Secrets of accessing scholarships

September 11, 2012

In May, MacEwan University posted a story about its commemorative 40th Anniversary Scholarships awarded to 47 full-time students who were eligible for the one-time $1,000 scholarship because they had achieved the highest GPAs in the university’s fall 2011 term.

But did you know that in general $6.8 million in scholarships, awards and bursaries was distributed to students across the university in the 2011/12 academic year? And, many students may not even realize they're eligible to receive some of these funds.

"Students don't always know the rules," says Craig Hamilton, Student Awards supervisor.

Craig gives his advice to students wanting to secure some of these funds.

Understand the difference

Scholarships, awards and bursaries are different things. Craig says to make sure you know the difference and the rules for each. "Then you're not going to be stressed out when I tell you that you need eight courses to get the scholarship – and you've only been taking seven."

Bursaries are based on financial need (which the student is required to demonstrate in their application) and do not need to be paid back – something that most people are unaware of. To qualify, students must be registered in three or more courses.

Scholarships – based on academic performance – are given to full-time students with a GPA of at least 3.2 in 24 credits. Students with these qualifications are likely eligible for the Jason Lang Scholarship and other provincial offerings; students with GPAs of 3.7 or higher will be in the running for the Louise McKinney Post-Secondary Scholarship, which offers an even higher payout.

"If you meet the qualifications, the only way you won't get the (provincially offered) scholarship would be if you are not returning to school or are not an Alberta resident," explains Craig.

There are, however, many scholarships that require students to apply, and many more that are available to the university's international students and non-Alberta residents.

Awards found in the database require students to submit applications, which can be an overwhelming search to find the ones they qualify for. Craig advises searching through the database first by program and then by category (if you're an Aboriginal student, athlete, volunteer, etc.).

Know where to look

"Students might not know where the online site is," says Craig.

Students ready to apply online should log into > Student Services > Scholarships to access the Scholarships, Awards and Bursaries database. Otherwise they can browse the public-facing website. Students can also visit the Student Awards office to pick up printed forms.

Craig adds that students should check in with their individual programs and faculties, which will have details on the many program-specific scholarships and awards that are available.

New students are strongly recommended to apply for the university's Student Success Bursary – an annual bursary for incoming full-time students ($2,000 for students enrolled in certificate or diploma programs and $3,000 for students enrolled in degree programs).

Watch for deadlines

Craig suggests that students review the database in the summer or during winter break to check the availability dates for scholarships, awards and bursaries. "Many become available in September, October and January – though there is usually only a two-week window before the application deadline. So keep on top of the awards and bursaries you plan to apply for."

Confused? Students can get help through the Student Awards office.

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