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How to beat the "Grade 12 Overwhelm" and get ready to apply for scholarships

It’s your student’s final year of high school and on top of the “When did my baby turn into a high school senior?” feeling, you’ve also got the “Ah! There’s way too much to do!” feeling.

Welcome to The Grade 12 Overwhelm.

The Grade 12 Overwhelm is real and it’s rampant. It causes frustration and stress, which can lead to inaction, thereby causing students to miss out on opportunities for scholarships.

And make no mistake -- now is the BEST opportunity to get scholarships for university. Not later in the year, not in the summer, not when they're already in university.


But keep reading, because there are ways to beat the Grade 12 Overwhelm, and find and apply for scholarships.

In this post, I’ll cover the following topics:

a. The demands on your student’s time, and why you need to get organized.

b. Ideas to ramp up your student’s activities for scholarships.

c. Ways parents can support their student in this process.

The demands on your student’s time, and why you need to get organized

The first few months of Grade 12 go by in a blur for many parents and students.

It’s hectic: classes and homework are getting stressful; those all-important first semester exams are looming; extra-curricular activities are in full swing; grad activities have begun; and now post-secondary institutions are visiting your student’s school and talking about making decisions about programs, meeting admission requirements, and attending campus tours and open house events.

And now, on top of all that, your student must find and apply for scholarships too? Who has time for that?

Let me guess: you feel totally not ready. You might not know where to begin. Heck, you’re not even sure if your student qualifies for scholarships.

Here’s the good news: If you read my blog “5 Scholarship Myths Busted” you’ll see that the chances are good that your child qualifies for scholarships, so that’s the first question answered.

But here’s the not-so-good news: time is tight to find and apply for scholarships, and you’ll have to get up-to-speed quickly and stay organized.

If your student has waited until Grade 12 to start thinking about scholarships, you’re not alone. Many students only think about scholarships when they begin to hear more about them, which is usually early in Grade 12.

Although you may be coming into the game a little late, it’s not too late.

Let’s be real though; here’s what you’re up against: scholarship “season”--the time of year when most scholarships are announced, and applications are due--begins in earnest in October of Grade 12 and ends in late April. For many post-secondary entrance scholarships, the deadlines are between December and March. This is also the same time of year students will be researching program options and applying for post-secondary, as well as studying for those very important first semester exams. Add extra-curricular activities, possibly a part-time job, and fun grad events into the mix, and you have a very busy first semester!

If your student is short on activities for scholarship applications, it’s hard to know what to do. To try to add a new, time consuming activity now may not be the best idea. Remember, your student will also need time to search and apply for scholarships, which is a time consuming task.

Ideas to ramp up your student’s activities for scholarships

What I sometimes see are students who get to Grade 12 and want to apply for scholarships, but they only have several one-time activities here and there, and perhaps some semi time-intensive sports involvement or other lone activity.

Unless this involvement is at the provincial or national level, or they have been a team leader, it often doesn’t translate into a strong entry on a scholarship application. Or at least it’s not strong enough on its own. It’s great for their personal development, and it doesn’t disqualify them from applying for, or even winning scholarships, but it’s not the optimal way to prepare. And that’s the point of this section: to help your student prepare the best way possible.

Now, don’t give up! There’s still time to get it right.

If your student doesn’t have much leadership or community involvement experience, they’ll need to do something to set themselves apart from the crowd.

Let’s say your student is short on leadership experience. If they don’t have time to take on something new or big, I suggest they up their game in something they’re already doing. Can they find a way to take on some extra responsibility in that activity?

Let’s say hockey is a prime activity for your student and they have some history of commitment with it (since Grade 11, 10 or earlier). If they’re not the team captain or have some other leadership function, see if they can take on a role such as helping to coach a junior team, or leading a fundraising initiative or special event for the team.

The key is to add a level of responsibility for someone or something; this means you have stepped into a leadership role.

For more on leadership, read my blog post, “Leadership: high school style”.

For students who are short on community involvement, perhaps they can choose something they feel strongly about, and take on a responsibility role.

For example, maybe your student feels strongly about protecting the environment. Can they join the environment committee at school and create or take on responsibility for a project?

Or maybe they play an instrument. Perhaps they can arrange to play at a senior citizen’s home, either alone or with a friend, once a week for several months. The key is to show initiative and to demonstrate a deeper, more meaningful involvement in helping your community.

These are the kinds of activities scholarship committees want to read about on your student’s application.

Need a “knock-it-out-of-the-park” activity? Your student can start something on their own. Find a need and fill it. Nothing says leadership, initiative and responsibility like creating something new and seeing it through to fruition.


Ways parents can support their student in this process

Parents can help their student by helping them get--and stay--organized. Nothing creates inaction, frustration and stress more than being overwhelmed by disorganization.

For some great tips on how parents can help their students get and stay organized, read my blog post “How Parents Can Help Students Keep the Scholarship Bus on the Road”.

I hope you find this information useful!

Need help with scholarships? Contact me to discuss my services.

About the author

Janet MacDonald is a Scholarship Coach with mycampusGPS Education Consulting. She is a former Canadian university admissions officer. For seven years, she was the coordinator of a scholarship program at a major Canadian university. Janet has helped her student clients win hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

You can find her online at, and on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Janet MacDonald by visiting the About Page.

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