Here's a little secret - most students don't actually know how much university costs. It's true! Financial planning is usually left on the back burner when it comes to paying for school. Students usually take out student loans and are inevitably left with debt for years.
This is where scholarships come in. The average student shies away from scholarships due to a slurry of excuses - "My grades aren't high enough. My experience is not good enough, and I don't know how to write an essay!". Above all these concerns, students also have trouble finding scholarships in the first place.
Here are our best tips to finding scholarships:
Avoid scholarship search engines: Scholarship search engines are very oversaturated. They're also not 100% reliable. Scholarship search engines contain valid scholarships but also may contain scams or survey contests - you'll never know which ones are worth your time!
High school scholarships: These are one of the least competitive scholarships to apply to as they are only valid for students in your high school! To apply, start by asking your guidance counsellor which scholarships you're eligible for.
Affiliate scholarships: Affiliate scholarships are usually included in any organizations you, or your family members are a part of. Some examples are sports teams, community centres, or your parents' jobs!
GrantMe: GrantMe is a Vancouver-based education consulting company! If you want to skip the manual searching of scholarships, GrantMe's technology-enabled platform allows you to match to scholarships based on your grade level, experience, and GPA. In addition to personalized scholarship matching, GrantMe also provides mentorship, career development advice, and expert essay editing! If you are interested in GrantMe's support, take their Scholarship Eligibility Quiz!
Now that we've gone over finding scholarships, let's get into the writing. Writing scholarship essays is not only the most daunting task in applying for scholarships, but also one that takes the longest. But, if you follow a system to write scholarships, believe it or not - it gets easier with every application you submit! Our best advice to structure your essays is to use the STAR method. The STAR method is an acronym that stands for situation, task, action, and result! These four qualities should be included in every experience you write about in your scholarship application.
Let's start with an example. Say you are a president of a club, this is how you would frame your experience with the STAR method!
Situation — Give the reader context. What was the organization? Place? Time? (1-2 sentences).
When I realized that my school did not have a safe gathering space for vulnerable students, I took action to change this reality and founded the Diversity Club in 2020—a group dedicated to providing a safe space for all students, with a focus on supporting diversity around ability, culture, gender identity, religion, and sexuality.
Task — What was your role in the story, what was the goal? (1 sentence)
In my role as President of Diversity Club, I quickly saw the potential to expand our reach in the school and lead the planning of our first Diversity Week.
Action — 80%% of your paragraph. What are critical steps that you took to help complete the goal or volunteer initiative? Be specific here! (3-4 sentences)
I coordinated between community members and various programs in my school that support BIPOC, LGBTQA+, individuals with disabilities, and other marginalized students to organize an assembly for 1700 students and staff. We additionally hosted a wide range of daily events focused on engaging students through cultural food, historical trivia, and other awareness activities.
Result — What was the outcome? What did you learn? Provide a self-reflection and quantify your results where you can (2-3 sentences).
The week concluded with a diversity pledge that gained over 150 signatures—a significant symbol of our community’s commitment to diversity. This event has resulted in more inclusive perspectives acknowledged within our school and established us as a diversity leaders for our community.
For more guidance on using STAR, take a look at this FAQ: https://help.grantme.ca/article/318-using-star-structure
Now that you have some insight into finding scholarships, and writing scholarship essays, our last advice is to keep applying! Apply to every scholarship you are eligible for (even the ones that you aren't! You'd be surprised.) The more scholarships you apply to, the more you'll win. Good luck, and happy applying!
About the Author:
Noor Anwar is a graduate from the University of British Columbia and currently works as a Content Creator for GrantMe - a Vancouver Edtech company featured in Forbes 30 Under 30. Noor’s knowledge of SEO, project management, video editing, and content creating has driven her passion for accessible education with GrantMe.