best to upload either a payslip or death certificate or a certified copy of the breadwinner’s ID.

A payslip serves as proof of income. NSFAS needs this to evaluate the income bracket you/your family fall under in order to determine which funding option they will offer you.
A death certificate is used in cases of single-parent households.
An affidavit stating unemployment serves as proof that it’s either a single income/no income household.

NB! Make sure all documents are certified. NSFAS does not accept docs that are not certified.

Step 3: Once you’ve applied on the website, you will receive a reference number and details that your application was received. KEEP THIS! I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep everything you receive during your application process.

Step 4: Send an email to Financial Aid ( saying that you applied on the NSFAS website etc and make sure you attach either a screenshot of your website application OR send them the reference number you received.

Step 5: Now we wait. This waiting period is usually during December vac so we have other things to keep our minds off the looming arrival of a response. But just so you know, you are most likely to receive an answer between Jan and early Feb.

Step 6: If you are unsuccessful, do not lose hope. There is an appeals process which you can go through and appeal the decision. The funding office will generally upload the appeals form on their website for you to download and complete. Best option is to hand it in at the Financial Aid office so it does not get lost in “the cloud”.

This is where I may go against what you have heard about Financial Aid but it has worked for me so far so I feel I owe it to you to share – follow up on important queries. Because the staff have so many applications and questions coming through, it is easy and understandable for one or two to fall by the wayside but you do not want it to be yours. This is your future, you have a right to ask as many questions as you need to. HOWEVER, having said this, speaking from experience again (my word, I could write a book and entitle it “Adventures with Financial Aid”), it is much better to make the trek to the Financial Aid Office and just ask them your questions in person. That way, your email is not misinterpreted or worse… (duh duh duh duuuuuuuh *dramatic theme music*).

I sincerely hope that you have found this helpful if you want to apply for funding. If you have any questions or comments, please drop me an email at I have listed important contact details and people you should speak to if you find yourself lost, alone or afraid.

May the odds forever be in your favour.

May the odds forever be in your favour

Important names, contact details and extra information:

Margie Jacobs: Financial Aid Student Liaison

Phumza Vena: Financial Aid

Tasneem Salasa: Student Financial Aid Manager

NSFAS applications

Information for Financial Aid First Timers (UCT)

Student Financial Aid
Level 3, Kramer Law Building
Middle Campus
Tel: 021 650 5094