Millions of post-secondary scholarship dollars are left on the table because Canadian students don’t bother to apply for the money.
Post-secondary students across Canada are preparing for final exams — but carving out time during the next 60 days to investigate scholarship opportunities could save them, and their parents, thousands of dollars.
Myths versus reality
It is not true that students need to be academic geniuses, nor must they always go through a lengthy application process, to qualify for scholarships in Canada. But sadly, that’s what many students claim holds them back from applying during the months of April and May, when some of Canada’s largest scholarship applications are due.
The second myth that deters young applicants is that they need to be in a precarious financial position to qualify when, in fact, only one-third of scholarships require a student to be in financial need.
Three places to start looking for scholarships
First, and very often overlooked, is at the school where a student is already registered. Most large academic institutions have an entire department that will assist students by pairing their area of study to the most appropriate scholarships.
The second place to look is online for scholarships offered by third parties. Knowledge First Financial Inc., for example, gives 10 scholarships worth a total value of $120,000 to graduate students every year. The organization is accepting applications throughout April and May.
Like many corporations and foundations in Canada, Knowledge First Financial’s scholarship program is administered through ScholarshipsCanada.com, the largest aggregator of scholarship and bursary information in Canada. Another popular aggregator is Universities Canada, which has access to international scholarship opportunities as well as scholarships within Canada. Yconic is another strong aggregator that, like the others, leverages a student’s personal data to pair them with appropriate scholarships.
The third place to look for scholarship funding is through an employer. Many organizations provide scholarships to the children of their employees, or to the employees themselves, with a limited application process.
There are thousands of scholarships in Canada. To sort through the stack, students should, at a bare minimum, filter based on their field of study and geography.
Diversity in STEM
The most exciting trend that I’m seeing in scholarship funding in Canada is a shift towards applicants from diverse backgrounds studying STEM — Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Math. TELUS, for example, offers its Diversity in Technology Scholarship with the hopes of specifically inspiring young women to study in STEM fields.
Through two degrees costing $110,000, an undergrad at University of Alberta in ’05 and my MBA at Queen’s in ’12, I applied for 21 scholarships worth approximately $130,000. In the end I won $34,000 of funding, which was 30 per cent of my educational costs. I paid the balance with my personal savings from summer jobs and a $10,000 student line of credit. My scholarship money was key to strengthening my financial position after graduation.