Scholarships 101: The Opportunities, Achievements, and Lifetime Successes You Never Knew About
By Erica Lenti
If you are currently a senior high school student, you have probably heard it numerous times already; with a university or college education comes academic demands, a civic responsibility and a hefty tuition bill to pay. Fortunately, scholarships are made widely available to students all across Canada, and offer not only financial aid but the opportunity to change your life positively.
Simply put, undergraduate scholarships are monetary awards, given to students who have accomplished outstanding achievements, to help fund the ever-growing expenses of a post-secondary education. They are awarded to students based mainly on academic success and community involvement. Most large universities – like the University of Toronto, for instance and national banks such as TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank offer scholarships, often in large sums, to eligible students. Other smaller scholarships are offered at smaller universities, often outside of Toronto as well.
While scholarships do benefit students as they first enter university, they also create lifetime opportunities in both future educational and professional career endeavors.
For Scarborough resident Hasina Daya, receiving scholarships completely changed her educational experience. A recipient of five awards, including the TD Canada Trust Scholarship and Isabel Kerr Girl Guides Ontario Scholarship, Hasina is currently studying abroad in England. She hopes to graduate as a double major in Global Development Studies and Political Science. When Hasina was ready to graduate high school, her family did not have the financial means to afford university, so she turned to scholarships for help.
“I learned about the awards and scholarships through lots of research… I just tried to learn as much about what was out there as possible,” she explained.
Hasina believed that she did not have the grades to receive many high-profile awards so she used her community involvement to apply to more leadership-based scholarships. She was a very active member of her school community, acted as an ambassador of her student body, and she headed several clubs and activities. She also kept busy as a volunteer at her local mosque, working part-time, and joining the Girl Guides of Canada.
Since receiving the awards, Hasina has experienced several opportunities that have benefited her future prospects. As a recipient of the TD Canada Trust Scholarship, Hasina had the opportunity to work at a bank this summer to gain employment experience.
“It taught me so much about managing my money,” she says. “It was a fabulous experience.”
Likewise, she was able to meet Queen Elizabeth II at her Celebration of Service for the Girl Guides of Canada Isabel Kerr Scholarship event. She explained that the Girl Guides of Canada helped to encourage her ambition to become a human rights lawyer.
Sivaniya Subramanieapillai, also a 2009/2010 recipient of the TD Canada Scholarship, came to learn about the award through her school community.
“I wanted to apply for this scholarship so that I could become a role model to other students in the community who feel restrained to do anything because of the circumstances that they may have,” she says.
As a founder of the Teen Youth Club and an avid volunteer in her Scarborough community, Sivaniya began her high school years like most students; she only intended on volunteering in her community to complete her mandatory 40 hours. It was when she began getting involved that she realized the impact she made on her community.
Since receiving the scholarship, Sivaniya explains that the most beneficial opportunity she has received from it is the network of friends she now has. She has met nineteen other students who, just like her, want to make a difference in their community.
“I am lucky because I have a network of friends from all over the country!”
While both Hasina and Sivaniya were successful in receiving awards based on their community involvement, it is important to explore other scholarship opportunities that pertain to your own individual skills. These scholarships are not often on as large of a scale as national awards, like the TD Canada Trust Scholarship, but they still make a great start in the financial aid of your education. They also target your interests for access to greater opportunities in your future.
For instance, there are sports scholarships, such as the Front Row Sports Award, for students who want to further explore careers in physical education; and there are music scholarships, like the Keith and Ross MacMillan Scholarship, for those interested in a future of music. In most cases, these are the scholarships that are specific to your future careers, prospects and studies.
Interest-specific scholarships can be found through resources like StudentAwards.com and CanLearn.ca, where opportunities are sent to you based specifically on the elements of your profile, including your grades and programs of interest.
As the road toward college, university, or the next phase in your life becomes shorter, it becomes crucial to begin exploring scholarship opportunities.
Hasina advises current seniors to apply to as many scholarships as possible because you never know just what opportunities they have in store for you.
Sivaniya, on the other hand, reminds students to be passionate about what they do. She advises not to volunteer just to receive scholarships, but to love what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.
“Passion and a drive to make a change in the community should be the driving force for your actions,” she says.
Whatever your situation, it is important to keep your eyes open and find the awards that are right for you.
With a bit of hard work and perseverance, scholarships can deliver an abundance of opportunities to you, just as they did for Sivaniya and Hasina. Be weary and do not limit yourself – there are plenty of life-altering opportunities in scholarship programs and awards that are just waiting for the perfect student. And who knows? Maybe that perfect student is you.
Erica Lenti is a 17 year old student currently attending Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School. She is a passionate writer with hopes of pursuing journalism in the future.