Funding Tips

Many graduate students have a source of financial support that pays their tuition and a small living stipend. Sources of funding include fellowships (from donors, universities, foundations, government agencies, and industry), employer support, Graduate Assistantships - Research (i.e., money from a faculty member's research grant) and Graduate Assistantships - Teaching/Non-Teaching.

Start looking for funds early. Deadlines for applications vary and can occur before you start your program of study. After you apply, it may take as much as six months or so to review the applications and several more months to actually start receiving the funds.

Ask faculty members, department administrators, and fellow graduate students about available funding. Make an appointment or send an email to the Graduate Funding Facilitator; look through the listings in The Annual Register of Grant Support, The Grant Register and Foundation Grants to Individuals.

For a research scholarship or fellowship, you will have to write a proposal. You may need to tailor your proposal to the interests and needs of the particular funding agency or program you're applying to, but stick to something you know about and are sincerely interested in.

Write for a general audience, since the people reviewing your application may not be in the same field. Emphasize your goals and why the project you propose to work on is important. Talk as much as you can about how you're going to solve the problem or address the gap in knowledge, and be sure that your proposed methods will satisfy the goals you've set forth. Follow the rules for format, page layout and length, or your application may not even be reviewed.

Scholarship truths

While grades and extracurricular activities are the basis for many scholarships decisions, there are numerous scholarship types that cater to a wide spectrum of students. For example, some scholarships are “regional” (applicants need to originate from a particular town or area) while others can be more select and designated for a specific applicant (someone with a disability or a certain cultural background).


Graduate students seeking employment are directed to the Career and Employment Services. Graduate students, who are receiving fellowships, teaching assistantships or an award from an outside agency, may not normally work outside their university for more than ten hours a week, depending on the agency. Fellowship holders should be advised to study the terms of their award carefully and to consult with the Graduate Awards Office.

Get to know yourself

When applying or looking for scholarships, it’s important to know what you have in the way of strengths. The majority of scholarships are still based on grades, but some administrators are starting to look for other attributes as well. To know what you can get from a scholarship, you have to first know what you have in the way of assets.

Examine every aspect of your life:

  • academic record
  • professional experience
  • community involvement
  • religious affiliation
  • social and student status (single parent, mature, returning, part-time student, etc.)
  • financial situation (complete a budget)
  • member of a designated group (woman, ethnic, disabled, francophone, etc.)

This introspection will allow you to determine the type of funding for which you can apply.

Sources of Funding

Who offers scholarships? Everyone from schools, companies and charities to governments or private individuals. Your starting point in a search for scholarships should begin at home with your parents. Ask whether the company or organization (even unions) in which your parents work offer any scholarships. Most companies that offer scholarships to employees or children of employees don’t advertise externally. Parents could check with the human resources department for any scholarship offerings.

Are you or any members of your family veterans or children of veterans? Veteran organizations give out a fair amount of scholarships. Maybe your parents belong to a lodge or a club that has a scholarship for members or children of members. You could also inquire whether your church, sports, service group or club has any special scholarships available.

Sometimes high schools offer awards or have specific scholarships associated with them. Generally speaking, the guidance office or the principal will have information on these programs.


Our SGS website has a searchable database that you should be reviewing on a regular basis.

Listed below are some internal and external award and scholarship databases that can be of use to prospective students.

Many students underestimate their chances and some scholarships remain unawarded each year because there are few or no applicants. Remember that each scholarship application becomes easier, because much of the information requested can be re-used. Invest your time in scholarship and bursary applications and the financial pay-offs can be very impressive!


    • Bulletinboards (virtual and real):The Graduate Awards Office, the academic units and the Graduate Students Association post the information for external and internal awards on bulletin boards. Not only should you visit these services, but you may also wish to provide your academic unit with your e-mail address, as some information is sent exclusively by e-mail.
    • Internet: The Web is a great source of information for awards and other forms of financial support.
    • Organizations in your field: Contact public and private companies, associations, agencies, and the Ministry of Education in the province/state/country in which you wish to pursue your studies to find out if they offer funding. If not, find out if they know of organizations that do.
    • Publications: Publications on funding and their bibliographies are great resources.

    Tips to consider

    Here are some useful tips to consider when filling out your scholarship applications:

    Be informed
    Make sure you know everything about the award before you apply for it. Be sure you meet all the requirements, and be realistic in determining whether you qualify. The last thing you want is to be eligible for a scholarship but somehow have missed some important detail of the application package.

    Respect deadlines
    Some scholarships' deadlines are as early as September for the following year, while others are as late as June. In any case, be sure to prepare well ahead of time. Even if you aren’t going to start school next year, it is advisable to start looking now – not to apply, necessarily, but to see what’s out there in the way of scholarships, grants and bursaries. See what kinds of deadlines and requirements exist. It’s better to know about an essay that’s required for a scholarship nine months before it’s due rather than finding out about it a week before.

    Review your documents
    Similar to a job application or a resumé, correct spelling, proper use of grammar and sentence structure are very important in any kind of scholarship application. Dedicate time to proofreading, and keep it simple. You should also stick to the limits given. (i.e. many judges will not read more than two pages if a two page limit is stated.)

    Think of it as a job
    Finally, try to think of an application letter for a scholarship the same way you would think of a letter you’d write when applying for a job. What makes you more deserving than anyone else for this award? Keep in mind that scholarship wins are a wonderful addition to your CV. Good luck!