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What is "financial need" on scholarships?

The parent of a Grade 12 student emailed me the other day to say she finds my information very informative (thank you!), and to ask this question: What determines "financial need" on a scholarship application?

(Note: not all scholarships require students to demonstrate financial need. In fact, most don't.)

The answer to the question of financial need is not so much what determines financial need, as it is who determines financial need.

It is the scholarship grantor--the organization offering the scholarship--who defines what "financial need" means. For this reason, there is no one definition of financial need It varies according to the grantor. What you need to do to demonstrate financial need also varies according to the organization. Some may just require you to check a box, while others will require you to complete some financial information on the form, or to submit tax returns. Because there is so much variation, don't automatically assume you don't qualify for financial need scholarships! If the application doesn't clearly state what the grantor's definition of financial need is, then you should contact them and inquire.

Also, if you have some kind of extenuating circumstances where your income doesn't truly reflect your need, you should ask how you would demonstrate it, e.g. write a letter to explain the circumstances. Please watch my short video for more information on financial need:

I hope you find this information helpful!

If you want more help with scholarships, please see my services page.

Best wishes,

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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