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.
Here are some useful tips to consider when filling out your scholarship applications:
Think Of It As A Job
- 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.
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 before you start receiving the funds.
- 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.
- Some requirements may take time to prepare or put together. Examples include writing an essay, getting references from various sources, getting transcripts especially if you took courses outside of Canada as they might take time to arrive.
- Prepare ahead of time as deadlines for some scholarships can be as early as a year before you start your program.
- Not only is it advisable to see what kinds of deadlines and requirements exists as some requirements take time to prepare but failure to meet deadlines also means that your application does not get reviewed.
Review Your Documents
- Like 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 keeping it simple. You should also stick to the limits given. For example, if the application mentions only a two-page limit, then stick to that. Many judges will not read your document beyond the two-page limit.
- 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 our Award Opportunities database, The Annual Register of Grant Support, The Grant Register and Foundation Grants to Individuals.
Writing a Proposal
- 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 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.
While grades and extracurricular activities are the basis for many scholarships, there are numerous scholarships that cater to wide range of students. For example, the scholarship may be targeted towards someone from a particular region of the country or someone with a disability or a certain cultural background, or a certain research field. These scholarships can be found in many places. Places such as post-secondary institutions; schools; community such as church, sports club, or service group; governments; veteran organizations; unions and/or organizations where your parents work. Some high schools offer awards and/or scholarships. Usually, guidance counsellor or the principal has the information regarding these matters.
Graduate students seeking employment are directed to the Career and Employment Services. Graduate students, who are receiving scholarships and awards from an external agency are encouraged to consult with their award agreement and/or 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. Most 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 must 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.
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.
- Scholarships Canada
- International Scholarships - Government of Canada
- Canadian Bureau for International Education
- Government of Canada Student Financial Assistance
- Community of Science (COS)
- International Development Research Centre
- Disability Awards
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 payoffs can be very impressive!
Places To Look
- Bulletin boards (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.
- Nonprofit organizations
- Community foundations
- Houses of worship
- Chamber of commerce
- Within the University
- Various Societies
- Other volunteer organizations
- National organization
- Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
- Provincial organizations
- Alberta ALIS
- International Education Financial Aid
- International Student Financial Aid
- World Education Services