Millions in scholarship money go unclaimed each year. This is how students take advantage of thousands for their education

One scholarship was Delaney Stoltz’s college ticket.

Without one, the Madoc, Ontario, teenager knew the cost of a post-secondary education was simply too much for her and her single mother, even with the help of loan programs like the Ontario Student Assistance Program, for which Stoltz was eligible.

In Canada, domestic students can expect to pay an average of $6,693 annually for tuition, according to Statistics Canada. Taking into account the price of housing, transportation, food and other expenses, the total cost each year could be three to four times that amount.

So Stoltz kept his head down in his senior year of high school. He spent about 10 hours each week searching for and applying for scholarships. He got three, for a cumulative value of more than $50,000.

“I knew if I wanted to go to college, I had to work hard and get those scholarships,” said Stoltz, who begins her first year of college in Queen’s University’s concurrent education program next month.

“So, I feel like it’s nice to work hard, earn something like that, and know that you deserve the education that you’re going to get and the help that you need to get there.”

For many students, especially those from small communities who cannot afford to travel to school from home, a post-secondary education can seem out of reach. Though some like Stoltz spend the time in 12th grade to apply for scholarships, a vast majority don’t, leaving millions of dollars in student awards unclaimed each year.

As high inflation continues to drive up the cost of living, adding to the financial stress on college and university students, financial aid experts are concerned that scholarships will continue to be overlooked by students.

“There has never been a better time in history for students to win scholarships,” said scholarship coach Janet MacDonald, noting that there are a wide variety of awards for different types of students and many of these scholarships have few or no applicants.

According to Scholarships Canada, which helps match students with available scholarships based on their profile, approximately $200 million worth of scholarships was listed in the organization’s database last year. However, about one in 20 had no applicants.

“A fair number of awards are undersubscribed and then for one in 20 you can totally win by default just by applying,” said Logan Bright, managing editor of SchoolFinder Group, the parent company of Scholarships Canada.

Many students don’t bother to apply because there’s a misconception that the awards are only for those with high academic standing, Bright said.

While that used to be the case, it is no longer true.

“We think of scholarships as awards for the brightest among us – people who have started a charity and are on their way to curing cancer in their spare time. But many awards focus more on community involvement, personal and interpersonal leadership skills, and volunteerism,” Bright said.

“There is less focus on people who are averaging the 99 percent. Now those awards certainly exist and can be easy to get if you have good grades, but it’s not just for brainiacs anymore.”

Ravicha Ravinthiran, a fourth-year science and business major at the University of Waterloo, said she wasn’t the valedictorian of high school (most of her grades were in the 80s), but she still won about $20,000 in scholarships. for his first year. university

“I’m pretty sure I got some of the worst grades in my class, but a lot of the scholarships I applied for focused more on community service, which was something I was much more passionate about compared to doing well in school. she said. “I think a lot of scholarships don’t care much about academic standing, as long as you have a decent GPA.”

Volunteering and community service are becoming increasingly important criteria for scholarships, MacDonald said. “Funders, usually companies, tend to look for students who embody the values ​​of the company and one of the values ​​that many companies have is giving back to the community.”

For students who dread having to write pages of essays and personal statements to apply for these scholarships, experts say there are many different types of scholarship applications, including some that eschew a traditional essay for videos or creative presentations. Others are not based on merit, winners are chosen randomly and therefore do not have an extensive application process.

“There are all kinds of different scholarship applications,” MacDonald said. Even scholarships that require a writing component have significantly reduced length, recognizing that graduating students are often incredibly busy. “Essays tend to be a maximum of 500 words, these days. The days of 2,000-word essays are practically over.”

Kristina Dyal, a financial aid offerer at Humber College, said many students aren’t financially prepared for post-secondary school. “Even if they get OSAP funding, grants and scholarships, there’s still that gap,” she said.

Because OSAP payments are typically sent out at the beginning of each term, in September and January, Dyal said he encountered many students who ran out of funds for December.

And with the rising cost of living and rising inflation, he said more students are under greater financial pressure now than they were before the pandemic.

Jackie Porter, a financial counselor and certified financial planner, said it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about spending and saving, and instill in them key financial values.

“Monetary values ​​are something that the sooner you can help them understand, the better,” he said. “It is something that children usually take a long time to learn. So sharing with them your philosophy of money, about saving and spending, is all that children can learn.


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