Scholarships: Get That Coin! And That Confidence?
By Léa Montminy-Bergeron
Scholarships were designed as a form of financial aid to reward students for their success or accomplishments, whether it be academic or other aspects of their life. They are also able to promote educational advancement. It’s an honour to receive one! Let’s go over some of the questions you might be asking yourself.
Why should I apply for scholarships, besides the obvious financial benefits?
Some people might think that scholarships are only good for the money and title, and while they are partly right (I’ll give them that!), they are useful for so much more! With scholarships and grants, you get a great opportunity to network with different people, such as other students or professionals in certain fields that interest you. This can also be a chance for you to get a mentor of some sort, someone to guide you through your studies having faced some of the challenges you may encounter throughout your journey. I find that scholarships are also great for showcasing your talents and your skills! Hear me out: You have the chance to brand yourself and talk about all the things you excel in! While that may be a little difficult to do at first, you will find it to be a great exercise. Finding your strengths is so important, and will help you target the right opportunities for you in the long run. Plus, you also get the chance to practice writing winning cover letters, something you probably don’t do every day! I know that as a STEM major, I don’t get too many occasions to write freely or eloquently in my lab reports. If you’re a little rusty in the department, this is your chance to knock it out of the park!
How can I spend the money allocated to me?
The money is yours to spend however you want (*this depends on how it is awarded), but I would strongly suggest that you spend it towards your studies as they can get quite pricey! Whether you use it to pay tuition fees, books, or school supplies, is up to you!
Okay, that sounds great, but where does the money come from?
Scholarships can come from so many different sources. This includes charities, clubs, foundations, organizations, colleges, universities, and even businesses (local or not), without forgetting the government and also the community. Make sure to check out the ones offered by your school!
What types of students are organizations looking for?
This varies for every type of scholarship! Believe it or not, some are not necessarily searching for students with the best grades in a discipline or with the best GPA. Every scholarship has specific criteria one must meet to be eligible for it. This can be for being a student in a specific field of studies (e.g. women in STEM), involvement in certain groups (e.g. in a certain community), member of organizations, location, financial status, level of education, etc.
When should I start sending out applications for scholarships?
In my opinion, you should start as soon as you can! Many scholarships have set deadlines, meaning you will not be considered for them if you apply after a certain date. My suggestion is to start looking about a year in advance - If you’re a high school student looking for University scholarships, you should start doing so at the beginning of Grade 12. This way, you can target specific scholarships you are interested in or eligible for. Make sure to take note of the requirements (e.g. GPA, essays, letters of recommendation). Start making a schedule and prepare your things in advance and stay organized!
What are letters of recommendation and how do I get one?
Since most organizations who award scholarships may not know you personally, they will want to get a sense of who you are, of your character, other than your grades and scores. Usually, they will not have a chance to interview every candidate, so these letters will play a crucial role in the process. Numerous people can act as a reference for you, here are some resources you may consider: Professors and teachers, employers (past or present), coaches, counsellors, or even leaders of associations you are involved with. Remember, the important thing is to have someone talk about your character, in relation to the scholarship you are applying for. Choose wisely, and in advance! Make sure you get in touch with the person of your choice, confirm their participation, and set a clear deadline! Teachers or professors can be very busy writing letters; You want them to have time to write yours! In that case, it might be good to have another option.
A scholarship I’m interested in is asking for a short essay… How can I make mine stand out?
My biggest tip is to get to the point and keep things short, but sweet. You obviously want to grab your reader’s attention, as they are reading countless applications. Always try to surprise, and to bring a new perspective to the table. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow the instructions that were given to you, stay focused on the topic assigned! Try to make it have a meaning, a point! Try to build some sort of relationship to your life experience, and show that you would benefit from this award. Finally, you will want to double, triple check your essays for spelling errors, grammar and punctuation, all while respecting the word limit!
Scholarships can definitely seem intimidating, and sometimes even unattainable. There is a quote about shooting for the moon, but still landing in the stars in the vent of failure. While I’m not sure about the logistics of that scenario, the moral is still valid. When applying for a big scholarship that might seem impossible, you are still perfecting your skills as a writer and building confidence in your abilities. The impossible can make you challenge yourself.
Make sure to check out ScholarTree at this link: https://scholartree.ca
You can also check out Scholarship Canada here: https://www.scholarshipscanada.com