How to Find Scholarships in Canada
Grade 12 is your best opportunity to win scholarships! There will never be another time in your life with more opportunities.
However, for many Canadian students searching for post-secondary scholarships, it can seem overwhelming. Here are a few strategies to help simplify the process.
When Should I Look for Scholarships?
Unfortunately, there is no one time when all scholarships are available. All scholarships are different and Canadian scholarships have deadlines in every month of the year. While most scholarships have deadlines between December and May, some are due before and after then. Since scholarships are due at different times throughout the year, they will be posted at different times. That means you must search for them regularly, throughout the year.
The biggest mistake people make when searching for scholarships is that they don't do it often enough. You must search regularly, throughout the grade 12 year.
I recommend making searching for scholarships a regular routine. Schedule 30 minutes or so every two weeks from September to June. Through this strategy, you can find new scholarships as they’re posted online. Read the requirements carefully and keep a list of all the scholarships you intend to apply for.
To help you with this step, I’ve created a free Scholarship Tracker which you can access here.
Note: There is more information on how to use the Scholarship Tracker below, in the section, “What Should I Do Once I’ve Found Scholarships?”.
Where Should I Look for Scholarships?
There is not one single place to find all scholarships in Canada. You must look in several places. The more places you look, the more scholarships you will find.
i) Searching for Scholarships on Canadian Search Engines
There are many free search engine websites out there that have available scholarships, including ScholarshipsCanada.com, and StudentAwards.com. This is a great place to start. It's important to search on Canadian search engines, because many of the awards on American search engines are restricted to American citizens.
The best way to use these scholarship search engines is to create a profile on each one. The search engine will then start to match you with scholarships that fit your profile. Please note that these search engines are not perfect, and they may match you with awards that you’re not eligible for or that you’re not interested in applying for. You will need to make time to sift through the results. Save the ones that look promising to your Scholarship Tracker (see information on how to use the Tracker below).
ii) Searching for Scholarships on University Websites
If you are interested in particular universities, go to each individual university website to see what scholarships they offer. Many Canadian universities offer large scholarships that will cover the majority or even all your tuition, such as the University of British Columbia’s Presidential Scholarships or McGill University’s Prestige Scholarships.
For these scholarships, you will often need to complete a separate application and potentially provide reference letters.
It is important to note that many university major scholarship applications often have earlier deadlines than the admission deadline. For example, at Queen’s University, the deadline to apply for the Chancellor’s Scholarship, a major entrance scholarship, is typically in early December, which is well before the admission deadlines. For this reason, it is best to have your top university and program choices determined as early as possible in the fall of the year you’re applying.
Many Canadian universities have “automatic” scholarships, where you don’t need to write a separate application. You will be automatically considered for these awards based on completing the university’s application and submitting the appropriate transcript. These awards are based completely on your marks. They are usually smaller in monetary value than the awards with a separate application.
iii) Searching for Scholarships on Your School Counselling Website
Many school counsellors maintain a scholarship page on their website, Google classroom, or on a bulletin board. This is a good place to look not only for general scholarships, but also for ones that are offered only to students in your school or local region, as local organizations will send their award information directly to the school to advertise.
Local awards, and awards where the applications are restricted to a certain group, have a smaller the applicant pool, which means you have more of a chance to win!
Find out from your school counsellor how scholarships are advertised in your school.
iv) Using Your Affiliations to Find Scholarships
Using your affiliations to find scholarships can work really well for many students. Your affiliations are clubs or organizations you or your family are connected to in some way, for example a parent’s employer or union, or your church. Another good affiliation to explore is to see if there are any organizations that support people who share your culture or identity. For example, if you are a Muslim, or a Black Nova Scotian, or part of the LGBTQ+ community, there might be an organizations that support students in those communities and who also offer scholarships.
The scholarships you find through your affiliations can be some of the most promising because the applicant pool is often restricted to those connected to that organization, community or group. A smaller applicant pool means a greater the chance of winning!
What Scholarships Should I Be Looking for?
There are many scholarships you can apply for, but that doesn’t mean all of them are the right fit for you. The first step is to make sure you’re eligible for the scholarship. No one wants to spend time writing applications only to discover you can’t submit them!
Read the criteria carefully. These criteria will often be on the scholarship’s website or at the top of an application. Be advised that it can take some time to do this properly.
Once you know you’re eligible for a scholarship, then make sure the scholarship suits you. For example, if a scholarship requires that you complete work placements during the summer but you would prefer to have your summers free then perhaps this scholarship isn’t a good fit for you.
What Should I Do Once I’ve Found Scholarships?
As you find scholarships you’re interested in, record them so you have a list of potential awards to apply for.
To help you with this step, I’ve created a FREE Scholarship Tracker you can access here.
When you open the spreadsheet, click the “File” button near the top of the page and then “Make a New Copy” from the drop-down menu. This will create a separate version of the spreadsheet that you can edit.
This is a simple spreadsheet without any formulas. You can add or remove any information you choose. I suggest you at least add the name of the award, a direct link (url) to the award information, the deadline, and the amount and number of awards. This will give you an at-a-glance view of potential scholarships.
There are two tabs on the spreadsheet, one for all scholarships you are interested in, and one for scholarships you are applying to. By using this system, you can more easily organize scholarships and keep track of your progress on the ones you are applying to.
Making a System is the Best Way to Find Scholarships
When you're diving into the world of grade 12 scholarships in Canada, remember three main things: keep up a regular search routine, pick the ones that really fit, and use available tools like the Scholarship Tracker provided. With some smart planning and organization, you'll set yourself up for success.
Want to learn more about how I can help you win scholarships? Please visit my services page.
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.