20 Tips for Winning Scholarships in Canada
There are scholarships out there for everyone—literally.
Whether it be your graduating year in high school or in the last year of your Ph.D. program, there is a scholarship out there for you.
However, generally, when I speak to students, they have no idea where to start and how to win.
In this article, we will give you 20 critical tips on where to start the scholarship search and how to win scholarships in Canada.
At GrantMe, we aim to help students graduate university debt-free. Therefore, we have developed a program to help maximize their chances of winning scholarships. For more information about our program and registration, click the link below to watch our online webinar:
Click here to register for our online webinar
Now let’s get on to the critical steps to take to help you WIN scholarships!
Tip 1: Set a target
How much do you actually want to win? How much do you think you can win? On average, students in our program last year won $9,100.
Do you consider yourself average?
What makes you a strong candidate?
Well, it will be a combination of grades, volunteer work and leadership roles. Assess what you have and look at what you need to be successful. Then, create a goal! The goal amount that you create for yourself is going to keep you motivated!
Tip 2: Look at your direct affiliations
Checking with your affiliations is one of the easiest ways to find scholarships that fit your criteria. You would be surprised to see that most businesses and organizations offer some form of scholarship or award program.
Affiliate scholarships are ones that are specific to you, such as, your parent’s work, your involvement with certain foundations and any volunteer work you do for clubs.
These are some of the questions you can ask yourself when looking for affiliate scholarships!
Are your parent's members of the legion?
Do they have scholarships through their work?
Does your soccer club have a scholarship?
Does your music club have a scholarship?
Tip 3: Look at the scholarships that your school and future university/college offers
High-schools and universities both offer scholarships and awards for students with good academic standing and that are involved with extra-curricular activities. If you are in university, your faculty might also offer individual awards that you could apply for. Take the time to see a counsellor and check to see what scholarships are relevant to you.
These scholarships also tend to be less competitive, so we recommend you start your researching process early (as early as Gr.10) to see what you need to apply.
Tip 4: Keep track of the scholarships you find
It is always a great idea to make a list of scholarships that you find when you do your research. This keeps you on track and will help you to complete applications in a timely manner. It is also beneficial to include the deadlines for each award so that you can keep the application process organized. Organization is key! If you don’t keep your list organized you could miss out on scholarship opportunities.
In your tracking sheet, you want to have the scholarship name, the date that the scholarship is open, the due date, amount, the date that you applied, and amount won.
Tip 5: Look at the requirements for each scholarship
Go on to the website and take a look at the requirements and application process. You want to make note of what you need for this application. You might need a resume, cover letter and references. Now that you have looked early at the application, you have time to prepare all of those.
If you’re unsure whether to include something in your cover letter, ask yourself if it’s useful for the employer to know. Will including that information increase your chances of getting the job or winning the scholarship?
Before writing your cover letter and resume, take some time to research the industry, employer, and position, or scholarship organization you are applying to. Your documents should demonstrate that you know something about the organization beyond basic details. Doing research shows that you are dedicated and resourceful.
You also want to take a look at the essay question. If it asks you to describe multiple community involvements and you only have one or two, then you might have time to start an initiative or be a part of a volunteer activity before you apply, so that you can write about it in your application.
Tip 6: Time management
Timing is key.
Students in our program have said that applying for scholarships is almost like a part-time job. That is because it should be treated like one!
Applying for one scholarship and expecting to win is not the mindset you want to have in the scholarship process. It takes dedication and perseverance. The more scholarships that you apply to, the higher the chances you have of winning!
In order to be successful, your time management skills are key. You will want to set out time in your schedule to dedicate yourself to applying and essay writing. Would you rather work two jobs in university and stress about school at the same time? Or apply to scholarships now to be financially stable in school?
We all know the answer to that question.
Tip 7: Start looking at scholarships
If you're still in high school, you want to start the scholarship process as early as Grade 10. Some of you may be starting to sweat right now because you may already be in university, do not fret! There are still plenty of opportunities for university students to win scholarships!
We suggest starting that early so that you can become a high ticket scholarship winner and can win 40, 50 or even $100,000 in scholarships.
The earlier you start the less stressed you will be while you are trying to juggle all of your activities. You will be able to build your resume with volunteer and leadership work before you start applying to scholarships.
Tip 8: Diversify your volunteer work
If all you do is play volleyball 10 hours a week, then you may get you a couple of scholarships. However, if you want to maximize the number of scholarships you are eligible for, then you want to diversify your volunteer and extracurricular activities.
In our program, we go over the difference between an initiator role, leadership role and member role in extra-curricular activities and which ones you should focus on.
Take a look at how your volunteer activities align with your values and strengths. For example, say you are involved with the Gr.12 Girl’s Basketball team, Student Council and choir. Looking at all of those activities, you will now want to either start an initiative in your community or take part in a leadership role in your community because all of the activities previously mentioned are within school.
There are two steps to take here:
You also want to take a look at the types of activities you are involved in. For example: if someone is in five clubs as a member it may be less powerful than someone who has created an initiative from scratch.
Tip 9: Think about your values, strengths and challenges
Scholarships are all about self-reflection. In applications, students tend to only reflect on their strengths. But in order to differentiate yourself, you should be reflecting on your weaknesses as well.
In English class in high school, you don’t learn this type of self-reflection. It is new to most students and can be uncomfortable because you really have to reflect on your impact.
Tip 10: Don’t list your achievements, expand on your role
Committees don’t care about you listing everything you have done in one paragraph. In order to be competitive, you have to dive deep into your impact and discuss how it relates to your strength, weaknesses and values.
Naming an activity that you have done is one part of the scholarship formula, however, when you can actually discuss what your impact was in your volunteer, leadership or initiator role, it tells the committee that you are a true leader.
Tip 11: Contact your references early
If you are going to get someone to write a reference letter for you, whether it be your teacher, counsellor, boss, coach, etc, you need to respect their time. Ask them in advance to write the letter so that you do not put stress on them or yourself.
We have a tip when it comes to references! If someone says they don’t have time to write your cover letter for you, you can write it for them and get them to sign it. That way you can use it for MULTIPLE applications! You want to make the date and signature area blank.
Tip 12: Write 3 scholarship essays and reuse them for multiple applications
When you start doing your scholarship search, one thing you will notice is that the majority of them ask you to talk about community involvement, adversity and career goals.
That means, if you have written approximately three essays, then you should be able to recycle your essays over multiple applications.
Recycling saves you time and stress.
Tip 13: Get your application proofread
You need a second pair of eyes when it comes to writing and it doesn’t matter how great of a writer you are, you should always get a second read over.
You could ask your counsellors, teachers, principles or our team at GrantMe to edit your essay. You don’t want to have any grammatical errors or confusing sentences in your writing.
However, grammatical errors should not be your sole focus when it comes to proofreading scholarship papers. Scholarship committees are focused on content rather than grammar so you want your proofreaders to evaluate your content closely. Make sure that when you are discussing your community involvements, that you are thorough in your description. Your volunteer paragraphs should be answering the following questions:
A great way to check your grammar is Grammarly! It is free to download on your computer and it will catch the spelling and grammatical errors in your writing.
Tip 14: Don’t tell the committee what they want to hear…
Scholarship committees know when you are not being authentic in your communication. Telling them what they want to hear will not help you in winning the scholarship. Being vulnerable in your communication is required for great leadership.
When you want to express what happened, what challenges you experienced and how you overcame those challenges you want to describe them authentically. You don’t want to cover up your challenges, you want to use them as learning opportunities.
Authentic communication can be expressed in any form of writing, whether you are discussing financial need, leadership, athletics, etc.
Tip 15: Keep applying and apply some more
Students often think that they can stop applying to scholarships in Gr.12, however, you can apply to scholarships throughout your entire university degree.
So if you start in Grade 12 and want to get a bachelors degree, your scholarship opportunities will be open to you for 5 years.
Tip 16: Don’t forget about the little Scholarships
You don’t want to forget about the little guys… Scholarships that are about $500-$3,000 dollars are less competitive compared to others. Aim to apply for a combination of both low and high ticket scholarships (let’s be real, anything helps).
Tip 17: Keep Yourself Competitive
To keep yourself competitive, try to maintain an average 80% and above in high school as scholarship committees want academically strong students.
Next, what you want to do is assess your community involvement. Scholarships need a combination of both strong academics and community involvement. Community involvement includes volunteering, starting an initiative, leadership roles and your extracurricular activities.
Tip 18: It’s not too late!
As long as you are in school, it is not too late.
However, if you want to maximize your chances of winning the earlier you start—the better.
Scholarship committees look at your most recent activities within the last 3 years. That means if you are applying in Grade 12 you want to start your community involvement in Grade 10. If you are in university any experiences you have in university will also be extremely valuable!
When you look at applications earlier, you have the time to see what the applications are looking for. You will have time to start your community involvements so that you will be able to write about it in your future applications.
Tip 19: Don’t just apply to one
You don’t want to be in the mindset of just applying to just 3 scholarships because that will not bring you success. There is a whole scholarship system that you want to get into.
You want to aim to apply to as many scholarships as you can, therefore, maximizing the chances you have of winning more scholarships.
Tip 20: Don’t. Give. Up.
The most important message out of this entire blog—perseverance.
Haven’t won any scholarships yet? That is because the scholarship process is a long process.
Scholarship committees tend to take 6 months to get back to students. Many students get discouraged when they don’t find scholarships right away that they are eligible for. It will require time and research to find scholarships, so don’t give up when the going gets tough.
Eventually, as you continue to do research you will begin to see patterns and trends of what type of categories you fit into and what the best research technique is for you.
Erica Chaplin: Student Experience Manager at GrantMe and YouTube Lover