Understanding the Basics of Scholarships

Learn how to fund your tuition and focus on your academic dreams.

It’s senior year, the best year of high school! There are so many things to do and so many things to think about, especially university applications. Your hard work over the past four years will finally pay off as you get your acceptance, so then why do so many students prevent their hard work from paying the university fees? 

University can be very expensive depending on your situation, but there’s a lot of money available to help you pay your fees. There are grants, loans, bursaries, academic awards, and scholarships! It’s important to understand the various financial supports.

Defining the various terms.

Academic Award: An academic award may be granted in monetary or gift form. 

Bursary: A bursary is FREE MONEY based on individual financial need and which may include a minimum expectation of academic achievement or other criteria such as leadership, community involvement, etc. Students are generally required to apply for bursaries outlining their need for resources.

Student Grant: A Canada Student Grant is FREE MONEY from the government based on financial need. When you qualify for student financial assistance, you are automatically assessed for both Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants

Student Loan: A Canada Student Loan is assessed based on financial need. It is money that must be repaid when you finish school. Interest is charged on the loan amount. *FYI: YOU CAN EVEN DECLINE THE LOAN AND REQUEST THE GRANT ONLY!

Scholarship: A scholarship is FREE MONEY based on various criteria such as academic achievement, leadership, community involvement, or other earned merit, or a combination of these elements. Financial need may be a consideration as well. The scholarship usually reflects the values of the donor.

There are 3 Main Types of Scholarships

Academic: based on high academic achievement

Merit: based on specific criteria such as leadership, volunteerism, etc.

Need-based: based on financial background

Taking the Initiative! 

Now, all this information sounds great but is only useful if you take action. I suggest you get started by doing three easy steps. First, begin by compiling a list of all your extra-curricular activities, awards, and achievements into one big resumé. Once you do this, it is crucial to begin listing 2-3 important details of each point, this is because you will have to reference back to this often so you do not want to forget anything. 

Next, start researching scholarships that SUIT YOU! This means, looking at national scholarships of universities you are interested in and external awards that can be found through websites like scholartree.ca, yconic.com, scholarshipscanada.com, and much more. While doing this, make a spreadsheet of the awards you may want to apply to and include the date, website, and additional things needed for the application to stay organized and prepared. 

Finally, reach out to your potential referees and ask them if they are comfortable speaking on your behalf for these awards. Remember, a strong reference letter from someone who knows you well is ALWAYS better than a weak reference from someone with high authority. 

In conclusion…

Those are three simple steps you can start to conquer the seemingly daunting tasks of applying to scholarships. If you have any questions or concerns, take the initiative to ask your guidance counselor, the student financial aid of your interested universities, and someone you trust. 

In the words of Malcolm X, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” The money is out there waiting for you to seize it and support your education. Be bold and shoot your shot, because you never know until you try. Stay tuned for Part Two, where I share my own journey in which I received over $40,000 dollars in scholarship value.

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