Tips for Scholarship Applications

General

  • It is your responsibility to apply for the right scholarships, to know the deadlines, to provide complete information on the application form and to supply any supporting documentation that is required.
  • The scholarship process takes time and effort. It is best to start your application process at least one month in advance of any deadline. A last minute submission is often characterized by poor presentation, diffuseness and reflects badly upon your judgment, organizational skills, etc. But, if you have just found out about a scholarship, apply anyway. Don't pass up an opportunity.
  • Don’t be discouraged by a rejected application. Apply each year, because each year is a different competition.
  • Make sure that your application is complete and that each piece of correspondence has your name on it.
  • Do not append extra material unless it is requested. Additional pages will be removed.
  • Include awards received and declined in the list of awards received and applied for.

Application Form

  • Your whole application package should look perfect, because you have only one chance to impress the adjudicators.
  • Read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter.
  • The application form should be filled in neatly and completely. Use a 12 point font size, no smaller and don’t hand write your application!
  • Proofread many, many times. Ask everyone you know to proofread. Typos and bad grammar can result in an instant loss of credibility when an adjudicator is faced with deciding amongst a large number of applications. Try to make your application visually attractive and easy to read.• Always have at least one other person read your application. Another perspective often strengthens an application considerably.

Transcripts

  • Order transcripts from all post secondary institutions you have attended to be sent to the Office of Graduate Programs well in advance of the deadline.
  • Transcripts must be received by the Office of Graduate Programs prior to the scholarship application deadline.
  • Grade Point Averages are generally calculated based on the last 60 credit hours.

Letters of Reference

  • Letters of reference must be sent directly to the Office of the Dean of Graduate Programs.
  • Make sure your referees know the application deadlines.
  • Choose your referees carefully. Pick someone who knows your academic capabilities well, not someone who taught you four years ago and will remember only your marks. Consider the referee’s expertise in the field (he/she must be an expert). Consider the referee’s reputation (professional and personal). The referee must have personal experience of what you can do. The longer the referee has known you, the better the letter they will be able to write. Letters from referees who hold the position of Dean or Department Head are only impressive and carry weight if they know you personally and have worked with you, not if they are writing from the reports of others.
  • Your application requires a strong endorsement. Letters of reference which appear as form letters, or letters which reveal nothing in terms of knowledge of you and/or your capabilities, do more harm than good. The choice of referee and his/her insightful comments are critical to the chances of success.
  • Choose referees who communicate well. You know who they are because you have worked with them.
  • When you ask someone for a reference, give her/him a copy of the scholarship terms of reference as well as a copy of your application so that they can talk about it in the letter of reference. Be clear about what you want your referee to say about your research abilities and your project. A good letter of reference gives a balanced appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. The referee, of course, does not have to use all the information you provide, but will probably be grateful for your help.
  • If possible, give the referee any required forms or envelopes.
  • Remember that good referees are usually busy people, and be courteous when asking for a letter of reference. Don’t wait until the last minute!
  • A handwritten letter shows a lack of concern and professionalism, so encourage your referee to use a computer.
  • Remember that reference letters are not completely out of your control. Choose referees carefully, and ask for a copy of the letter.

Research Proposal/Summary

  • Pay special attention to the instructions for the proposal. When adjudicators have to read large piles of documents, they tend to discard material that does not conform to the standards set.
  • The proposal should be written by you (not your supervisor); specifically for the competition you are entering.
  • Write clearly, avoid jargon, it does not impress anybody on a committee. It actually may turn people off, especially those whose expertise is not narrowly focused in your own area of research. Those closely familiar with your area may find your jargon pretentious. It is a classic "no win" situation.
  • Organize. It is not enough to write clear sentences, you have to write clear paragraphs as well. Your ideas must be organized in a clear pattern so that your train of thought may be followed with ease.
  • Describe your project: what makes it original, why it is important both in your field and more generally, in what way is it innovative, what new knowledge will you bring to your discipline, how will your work affect your discipline in general, and how will your work affect the world. Is your project practical or purely scholarly? What methodology and techniques will you employ? Why are they relevant to your discipline/research and are they unique within your discipline?
  • If you convince the assessors your research project will add to the knowledge of your discipline and you have the background, knowledge and drive to carry it out successfully, your application will probably be successful.
  • Review the literature carefully. Remember that you only have one page to state your case so keep it clear and concise.
  • Ask others to read and criticize your proposal, especially your supervisor.
  • Write several versions. Revise, revise, sharpen and edit. All applicants in the competition will have good GPAs. The best students will submit better proposals.

What happens to your external scholarship application?

  • Only when the funding agency requires it should you send your application directly to the funding agency by the deadline.• Generally, completed applications must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Programs by the internal University deadline because many award agencies limit the number of scholarship applications from each University, requiring the University to hold an internal competition prior to the provincial or national competition.
  • The applications are prepared for review by the Committee members.
  • Cumulative GPA’s are calculated based on the last 60 credit hours of academic work.
  • Applicants are assessed and scored - this score establishes a rank-ordered list which is finalized by the Scholarship Review Committee during its meeting following the University deadline.
  • After the Committee’s meeting, successful applicant’s scholarships are forwarded to the funding agency for the provincial or national competition.
  • Successful and unsuccessful applicants in the University competition are notified by the University.

How the Scholarship Review Committee works

  • The Scholarship Review Committee is selected/appointed by the Dean of Graduate Programs. The composition of the Committee varies with the Scholarship competition, but generally includes a Chair and 3 to 5 Faculty representatives. Supervisors and referees of scholarship applicants are not selected to be part of the Committee.
  • The Committee meets shortly after the University deadline.
  • The Committee reviews each application submitted for the scholarship competition.
  • Applications are reviewed based on the criteria set out by the funding agency (generally GPA, letters of reference and other supporting documentation - all are important).