Students returning to college and university also marks a time when the scramble for financial help is at its height — and this year is expected to be no different, especially with COVID-19 impacting jobs and tuition prices.
But as students are looking to catch a break anywhere they can — even going as far as to petition for reduced fees for online courses — a Canadian scholarship expert wants students to know that there’s still plenty of funding to be had.
You just need to know where to look for it and how to access it.
According to Madison Guy, founder of COO of GrantMe, her company has helped put money in students’ hands across Canada — and in some cases, as much as $140,000 of scholarship funds in their pockets.
“Most people don’t realize that there are options beyond student loans and massive debt,” Guy said. “A wide range of Canadian schools, businesses and non-profits offer different kinds of scholarships and awards, and surprisingly, COVID-19 has even brought new funding opportunities from companies that are doing well amid the pandemic and want to give back by supporting students.”
GrantMe provides students with access to its scholarship matching platform on a subscription model.
The company also provides students and their parents with mentorship and guidance through the scholarship and university application process to ensure success.
Guy even says that the average student matches to more than $450,000 in available scholarships.
To help students get off the ground, Guy offers some searching tips to them and their families:
- Start early: Student scholarships are available throughout high school and undergraduate studies. The earlier you start the scholarship process, the more opportunities you will have to build your nest egg.
- Explore affiliations: Your sports club, parents’ employers, bank, or other organizations you or your family are affiliated with may offer scholarships. These opportunities are the easiest place to start, and less competitive, because of the personal connection.
- Focus on strengths: Not all scholarships require high grades, so don't let your GPA hold you back from applying. Think about key experiences that make you unique and stand out. If you have good volunteer experience, studied abroad or started a business, for example, these activities can outweigh your GPA.
- Simplify the process: Most scholarships look for similar characteristics and often focus on leadership. Students should aim to create one strong essay that can be re-used and recycled across multiple applications. By adapting the same essay for each application, you can streamline and speed up the application process.
- Create a connection: Treat the scholarship process like finding a job, and follow up with scholarship committees who are taking the time to read your application. Try to find an email address and send a thank you note to scholarship committee members for each application you submit.
According to Statistics Canada, the highest average undergraduate tuition fees in the country are in four professional degree programs, including dentistry ($21,717), medicine ($14, 162), law (12,388) and optometry ($11,236). They account for 2.9 per cent of all Canadian undergraduate student enrolment.
Universities Canada says the the average student tuition for a Canadian undergraduate student at Carleton University is between $6,067 and $8,040.
At the University of Ottawa, it’s an average of $6,088.
And if students go the route of taking out a student loan, it can take them up to 10 years to pay them off, according to a TD Bank survey.
In 2019, the University of Ottawa had a total of 8,983 enrolments for undergraduate programs and 1,564 for graduate programs.
The university says on its website that about $44.5 million scholarships and bursaries were given out to students in undergraduate programs in 2018-19., while $34.5 million was given out to graduate students.
Carleton University says there are roughly 31,522 full-time students, with over 24,000 of them in undergraduate studies and over 4,100 in graduate studies.
The school has awarded about $25 million in scholarships and bursaries to students, and about 43 per cent of student received OSAP in 2019-20.
At Algonquin College, there's about 19,957 students enrolled in over 350 programs.
In 2018, the college gave out over $2.2 million in bursaries to over 4,100 students.