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Financial planning tips

Brighter life
July 21, 2015

How to find a scholarship

Scholarships aren’t just for those at the top of the class. There are opportunities to receive financial rewards based on many qualifications.

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted at the university or college of your choice, pored over course calendars and maybe even already bought a school sweatshirt. You’re about to embark on an exciting adventure with lots of new experiences to look forward to, from parties to lectures to all-nighters.

Unfortunately, for more than half of graduating students, one of these new experiences is debt — and that statistic is rising. Whether you’re footing your tuition bill on your own or with help from your parents, chances are you could use some financial assistance. The good news is there are several ways to find money for school.

Seek school scholarships

Automatic entrance scholarships are the best-known sources of student funding, but they aren’t the only ones. Most universities also offer application-required entrance scholarships. While some are based on grades, others consider financial need or community and extra-curricular involvement, and many are renewable each year. Some universities also offer scholarships specific to certain programs or for students in certain years, so continue to search and apply for funding after your first year. If you’re not sure what your school offers, book an appointment with an academic advisor.

Some high schools also give monetary awards to graduating students. Most aren’t large, but they can help pay for textbooks or moving costs. Many don’t require you to apply, but sometimes joining certain clubs or taking certain courses can increase your eligibility -- find out from your guidance office.

Go for government grants

If you’re a student, you probably know about government loans, but did you know that there are also federal and provincial government grants available based on merit or need? Many are aimed at disadvantaged groups, such as racial minorities, women, aboriginals or students with disabilities, and can contribute a significant amount towards tuition. Talk to an academic advisor to find out if you are eligible, or visit CanLearn.ca.

Graduate students can apply for grants from government organizations such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Though the competition for them is stiff, these grants can sometimes cover the entire cost of a graduate program.

Consider corporate scholarships

Ask your parents if their employers offer scholarships to the children of employees. They can ask an HR representative to find out whether you are eligible and how to apply. If your parents belong to a union or other employee organization, check if there are scholarships available for members and their families.

If you have a part-time job, there may be student funding through your employer. Large companies such as McDonald’s and Tim Hortons run scholarship programs for their employees in high school. They are usually awarded for community involvement.

Pursue private scholarships

Private scholarships — funded by corporations, foundations, charities, or individuals — are also available at the local, provincial and national levels. Like government grants, these are often aimed at disadvantaged groups, but they may also support students in particular disciplines or streams of research. As well, local, private funding may offer support to young entrepreneurs or students involved in community or charity work.

If you have a talent for writing, keep an eye out for essay contests. The cash prizes can add up, and being a finalist will look great on your resume.

When in doubt: Apply!

Many of these scholarships have low profiles, so the competition for them isn’t as intense as for more well-known awards. Don’t shy away from applying for scholarships that don’t offer a lot of money: Combined with others they can add up to a significant portion of your tuition.

With a little research, you’ll soon see that scholarships aren’t just for those at the top of the class. There are plenty of opportunities to receive financial rewards based on other qualifications, talents and experiences — so take advantage of them!

For more information on scholarships offered Canada-wide, visit scholarshipscanada.com.

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