A Beginner’s Guide to Applying for...

A Beginner’s Guide to Applying for Scholarships

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By Erin Rebello

For many high school seniors, this time of year marks the beginning of post-secondary applications. Whether you’re headed into university, college, or a trade school, an education is a crucial part of starting your career. Unfortunately, post-secondary education can also be really expensive, causing students to incur extensive debts at a young age. One way to reduce the financial burden of attending school is with scholarships. Although scholarships may seem daunting at first, this guide for beginners is here to help you through the process!

Types of Scholarships:

Although starting your scholarship search may be overwhelming at first, the best place to start is by considering the different types of scholarships provided. Each type of scholarship has different criteria, as well as a different likelihood for you to win, so it’s definitely something to be aware of when applying.

  1. Major Admission Awards are very large scholarships offered by a post-secondary institution. These scholarships are highly-coveted, and usually have an extensive application process, including essays, references, interviews, and more. Major admissions awards consider both your academic achievement and extracurricular involvement. Although these types of scholarships are highly-competitive, they provide an extreme amount of support, ranging up to $80,000 and beyond.
  2. Entrance Scholarships are smaller scholarships also offered by a post-secondary institution with a similar goal as major admission awards. One key difference is that entrance awards do not have an application process, and are purely based on academics. For example, if you achieved over 90% in your top 6 courses, you might be eligible for a $2,000 scholarship. Entrance scholarship criteria and monetary amounts differ greatly between institutions, so be sure to compare this.
  3. Program-Specific Scholarships are scholarships offered to applicants for a very specific program at an institution, such as business, STEM, or the arts. Program specific scholarships are used to entice students to attend a specific program at a university, even if it’s not what they initially considered. For example, you might find a program scholarship specifically for women in engineering, considering that STEM is a male-dominated field.
  4. External Scholarships are scholarships offered by organizations other than the educational institution itself. Since this is such a large category, it contains many scholarships within it.
  5. Work Scholarships are those offered by you or your parents’ place of work to support further education. These are often guaranteed by the employer, but do have important deadlines, so just be sure to ask your parents and speak with your manager as soon as possible!
  6. Essay Scholarships are those offered by institutions for winners of essay contests. These types of scholarships don’t often look at grades, but they can be very tedious or time consuming to write, so definitely think about the pros and cons before applying.
  7. External Scholarships are any other sort of other scholarship offered by an organization. These scholarships range greatly in value, from $200 to $10,000 and beyond. Although there are websites and lists of scholarships for larger external scholarships, smaller ones are usually community-based, so it’s best to speak with teachers, parents, and guidance counsellors.

What You Need to Apply:

Now that you’re hyped up to be applying for scholarships to help pay for school, it’s important to note that you’ll often need to gather a few things in order to apply.

  1. Resume: Most scholarships look at a student holistically, and a resume is a great way to get a snapshot of a student’s work, achievements, and involvements. Some scholarships require a PDF of your resume, while others will have you manually fill an online form.
  2. Essays: Another component of scholarships are essays, which vary greatly in size and topic. Most scholarships ask you questions about yourself, your academic habits, and why you want to pursue a post-secondary education. The length of these essays varies greatly, with some as short as 100 words, with others being 1,000 words.
  3. Letters of Reference: Scholarships want to make sure that what you’re telling them is accurate, so they often ask for a letter of reference from someone who knows you well. This can include a teacher, coach, employer, or anyone not related to you who can vouch for your work.

One thing you should note is that oftentimes, these requirements (and even the questions themselves) overlap greatly with various applications. For this reason, when applying to scholarships myself, I created a Google Doc with all the answers I had previously used. This allowed me to go back when I noticed a similar prompt and adapt my older essays to fit the new prompt.

Where to Start: 

So now that you know all about the types of scholarships and have an understanding of what you need, it’s time to start your scholarship hunt… but where to begin? The best place to start is asking your guidance counsellors and teachers, as they often have information about local scholarships you can apply to. You should also speak with your parents and family members, as they might know about employee scholarships from their work. As mentioned earlier, if you yourself are working, speaking with an employer is a good idea, too.

Besides speaking with other people, another great resource is the internet. When I was creating a list of scholarships to apply to, I referenced many other lists I found online. Websites like Scholarships Canada, Grant Me, and Student Awards.ca all have extensive lists of scholarships you can browse. And while you’re already here, Jobs People Do has several other posts about scholarships, including specific scholarships you can apply to!

The final place I would recommend for researching scholarships is the schools you’re planning on applying to. Most schools have a list of major admission and entrance awards on their website to get students eager and interested in their institution.

Overall, although searching for and applying to a scholarship can be a tedious process, there are many resources out there available to help you. And in the end, scholarships are a great way to reduce the financial burden of attending school, especially if used in combination with savings, government aid, and smart spending!



Griffiths, Adam. “5 Types of Scholarships for Canadian Students.” GrantMe. https://grantme.ca/5-types-of-scholarships-for-canadian-students/.

Griffiths, Adam. “Top 10 University Scholarships in Canada.” GrantMe. https://grantme.ca/top-10-university-scholarships-in-canada/.

Taylor, Rob. “A Guide to Scholarships, Awards and Applications.” Scholarships Canada. https://www.scholarshipscanada.com/News/9/1420/A-guide-to-scholarships,-awards-and-applications.

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