Financial strain is a burden to anyone - particularly post-secondary students. The pandemic has exasperated this strain, creating a job shortage and diminished overall job prospects. But, before you panic, there are resources available to support you. You can fund a portion of your post-secondary expenses by securing a line of credit from a bank or applying for provincial/ federal grants and loans. Scholarships are another means to fund your education, and frankly, I believe it is one of the most underutilized options out there.
Advice on Weighing Your Scholarship Options
In Canada, the value of unclaimed scholarships, annually, can amount to over $10 million (Edwardson, 2021). This number is so absurd that it makes you wonder why exactly all of us students aren't jumping at this free money. One reason could be that students may feel as though they are not qualified enough to be in the running for a scholarship. When 'scholarship' comes to mind, you would probably imagine an essay-writing competition open to students, where the best written essay is awarded a cash prize or may see the winner of scholarships as all-around students with a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) and strong involvement in their schools/ communities. All of these thoughts can be intimidating.
Truthfully, all scholarships do not follow such a rigid structure nor demand for exceptional feats. Scholarship opportunities are offered by a plethora of organizations/ companies that demand a unique set of requirements - requirements you might not have thought. Although some scholarships may look at specifically academic performance or volunteer experience, extracurriculars, or ask for you to write a small essay about why you would be a great recipient (many company-funded scholarship applications ask this), others may simply ask for your resume or to input your contact information - you could win based on a random draw. Yes, scholarship opportunities come in a variety of forms! If you are a tall first-year student entering university or college, there's a scholarship for you: consider applying to the Tall Clubs International (TCI) Foundation scholarship; for the minimum height requirement, they are looking for females that are 5' 10" and males that are 6' 2.” Unorthodox? Maybe. An opportunity you probably didn't know was out there, that could help finance your education - yep!
Landing a Scholarship Means Additional Support Beyond The Financial
Planning out your scholarship applications is done similarly as one would prepare a resume and cover letter. Like a resume and cover letter, you would not put all your extracurriculars and community experiences onto your scholarship application. You would pay attention to the scholarship requirements and tailor your application based on that. With that, applying to scholarships can reinforce your critical thinking and make you more accustomed to marketing your desirability. This can translate to the job search as you try to advertise your employability to open companies.
Speaking of employability, certain scholarships offer mentorship and exclusive activities (e.g networking or research opportunities) to its recipients. Having a mentor would be a great asset in directly guiding your professional development and getting a grasp of your goals. You have someone you can come to for questions and concerns that you may feel uncomfortable opening up to others about. Networking does not hurt either. Maintaining a diverse web of connections can come in handy in exposure to unique job insights and understanding what values and skills employers look out for. Who you know can take you far, especially when you have a dream career in mind! Further, winning a scholarship is a feat worth placing on your resume - no doubt. It can make a great talking point in job interviews and exemplifies your initiative to go after what you desire.
You've Got to Start Somewhere
When you dedicate the time and energy, scholarships can certainly be worthwhile. They carry a handful of benefits in not only financially supporting the post-secondary expenses of students, but also present a tool in molding themselves into an ideal job candidate. With seeing the bright side of scholarships, it is time to work on where to start exactly. A good place to start would be your post-secondary institution. Colleges and universities offer scholarships that are limited solely to their attending students, so I recommend reaching out to yours to understand their process for applying to in-school scholarships. You can also ask around within your connections of family members and friends to see if they know of any organizations/ companies that are currently offering any scholarships. Hands down, the biggest tool at your fingertips for this scholarship hunt would be online scholarship websites. They bring immense accessibility and awareness to scholarships that you would otherwise never hear about. When it comes to my personal scholarship hunt, I recommend the use of Scholarships Canada, ScholarTree, Student Awards, and Yconic.
I guess what I'm saying here is, you don't have to financially support your post-secondary journey alone. At least, you have options work toward. While preparing for, submitting you application, and trying doesn't mean you'll land a scholarship, the options out there are far more abundant and varied than you may have thought. If you don't try, you'll never know, right? And that, friends, is worth its weight in gold!!!
Final Tips to Land a Scholarship:
- Create a spreadsheet/ Calendar of scholarships, their corresponding requirements, and deadlines. Be sure to start early.
- Plan out time in your schedule into making scholarship applications
- Given that you meet the minimum requirements, apply to as many scholarships as you can
- If scholarships require letters of recommendations, reach out to your postsecondary professors at an early date to see if they are available. If they aren’t available, try asking your former employers or volunteer/ extracurricular supervisors.
- Proofread and revise your scholarship application before submitting
- Be confident and proud of your accomplishments, regardless of whether you win the scholarship. It will motivate you more to continue applying, and it will shine through in your application