10 Quick Tips to Help You Find and Win a Scholarship

There’s hundreds of thousands of dollars out there. It’s just hanging out, waiting to be claimed. It has a name: scholarships. Now, most freeze up at the word scholarship and assume they won’t win. Funny thing is, thousands of dollars go unclaimed for some scholarships annually. Sad face. In light of that, here are some tips for finding, applying and winning scholarships. You got this.

  • Not exactly an overachiever? That’s ok. Grades aren’t everything. In fact, many scholarships don’t require an academic average. Extra-curriculars might be your ticket to graduating with less debt (or even no debt!). Sports, music, drama club, debate team, fellowship, whatever. Just fill in the blank: “oh, I can’t go to that movie, I have _____ after school.” Then see if there’s a scholarship for that, because there probably is.
  • Pretend you’re your mom bragging about you to the neighbour, and paint yourself in your best light: you’d be surprised how things you never considered to be a big deal can earn you big points on applications. Mention relevant activities even if they just seem like silly hobbies to you; treat them as preparatory work in your chosen field.
  • Bit of a weirdo? Hey, there are scholarships for weirdos. Make a little list of any semi-productive ways you spend your time, and start Googling. Passionate about cupcakes? LARPing? Roller derby? Who knowsuse your imagination to come up with different descriptors for your search.
  • Take advantage of stuff you just ‘lucked’ into, even if it’s stuff that might have hindered you in the past: check for scholarships that cater to students who were born where you were born, students who speak the language(s) you speak, students who share your ancestry or orientation.

“As the Great One said, “You Miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

  • Put on your Ambition Hat (which obviously looks like a propellor beanie): come up with something you want to achieve in the future, and work backwards from there. Find companies/firms/organizations in that field, and see if they sponsor any scholarships for up-and-coming students.
  • Make the government work for you: the Canadian government offers financial assistance in the form of grants to students from low- and middle-income families, as well as students who have dependents, and students who have permanent disabilities. Even if you’re already receiving assistance, it’s worth checking out every avenue to maximize your benefits.
  • Be loud: make sure everyone knows you’re looking for a scholarship. Ask your parents, your employer, your religious leader, and the sponsors of any events or organizations that you and your family participate in. You want everyone around you to have your application on their mind, so when they hear about an opportunity, they send it your way. Be persistent. But not, you know, annoying.
  • Effort gets rewarded: You would be amazed at how your odds improve if the scholarship application process involves any effort at all. Does the application require a video, essay, or hand drawn sketch of your cat? Think that’s too difficult? So does 91% of everyone else. Your pool of competition just got a lot smaller.
  • Don’t forget the little guysMost concentrate on the large and quick scholarships, but many of the smaller $100 and $500 bursaries and scholarships go unclaimed. A couple of those will cover the cost of your books for the year.
  • Take the time. Oh, and apply! Schedule a couple hours here and there and get down to business, distraction-free. Also, you can’t win anything if you don’t apply for anything. So take the chance. As the Great One said, “You Miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Illustration by Anas Ashraf

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.
Alanna Schiffer

Alanna Schiffer

Alanna has an Honours BA in English, Linguistics and Philosophy (University of Toronto), as well as a Bachelor of Teaching (Southern Cross University, Australia). She writes for SLN and lives in Toronto with her family.